Pay Much Closer Attention

Pursue Peace – Philippians 4:2-3

Stand fast – that’s what we saw last week in verse 1 of Philippians 4. Paul says…

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

As followers of Christ we are to be steadfast. We ought to be pictures of stability to the world around us. A faithful Christian should be stable and secure and immovable by Satan and the wickedness that so easily entangles the world.

That sounds great doesn’t it? It sounds wonderful.

But in reality standing fast is one of those spiritual disciplines that’s easier preached than practiced.

You may have felt a bit like that this past week as you went home and headed into your week with it’s challenges and obstacles to standing fast in the Lord and then realized that this standing fast stuff sounded good when Pastor Kevin was preaching it but it’s a bit more difficult to practice than he made it sound.

Whether it’s difficult or not to stand fast I believe that most Christians here today, if not all Christians here today do desire to truly live with boldness and courage and steadfastness and to stand fast for God’s glory.

Yet each of us would probably readily admit that we wish we were stronger in our faith. None of us want to be defeated and discouraged and none of us want to struggle in our faith and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. But we’d each probably say that we aren’t yet where we would like to be in our relationship with the Lord.

Having said all this there may be some among us we look at and feel as though they have it all together. And that may be very true. I think it’s safe to say that there are those in our midst who are highly disciplined and stable individuals. But as individuals I’m sure that we are a group of believers at varying stations of spiritual growth. And we could all benefit from what we find in the scriptures—specifically what we’ll see together as we approach Philippians 4:2-3.

Let’s first agree on something. While there may be those here who seem to have it all together spiritually—that they are steadfast and strong—there’s no mystery about how we can all stand fast in the Lord. The matter of whether we do or don’t stand fast in the Lord is not a matter of whether we have been gifted to stand fast. And we noted this last week in our study of verse 1—that this statement of Paul’s is not a suggestion. It’s a command—it’s like a charge a military commander would give to the troops. It is a matter for all believers and as such it is a spiritual matter.

So I believe that whether we do or don’t stand fast in the Lord is a spiritual matter. And I believe that through the development of a few spiritual disciplines each believer here today can stand fast in the Lord—we can each be steadfast and strong in our spiritual lives for God’s glory.

Do you want to know how to stand fast, how to truly be steadfast no matter what circumstances you face?

After Paul issued the charge to stand fast, he follows with some practical instruction that will help us learn to stand fast. There are specific, practical things we can do as believers that will help us in our endeavor to stand fast. This morning the area we are going to concentrate on that will help us in standing fast in the Lord is the pursuit of peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Look at the text with me—Philippians 4:2-3.

2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

1. Pursue Peace

Paul in verse 2 presents us with a problem that was taking place in the Philippian church. Euodia and Syntyche weren’t getting along with each other. There was friction between the two of them. Their relationship with each other was not one of peace and harmony. There was some strife between these two women. Can you imagine sitting in church on Sunday morning as Paul’s letter is read to the entire congregation and being one of the women singled out because of a troubled relationship? Apparently this wasn’t a private matter. The rest of the church must have been aware of the conflict in their midst. And although it isn’t stated here it seems that the difficulty was spilling over into the rest of the church at Philippi and was causing trouble. If this wasn’t the case the potential was certainly there.

Think about two individuals at odds with each other. Imagine others taking sides in the dispute. Can’t you see how the conflict could grow and spread in the body of Christ and cause division among many others? That’s a real possibility and one reason why we need to pursue peace in our relationships with other believers.

Another danger of strife between believers is the damage to the cause of Christ. If unbelievers see that believers are having trouble getting along with each other, why would they want what we have in Christ? Strife between believers can damage our testimony with unbelievers and hinder the cause of Christ and the advancement of the Gospel.

Paul knew the importance of harmonious relationships in the church and he knew the danger of strife and division. He understood that it was important for Euodia and Syntyche to get along with each other. He knew the potential for damage if the problem were left unaddressed.

It’s probably a good thing that we don’t know the specifics of the trouble between Euodia and Syntyche. It’s good that we don’t know because it helps us to apply what we learn here more broadly. If we are having difficulty with someone else we can learn from this situation. If specifics were given here we might be tempted to write off the truth we could learn from this situation if it didn’t match exactly our situation.

