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(Phil. 4:1)
November 11, 2018

Read Phil 4:1 – If you live in SoCal like we did, you go to the beach, and
build some sand castles. I’ve seen some spectacular sand castles. Works of art
– but they never lasted long. The tide comes in, the water rushes them, and
they were soon gone. But those same waves had no effect on the rocks around
Corona del Mar. In a bad storm, some of them would disappear completely
under torrents of water. But when it receded – the rocks were still there. They
are still there to this day. And what Paul is saying here is, in the chaos of a
fallen, broken world, we need some rocks, not sand castles. We need Xns who
can stand firm against temptation, false teaching, and a godless culture. Rocks,
who reappear when the waves clear – not sand castles that get washed away.

But how do we become rocks and “stand firm” amid the pressures of modern
life? Self-help books and seminars say here’s a method to help you cope –
believe in yourself. Be your own person. Take charge of your life. But they
never deal with the big issues -- life, death, life after death, moral absolutes,
meaning, accountability. Those are not marketable. Too invasive. Too
controversial. Just find the power within and you, too, will become a rock. But
Paul doesn’t go there. Why? He knows small answers without context build
sand castles, not rocks. They don’t last. One wave and poof! Gone!

Two little words in this verse are key to Paul’s approach to building character
and conviction. The words are “therefore” and “thus.” “Therefore” points
backward to the big issues of theology he’s addressed earlier. “Thus” – “stand
firm thus – “this way” -- points forward to methods that follow that now have
a context. Seven practical instructions follow – Be Unified, Be Rejoicing, Be
Reasonable, Be Worry-free, Be Prayerful, Be Right-Minded, and Be obedient.
But first he puts these instructions in context which gives them longevity.

This is a hinge verse. Paul was a rock. And he’s showing us how to be a rock.
Waves of hardship often swept over him, but he never wavered. When the
waves receded, he was still there. But Paul knows you need big truth to apply
to small places. You must see the small things in light of the whole sweep of
eternity. Big truth in little spots-- cosmic truth to give perspective to mundane
circumstances. So this verse is a bridge from big to little. Get the big picture
and the pieces make sense -- like comparing a puzzle piece to the big pix on
the box. That’s exactly what Paul is doing here. Telling someone Be unified,
Be joyful, and so on, will never work without the big picture.
So what’s the big picture? It’s the example of Christ give in chapter 2 who
gave up every personal right for a greater good – eternal perspective. It is the
example of Paul and others who followed Jesus’ example. It is the big truths
of chapter 3 which speak to our ultimate destiny. That big pix can be reduced
to 3 points that give context to the rest of chapter 4. How to become a rock?

I. Remember Who You Are

Being told to be joyful, trust God, don’t worry -- and you don’t even know
who you are – that advice isn’t going to work very long. It’s going to fade like
that song a few years ago – “Don’t worry; be happy!” Good for a day or two
– until your girlfriend dumps you or you get fired or wreck your new car. But
no advice gets us far until we know who we are in the big scheme of things.

So who are we? “Therefore” points back to what Paul just said. Phil 3:20:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord
Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious
body.” Who are we? People with a future, that’s who! Temporary visitors here
whose permanent home is heaven -- bought and paid for by a Savior who
forgave our sin, removed our guilt, cleansed our heart and who will one day
transform the decaying shell we live in now to be like His resurrected body.
He’ll remove us from the presence of sin and evil and establish us forever in
His presence in glorious perfection. That’s who we are! So let the world take
it’s best shot. Let the waves roll over us. We’re coming up on the other side!

We’ll stand firm when we recall who we are. Girlfriend gone? Got Jesus who
said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5) Job gone? Got Jesus
who said, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?”
(Mt 6:30). Car gone? Got Jesus of whom Paul says, “And my God will supply
every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ” Jesus” (Phil
4:19). Don’t sell God short. Who are we? – “heirs of God and fellow heirs
with Christ” (Rom 8:17). The big picture matters, doesn’t it?

