Unity Comes from Praying for One Another

Steve Viars May 31, 2008 Philippians 1:1-11

 

- This morning we’re beginning a brand new series that is planned for the next 11 weeks on the book of Philippians...entitled Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity.

- this is a subset of our annual theme Seeking God’s Plan, which we adopted for several reasons including the fact that we are tasked this year with developing and adopting our church’s next strategic ministry plan...

- so all year we’ve been talking about that theme from various perspectives...

- in January and February, we worked verse by verse through the book of I Timothy, seeking God’s plan for His family, the church...

- then prior to Easter, we studied what happens when the plan is missed, by looking at key figures during the final days of Christ on earth who failed to see and submit to what God was Father was doing at that critical point in human history...

- the after Easter we focused on Seeking God’s Plan in Suffering...because that is so frequently when we can get off track...

- and then these past three weeks we’ve been looking at Seeking God’s Plan Personally, by studying The Will of God and Your Holiness, and The Will of God and Your Ministry and The Will of God and Your Decisions

- now we’d like to move into a verse by verse study of a very precious book of the Bible, Paul’s letter to the Philippians...

- As we did last summer, we’re planning to share the responsibilities for this series among several members of our pastoral staff...

- God has given us an excellent group of pastors...and I believe the congregation is helped by hearing from different voices from time to time...

- we have always believed strongly in a team approach to ministry...so having as many strong horses in the corral as possible is a good thing...and the Lord has certainly blessed us in that way...

- Now, I recognize that there is a broad diversity among our congregation when it comes to the matter of Bible knowledge and background...

- I personally believe that is a sign of health...we need people around here who have been studying and applying Scripture for a long, long time...but if that group is doing the job properly, then there will always be folks around who have just come to Christ and are at the beginning stages on their journey of learning God’s Word.

- If you are a person who has studied this book before, aren’t you glad that the Bible is eternally fresh---it really is alive and it doesn’t matter how many times you have read or studied it, there is always something to be gained from going through it again...

- if you are on the newer side of the equation...this is an excellent book on which to cut your Bible study teeth...

- and here’s my challenge to all of us...I would encourage you to make it your goal to take significant steps forward in simply having this book down pat...

- in other words, by the end of the summer, you’ll know who wrote it, when, why...the key questions, the key themes...

- and not just from the perspective of knowing the content, although that is where the process starts...

- but also having become more skilled at applying its message to your heart and life...

- and being in a better position to help others apply it to their lives as well...

- so, how do we get there?...

1. I would encourage you to read this book once a week all summer.

- it would be especially good if you could try to do it at one sitting, from various versions of the Bible...that will help you have a working knowledge of the content

2. Attend as frequently as your schedule allows...

- one upshot of these gas prices is that many of us may be staying a bit closer to home this summer...

- when you think about all the fun we can have here, who needs DisneyWorld?

- and when you have to be away, consider downloading the message and staying up with the studies...

3. Write key verses out on index cards and review them everyday...

- for many of us, some of our favorite verses are contained in this book...

4. Commit as many key verses to memory as possible...

- in my freshman year of college, we had a class on the basics of the Christian life and one of our assignments was to memorize several sections from this book...

- that was almost 30 years ago now, and it amazing how much of that stays in your mind...

- remember what the Psalmist said – thy word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against thee [could also make this a family project...]

5. Look for as many practical ways to apply the principles from the book to everyday life situations as possible...

- Scripture really has a “use it or lose it” characteristic to it...

- often the verses you remember the best are the ones you use the most...

- the good news is that there are very practical principles here that you will find applicable to relationships in your family, your work, your neighborhood, etc.

6. Ask the Lord for opportunities to sharpen your skills at helping others apply these principles to the challenges they are facing...

- now, here are a few...

Key Introductory Ideas

1. The apostle Paul had a marvelous relationship with this church which began on his second missionary journey (cf. Acts 16).

- you may recall the story in Acts 16:14-15 - A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

- you have to love that phrase – and the Lord opened her heart...

- later in that same chapter you read about Paul and Silas being beaten and imprisoned for their faith and that night they were praying and singing hymns...and there was an earthquake so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken and the doors were opened and their chains unfastened...