We might be prone to say, “Well my situation is different than theirs so this really doesn’t apply to me.” By not knowing the specifics of the fallout between Euodia and Syntyche we can use their situation to apply to whatever struggle we might be having with another believer. We can learn from their situation and see the importance of pursuing peace in our relationships with other believers.

And apparently the problem wasn’t a doctrinal issue. If that were the case Paul likely would have addressed the issue specifically and made it clear what was right. It could have been something very petty. And let’s face it—many times conflict with others starts over small and petty differences. We can get very opinionated about how things are done in the church. And our opinions may have absolutely no Biblical basis and yet we can allow our feelings for something to be so strong that we lose sight of the big picture.

Max Lucado in his book In The Eye Of The Storm tells the story of a fishing trip he took that went sour because of foul weather. Instead of fishing he and the others had to sit around inside waiting for the weather to clear. After a couple of days they are getting on each other’s nerves. He made the profound statement that, “when those who are called to fish, don’t fish; they fight.”

Isn’t it the same way in the church? When we lose sight of our mission and what we are really here for and what really matters, it’s easy to fight over the insignificant, inconsequential stuff. But is it really critical to have our own way all the time?

I can just see one of these women suggesting a new way of doing something and the other saying “we’ve never done it that way before, we’ve always done it this way.” We can be so resistant to change that we dig in our heels and develop strong opinions about doing it the way it’s always been done. On the other hand we can think we have a great idea and we really need to change something and we dig in our heels and insist on a new and different way. In either case there is potential for selfish and sinful attitudes. There is potential for pride. There is potential for lack of humility and a lack of looking out for the interests of others. Sometimes we can latch on to an opinion and we feel more strongly about being right or having things done the way we like than about loving and caring for our brother or sister in Christ.

We don’t know the specifics of the problem between Euodia and Syntyche but it is clear there was a problem that needed attention.

Look at Paul’s plea.

2. Paul’s Plea

Paul says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” He also says, “I urge you also to help these women.” The word implore could also be beg. I beg Euodia, I beg Syntyche. Urge could also be “ask, request, beg or entreat.” Clearly Paul feels strongly that this situation needs to be resolved. He cares about the unity in the church at Philippi and wants this situation settled. He cares deeply about the believers there and doesn’t enjoy seeing division in their midst so he urges them to get the conflict resolved.

Notice too that Paul doesn’t take sides in this dispute. We can often make a conflict worse by choosing up sides instead of recognizing that both sides need to do their part to come together. Paul doesn’t take sides. He implores Euodia. He implores Syntyche. He is urging each one of them to be of the same mind in the Lord.

And here’s a key to their relationship. The key to harmony in their relationship is being of the same mind in the Lord. Each of them needed to be right with the Lord in order to be at peace with each other.

And this is the beauty of having a proper relationship with the Lord as individuals. When we are right with the Lord our relationships with others fall into place. When our relationship with the Lord isn’t what it should be then our relationships with others will suffer the effects of that disunity. The position that each of these women had in Christ was the basis for repairing their relationship.

Christ died on the cross for our sin and through His sacrifice we are reconciled to God. It is only through our reconciliation with Christ that we also can be reconciled in our relationships with each other when there is friction. These women were sisters in Christ who needed to be restored to each other. Paul pleaded with each of them to be of the same mind in the Lord.

Paul doesn’t stop there though. He goes on to urge others to help them settle their differences. Sometimes a conflict needs the help of someone else to bring reconciliation. Sometimes we need to let others help us when we have this kind of problem. Sometimes we need to be willing to get involved and help restore other believers who are in the midst of conflict. In the body of Christ we need to be ready and willing to help others be restored. Paul sees the need for others to get involved in bringing peace to this situation.

Let’s consider for a moment the various people that Paul points out in this passage.