Listen – we will have trouble in this life. Jesus said expect it. John 16:20 ‘A
servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also
persecute you.” Yes, people will mock, think you’re crazy, take away your tax
exemption – maybe even get physical. But remember who you are. No wave
of circumstance can ever take way your citizenship, your adoption papers as a
child of God, your legacy of eternal life. It’s all signed, sealed and delivered.
Live in the good of that while remembering “the sufferings of this present
time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom
8:18). Stand firm – you’re a citizen of heaven with a glorious future!

Malcolm Muggeridge, famous English writer who became a Christian later in

life said this: “As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city,
that crowns roll in the dust, and that every earthly kingdom must some time
flounder. As Christians, too, we acknowledge a King men did not crown and
cannot destroy, just as we are citizens of a city men did not build and cannot
destroy.” What if we lived as tho that were really true – reminded ourselves of
it every day. What would we be like? We’d be the most compelling people on
earth. We’d be unsinkable. Standing firm by remembering who we are!

II. Remember Who Loves You

So who does love me? Jesus does. According to 2:8, “And being found in
human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.” That’s a lot of love. Stand firm always because
nothing can separate you from His love. Rom 8: 34 Who is to condemn?
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at
the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate
us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake
we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be
slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through
him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor
rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The better we know how much Jesus
loves us, the better we will stand firm.

Phyllis Zeno worked with troubled children. One day a little 4-year-old came
to her nursery – born in prison after her mom used marijuana, coke and crack
for her whole pregnancy. The girl was non-verbal with no self-control. When
someone approached her she’d become violent for long periods, lying on the
floor in a fetal position. Zeno began praying for her. For a long time it was one
step forward, then four back. Zeno eventually learned to rock her, hold her and
sing, “Jesus love me” to her. That began to settle her down. Peace began to
come onto her face occasionally. One day after a particularly violent tantrum,
Zeno pick her up and began to rock her back and forth, back and forth. Shortly
the little girl looked up and with eyes filled with tears, she spoke for the first
time: “Sing to me about that Man who loves me.” A lot of us here this
morning need to spend some time in the arms of the Savior who loves us.

You say, “But I’ve failed.” He knows. He expects you to fail more than you
do. But He’s coming after you because He loves you. You say, “But I failed
really badly.” Coming after you all the more. Confess it and jump into His
arms! Sure, there may be discipline – but only bc He disciplines whom He
loves. When we really get a handle of how much He loves us, we’ll stand firm.

But guess what? It’s not just Jesus. Look. Paul is about to reprimand a couple
of ladies in Philippi. But look how he starts: “Therefore, my brothers [and
sisters], whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the
Lord, my beloved.” Paul loves them. Like the Thessalonians – they are his joy
and crown. Flaws and all, he loves them. And that is our privilege too – to
love one another. How we need this. How this will motivate us to stand firm.
Yes, Jesus loves us. But often that love is made tangible through the actions of
our brothers and sisters in Christ. The world has no love like this. There is
common grace, and some in the world are very kind – even very loving. But
love that is an act of the will even tho someone may not be particularly
appealing – that’s a Xn virtue. We must be a motivator in the lives of others
by loving them. And we must take motivation by the fact that our brothers and
sisters in Christ love us – warts and all. Heb 10:24 And let us consider how to
stir up one another to love and good works.” My job is to love you in this way;
and your job is to love me in this way – whether you like it or not!

A little girl got a karaoke machine for Christmas one year, so she asked her
90-year-old grandmother what song she’d like to hear. “Unforgettable” was
the request. So Mom, Dad and the little girl gave it their best effort, then the
granddaughter wrapped her arms around Grandma and said, “We sang that
because we love you.” Grandma replied, “And I listened because I love you!”
That mutual love of imperfections absolutely must characterize our lives
together. We must love the lovely; but we must love the unlovely even more.
It motivates us to stand firm – be a rock. Remember who loves you.