- and the jailer came in fearing for his life if the prisoners escaped...but Paul said...”Don’t harm yourself...we’re all here”...

- and Scripture tells us...Acts 16:30 - and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

2. The Philippian church made a generous contribution to help the needy Christians at Jerusalem and also faithfully supported Paul in his ongoing church planting efforts.

- we’ll see multiple references to their generosity to Paul throughout our study of this book

3. The church learned of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (AD 60-62) and they were concerned for his health and well being.  They took a special offering for his care and sent it with a man from the church named Epaphroditus.  While on the journey, Epaphroditus became gravely ill.

4. During this time, Paul wrote four “prison epistles”, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.

5. Paul’s purpose in writing to the Philippians was five-fold (MacArthur Study Bible):

a. To express in writing his thanks for the Philippians’ financial gift (4:10-18).

b. To explain why he was sending Epaphroditus back to them so they would not think his service to Paul had been unsatisfactory (2:25-26).

c. To inform them about his circumstances in Rome (1:12-26).

d. To exhort them to unity (2:1, 2; 4:2).

e. To warn them against false teachers (3:1-4:1).

- all of this was done around the theme of our great joy in Christ.

- as we were preparing the preaching series for this year, we believed a study of these kinds of themes would serve us very well as we go through our planning process...

- this morning, we’d like to look at verses 1-11, and think about how Unity Comes from Praying for One Another.

- read 1:1-11

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 ways we should pray for one another.

I. Prayer of Thanksgiving.

- clearly this church was organized and functioning well...

- Paul alludes to his condition when he mentions that he and Timothy are bond-servants of Christ...

- that’s a precursor to the point he will make later in the letter to calm the minds and hearts of the people in this church who are concerned about his well-being...

- he didn’t view himself as a prisoner of Rome – he viewed himself as a servant of Christ...

- and he believed that the safest place in all the world was the center of God’s will...so that emphasis come out right off the bat...

- then he addresses them as saints – which might need a bit of clarification...

- the word “saint” in the Bible simply means “saved one”...

- the way that world is sometimes used in culture to refer to a higher class of select Christians is just different than the way it is used in the Bible...

- that was just his way of addressing the people in the church...they were individuals who each had a definite time in their life where they acknowledged their sin and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior [remember the question of the Philippian jailer...what must I do...]

- he also mentions the pastors and deacons, the elected leaders of the group...

- so even though this church was relatively young, they were well organized and doing a lot of things right...

- and Paul wants them to know...I regularly thank God for you...

A. Every time he remembered them – v. 3-4

- that tells us a lot about Paul, and the way we ought to function with one another...

- he clearly had a very open line of communication with the Lord...

- remember he told the Thessalonians that they were to pray without ceasing...

- and this is a good example of what that actually looks like...

- when he remembered them, he prayed...when he remembered them he prayed...

- now, we mentioned a moment ago that the church had taken up a love offering and sent it with one of their members named Epaphroditus...and you know it would not have been long after this man arrived with the gift that Paul would be asking for a report of how things were going in the church...

- and from what is to follow – there were clearly some problems that needed to be ironed out, just like there would always be as soon as two or more people walked into the same room...

- but that’s not Paul’s first focus...because there was a lot more about this church that was right than what was wrong...

- and so he disciplined his mind to be thankful for all that was right, and to faithfully thank God for everything that fell into that category...

- let me just ask you – do you do that regarding the people in our church?...

- Would Paul’s impact on our body be similar to your impact on ours?...

- see, some people walk out of church and don’t give their church family a whole lot of thought the rest of the week...that is what the Bible would call a sin of omission [failing to do what we ought to do...] part of being in a family is thinking about and praying for one another...

- others might think of the body, but it is often in the negative...

- it is amazing how Christians can walk into a situation, whether it be a marriage, a family, a job situation, a neighborhood, an extended family...whatever where 90% of what is occurring is good and immediately focus on what is bad and begin complaining...

- sociologists refer to that as fringe thinking...instead of centered thinking...