3. The People

First of all we have Euodia and Syntyche. These are the women at the center of this problem. It is a rift between the two of them that is cause for concern. Notice what Paul says about these women. He says, “they labored with me in the gospel.” These women had served with Paul to advance the gospel. They had served. They had been active and involved. Even faithful, Godly servants can fall. People who have been mightily used of the Lord can stumble and trip up and get messed up in their relationships with each other. Pride and selfishness can creep into our lives if we are not careful and we can find ourselves at odds with other believers. We need to be careful we don’t think this will never happen with us.

Paul is careful to point out the good that these women have done. He wants them to continue to serve the Lord and he understands that they need to settle the rift between them so it won’t continue to hamper their effectiveness in serving the Lord.

Paul also urges his true companion to help these women. It’s not clear who exactly this man is but it’s clear that it is someone Paul trusts to be helpful in this situation. Paul also singles out Clement. Apparently Clement was someone in the church at Philippi that Paul knew would be another Godly and reliable resource to help settle this situation. Paul goes on to include “the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” It seems he doesn’t want to leave anybody out here.

Everyone should be on board here and doing what they can to help Euodia and Syntyche be of the same mind in the Lord. Paul didn’t want people choosing up sides and getting in on the conflict themselves. He wanted everyone working for reconciliation and healing between these two women.

Paul knew that if the Philippian believers were going to stand fast in the Lord, if they were going to be spiritually stable, then they needed to be at peace with each other. They needed harmonious relationships. Their church needed to be marked by unity not division and strife.

And that is the lesson for you and me this morning. If you and I want to stand fast in the Lord we need to pursue peace in your relationships with other believers. What we need in the church today are those who are pursuing peace and those who are peacemakers.

We can’t afford to allow bitterness and disharmony to grow unchecked in our relationships with others. I think the way it’s put in Hebrews 12:15 in the NIV is helpful. It says;

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (NIV)

We can’t afford to allow bitter roots to grow up in our relationships with others. When we let bitterness grow it brings trouble not just for ourselves but for others as well. Bitterness poisons our relationships and harms our fellowship with others and God.

We’ll be looking more closely next week at the next verse where Paul reminds us to rejoice in the Lord always. Do you think that if Euodia and Syntyche had both been rejoicing in the Lord always that they would have been at odds with each other? When you’re rejoicing in the Lord it’s hard to be angry and upset with other believers.

Think about Paul’s words in Romans 12:3 and 10.

3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

There’s some very practical instruction in these verses—practical ways in which we can pursue peace in our relationships with other believers. If you’re careful to not think too highly of yourself and if you give preference to others—the ESV says “outdo one another in showing honor,” you’re going to find it much easier to get along with others.

When I think of outdoing one another in showing honor I can’t help but think of the time we were out to eat with friends—it was a wonderful Bed and Breakfast and with a small restaurant that was known for the service. Our host thanked the owner for his fine service and our host replied with, “Thank You”. And they went back and forth for a moment thanking each other—outdoing one another in showing honor.

Now it’s possible that you’re doing what’s right but someone else refuses to treat you right, that’s where the Holy Spirit guides us with Ephesians 4:32.

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Even when we aren’t to blame for the difficulties in a relationship we are to have a heart that is ready to forgive. Pursue peace in your relationships.

Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

There may be times when we are going to need to get involved in helping others with their conflicts. Are you pursuing peace in your relationships with other believers? Are you a peacemaker or a troublemaker?

If we are going to stand fast in the Lord then we need to pursue peace. We need to be marked by unity and harmony in our relationships with fellow believers. Our church should be a place where we are supported and loved and cared for and where we are ready to help others who are stumbling and need our assistance to help them stand fast in the Lord.

Do you want to stand fast in the Lord? If so, make sure you’re pursuing peace with others. Disunity and discord and lack of harmony are not marks of standing fast. When we are of the same mind in the Lord and there is true harmony, we’ll be standing fast.

Are you standing fast in your relationships with others? Does the way you relate to others reflect that you are stable or are you wobbly? Let’s stand fast in the Lord and let’s make sure our relationships with others are glorifying to God and bringing honor to Christ and furthering the advance of the gospel. Let’s be at peace with each other and let’s be peacemakers and let’s stand fast in the Lord.