III. Remember Whose You Are

Note the last phrase – “stand firm thus in the Lord.” Thank God for those last
three words – in the Lord. Too often when we hear those words, “stand firm”
we picture ourselves standing alone against the world. But that’s the wrong
picture. It’s not like that. There is always an invisible presence standing with
us. We never stand alone. He’s always there. And it is His strength, not ours,
that makes the difference. Eph 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the
strength of his might.” His might – not ours! Strong in Him – not ourselves.
He promised in Mt 28:20 even as He was about to physically leave His
disciples: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Well, the age hasn’t
ended yet. And so that promise is addressed directly to every disciple of
Christ. So to stand firm we must remember who is with us and whose we are.

How could Paul stand firm in the midst of a Roman prison? Gal 2:20: “I have
been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in
me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who
loved me and gave himself for me.” He lived by faith in Jesus who stood with
him the whole time. He remembered whose he was.

If we try to stand firm in ourselves, we’ll fail – fast! But when by faith we
stand firm in the Lord, nothing can defeat us. No person. No circumstance. No
unsolvable situation. The more uncertainty, the better because the more we
will depend on Him – by faith -- even when we don’t know the answer. Stand
firm, but recalling whose you are. That will put steel in your backbone.

James Boice tells of spending summers at a Xn camp in Canada. One year he

spent several hours watching a young man who partially paid for his camp by
stringing telephone wires. That meant climbing telephone poles and Boice
learned in order to climb a telephone pole you have to lean back into your
leather safety belt. That allows the spikes you wear to dig into the pole at a
proper angle. Climbing a pole is easy – as long as you lean back! But if you
follow your natural tendency – to lean forward to grab the pole and pull
yourself in as far as possible, your spikes will not dig in. Down you’ll go –
splinters and all. Boice says it took that boy a few falls from a short distance
and a slew of splinters, but he finally learned. Lean back.

That’s just how we stand firm as Christians. Depend on our own strength and
we are doomed. We’ll soon be tumbling down, splinters and all. But when we
lean back into His strength, we’ll stand firm. So when we’re tempted to
defend our own rights and cause division – time to lean back into Him. When
worry is robbing us of our joy – time to lean back into Him. When our thought
life is taking us places we have no business being – time to lean back into
Him. We must remember whose we are and lean into Him.

Conc – So, how do we stand firm in the Lord. Well, Paul is about to give us 7
instructions that define standing firm. But first, he wants us to get the big
picture. That’s what will help fit in the small pieces. This is cosmic truth for
everyday life. Remember who you are – a child of God and citizen of heaven.
No one can ever take that away. Remember who loves you. That major
question in every life is answered in a profound way for every believer – God
loves you more than you can ever imagine – and your brothers and sisters in
Christ love you. And finally, remember whose you are. We are His. We never
operate alone – but always in the power of His might.

I love how the old movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, depicts this
spiritual truth. It’s an old west story about a very bad gunman who eventually
forces a gunfight with an idealistic, but hopelessly outmanned and
inexperienced school teacher who’s never shot a gun in his life played to
perfection by Jimmy Stewart. Somehow, miraculously, Stewart pulls his
shaky gun and wins the showdown leading eventually to his election to
Congress and a career as the respected elder of the town.

But late in the movie, we get a flashback. We see the whole scene from a
different angle. Behind the scenes, unseen by anyone, is JOHN WAYNE. He
knows Jimmy Stewart has no chance. So just as Stewart pulls his pistol, Big
John, with nerves of steel and perfect timing fires the fatal bullet with no one
the wiser. Liberty Valence wasn’t done in by Stewart. He was done in by John
Wayne though no one ever knew.

So our cosmic truth is not John Wayne; it’s a lot better than that. It is God
Himself – the unseen victor in every encounter when we remember who we
are, who loves us and whose we are. Lean into Him – always! He’ll get
exactly the right result every time. Let’s pray.