- in centered thinking, we try to find common ground, reasons for which to be thankful, and then work out to try to address our differences...

- in fringe thinking, people ignore the common ground, and ignore the reasons to be thankful, and immediately seek to identify their differences and articulate their complaints...

- what’s wrong with that is that issues often get blown out of proportion...and the major focus is on the minor issue...

- now, what does verse 5 add to our understanding of Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving?...

B. For the joy of being able to serve Christ together – v. 5.

- think about the ways these dear people had “participated in the gospel” with Paul...

- certainly the way they responded to the message of Christ...

- there were marvelous stories of how men and women in that city had come to Christ...

- and then they just sharing their gifts, and sharing their resources...

- so this need came up in the church at Jerusalem which of course would have been comprised primarily of Jewish believers...

- that became a great opportunity to break down the racial barriers in the church...

- and The Philippians were all over that...

- and we know that Philippi had a very small number of Jewish persons in the whole city because when Paul went there originally, there wasn’t even a synagogue, which only required the presence of 10 Jewish men...

- but they pretty quickly locked onto the notion that God wanted the church to celebrate ethnic diversity...to be a place for all the nations...

- and when a financial gift could be used to show that kind of love, they gave very sacrificially...

- you also remember that when Lydia came to Christ, she immediately opened her home, which was probably large because she was a prosperous business woman, but she immediately invited the church to meet there...

- that’s serving Christ together...

- and of course they continued their support of Paul’s missionary journeys...

- and Paul wasn’t a lone wolf---it wasn’t all about him...and so he was genuinely thankful for the privilege of serving Christ together...

- friend, would that be true of you?...

- when’s the last time you found yourself thanking the Lord for the people you serve to in whatever ministry God has called you?...

- so you’re rocking babies in the nursery – Lord, thank you for so and so – so that I’m not in here alone...

- thank you for my fellow choir members...

- thank you for the others who are serving in VBS...

- thank you for my child’s SS teacher...

- and again, think about the impact that has on unity, and think about the impact that has on joy...

- how would you evaluate yourself in that area?

II. Prayer of Anticipation.

- it is one thing to be thankful for what is right; it is something else to be stuck in complacency...

- we’re certainly not saying this morning that we ought to focus on what is right to the neglect of what needs to get better...

- that extreme position would actually go against several key passages in this great book...

- you might say – what kind of anticipation?...

A. Believe that God will continue His work in you – v. 6

- isn’t that a wonderful balance?...

- that’s what we mean by centered thinking...we start with what’s right, we start with everything on which we agree, we start with our reasons for thanksgiving...

- now we have a platform on which to discuss what needs to get better...

- Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

- Has He finished His work...or is it all a work in progress?...

- and how might the content of your prayers be changed to be more in line with your answer to that question?

- see, some of don’t pray about the shortcomings of those around us...we grump about them...as if there is no hope that things could ever be better...

- now, let’s be careful...the person’s shortcomings and need for growth that you should be most concerned about should be...your own...[cf. Matthew 7:3 – log/speck]...

- but then when you do find yourself being concerned, or being frustrated by the actions of someone else...

- do you quit?...do you jump ship?...do you give up hope?...

- or do you offer a prayer of anticipation based on the firm belief that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ...

- now, let’s plow that a slightly different way...

- do we as a church believe that God is not done with us?...Is He done?...are we done?...

- one of my concerns for us as a pastor is that God, in His marvelous grace, has allowed us to accomplish more than most, humanly speaking...

- let’s just face it – we have been blessed beyond believe for reasons that are nothing other than divine...

- and that truth can either become the catalyst for future planning, or the death of future planning...

- that’s where our Lord’s principle, to whom much is given, much is required comes into play...[that’s why I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – our response to what the Lord is doing here should be something like “Praise God, oh no”]

- the question is – do our prayers for one another and for our church echo the way Paul prayer for the Philippians?

- now, what else can we learn about this prayer of anticipation?...

B. We are knit together “in the heart” – v. 7

- see, that is one of the beauties of developing this kind of a prayer life...and enthusiastically serving on this kind of team...

- no one can take this away from you...

- here’s Paul in prison --- but what’s in his heart right now?...

- anxiety, depression, fear, discouragement...

- no, he has his friends in his heart...

- the people he has served God beside...

- the ones where they have won significant spiritual victories together...

- they have seen God in action as they have locked arms and worked to cooperate with Christ’s goal of building His church...

- see, no one can take that away from you...

- that’s why Jesus told us...Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

- he ends that verse by saying...

C. We are all partakers of grace – v. 7

- so Paul is modeling a prayer of thanksgiving, and a prayer of anticipation...

- and the question for all of us would be – is that the way I pray for those around me, and for my church?...

- now, there are applications squirting out all over the place...let’s talk about where we are in our planning process...

1. As I’ve said before, we had nearly 800 congregational surveys completed – thank you for that...

2. We are busily assembling initiatives...

3. Our community surveys are coming with another kind of important data...

- and now its time for some conversations...in fact we’re planning one of them for tonight as part of our church family night...

- I would like to encourage as many people in our church as possible to read 2 books that I have recently read that have really stimulated my thinking in this area:

1) Competent to Counsel – The History of a Conservative Protestant Anti-Psychiatry Movement by David Powlison

- this was Dave’s doctoral dissertation as part of his PhD work at the University of Pennsylvania...

- it’s a history of the biblical counseling movement...

- it was titled that way because it was submitted under the category of the history of medicine...so it’s not that our goal is to be against something...

- the movement has been about being for an approach to facing the problems of daily living using God’s sufficient Word...

- that Penn would even allow this topic to meet their requirements for the degree is somewhat surprising, but they did...

- the reason I’ve just re-read this is because you may know that we are starting a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling degree program here as part of our seminary...

- we have students coming in from around the United States and even one of our missionaries from Brazil to take part in this program...

- and so right now the students are working on an on-line 6 week pre-course assignment where they have to read segments of this dissertation, answer questions about their reading on-line, and then post responses to their fellow students’ answers...

- so we’ve created on-line discussion groups which have proven to be a very effective teaching/learning tool...

- here’s what’s amazing – God has allowed our church to figure rather prominently into this history...

- Powlison mentioned an occurrence in his dissertation that I hadn’t thought of for some time...back in 1990, Jay Adams was speaking at a conference here for pastors and key person involved in counseling around the United States...and here’s what he said...”Faith Baptist Church is a lighthouse.  What they’ve done with counseling is the navigational aid, among all the churches I know of in the world!...Take their model back to your churches. When I heard Bill Goode speak earlier I felt like shouting.  Of course, we Presbyterians must be judicious in Baptist circles, otherwise we’ll get thrown into the swimming pool there behind me.”

- I remember now when Jay said that – and frankly we were all quite embarrassed at the time...but that’s the whole point...God often uses ordinary people to accomplish His work so there is no question about where the credit belongs...

- and many of us would say that much of God’s blessing on our church has been around a desire to emphasize the truth the God’s Word really is sufficient, and the non-organic problems of living can be addressed and solved by coming to know Christ and then faithfully learning to live by the principles of His inspired Word...

- and we believe that offering such ministries to our community in a variety of forms can be a great blessing to our community, and an important example for other churches...

- well, are we satisfied with where we are there?...

- or does the model need to be strengthened, and the development expanded...and what does all of that mean to our next 5 year plan?...[explain to folks how to go about getting a copy of the dissertation]

2) Who Stole My Church? by Gordon MacDonald

- if I were king, this would be required reading by every person in this church...

- MacDonald has been a pastor for over 40n years, so he’s not some young buck...

- but the truth is – whatever we decide should be done in our next 5 year plan is going to involve change – and God’s people don’t always do a very good job of handling that well...

- now, what we read in verses 9-11 is of critical importance to all of this...

III. Prayer of Challenge

A. That your love may abound – v. 9

- food pantry/clothing closet tonight

- hospitality this summer

- hanging out around the ball fields

B. That your knowledge may abound – v. 9

C. That your discernment may abound.

- William Hendricksen – this is speaking of “the person who not only has the ability to distinguish but actually chooses the things that really matter, in preference to those that are either

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video