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STANDING FIRM (3): BY CONFIDENT REJOICING

(Phil. 4:4-5)
November 25, 2018
Heb 10; Acts 5; I Cor 6
Read Phil 4:1-5 – “Stand firm.” Be a rock in your Xn walk. The world needs
examples of stability in a turbulent world. Paul challenges us to demonstrate 7
elements of life that only citizens of heaven could pull off. Last week we saw
– Be unified. Petty infighting is unworthy of God’s people. Today we’ll see
two more – Be Joyful and Be Reasonable. These and all the ones that follow
require one common element. They require that we have a Big God – or that
we have a big view of a God who is awesome beyond description – but often
shortchanged in our own life by our lack of faith. We can live pretty shallow,
unstable lives when we don’t really believe in God’s greatness.

How we view God determines how we live. If I were your bodyguard, you’d
be pretty careful where you ventured, right? But if you had Superman you’d
venture wherever you desired. No fear. And so how well we know, trust and
view God will largely influence how firm we stand. So with that background,
let’s look at these next two commands – Be Rejoicing, Be Reasonable.

I. Be Rejoicing

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Doesn’t it seem odd to
command someone to rejoice. And even more unreasonable, to command it
always, under all circumstances, even hard ones? Did Paul really mean that?
Or James when he says in 1:2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet
trials of various kinds.” So, can you really rejoice when the memory of past
sins threatens to overwhelm you, when dear ones are suffering, when you are
facing persecution – possibly even death? Even then we are to “rejoice”?

Paul did. He’s not asking something he didn’t practice. Past sins? He could
have been buried. I Cor 15:9: “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to
be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He knew the
pain of past failure, yet knew God’s forgiveness. I Cor 15:10: “But by the
grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” David
did, too. Having confessed the sins of adultery and murder, he pleads in Psa
51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” and God did. Some of us
may need to pray that same prayer because the past has weighed us down.

Can we see suffering in us and others and still rejoice? Yes. The writer to
Hebrews reminds his audience in Heb 10:32 But recall the former days when,
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after you were enlightened [saved], you endured a hard struggle with
sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction,
and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had
compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of
your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and
an abiding one.” Could we do that? Joyfully accept the government taking our
homes and throwing us in jail – just for claiming Christ? They could.

In Acts 5 the apostles are called before the authorities for preaching Christ.
The Jewish elders were furious, and having warned the apostles once, they
now took action. Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat
them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted

worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and
from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ
is Jesus.” The practiced what they preached – and they did it right up until the
day they were martyred for the sake of Jesus. So, it is clear. The command
means exactly what it says. God even repeats it twice for emphasis: “Rejoice
in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” At all times, given any and all
circumstances – Rejoice. The text means exactly what it says.

So How do we do that? It certainly doesn’t come naturally, right? The


repetition itself indicates that it is not always easy to be joyful. We must rise
above our circumstances to obey. Most of us think of joy as a purely human
emotion. So how can God command an emotion. That’s something you either
have or you don’t have, right? The fact that God commands us tells us that
what He has in mind is something much deeper than mere emotion. I like how
John MacArthur defines it. He says, “Joy is a deep-down confidence that God
is in control of everything for the believer’s good and His own glory.” In
fact, let me simplify it even further. Joy is the confidence that God is the
blessed controller of all things. When that truth really captures our hearts,
then, and only then, will we be able to rejoice in all things. That’s bc we’ll
know who we are – whose we are – and who loves us.

That’s what Paul means when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” That’s a far cry
from rejoicing in the circumstance itself. Do that and you’re defeated before
you start. But to rejoice “in the Lord,” is to say, in essence, this circumstance
– whether good, bad or neutral, is just one more way that God is at work in
my life and while it looks and feels awful to me, I choose to trust Him. Thus
rejoicing is a choice more than an emotion. Aimed at God, not events.
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This is where our view of God is really tested, do you see? If my belief in God
is theoretical, and works for others but not me, I’m toast. If I see God as
limited, uninterested, distant or distracted, I’ll not be able to trust Him when
adversity strikes. But if I see Him for the all-powerful, all-wise, infinitely
loving Father that He is, rejoicing will start to become a natural reaction.
Adversity? I’m not seeking it, but when I run into it, I can say, “Bring it on. I
embrace it as a necessary part of God’s wise plan for my life, and I rejoice
in it.” The key to the whole thing – having a big God. Phil 1:29: “For it has
been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in
him but also suffer for his sake.” The same God who graced me with salvation
which I love, also graced me with suffering, which I also choose to embrace.

The Philippians knew Paul really believed this! They’d seen it. Arrested for
exorcising a demon from a local medium, he and Silas were beaten with an
inch of their lives, thrown, bloody and disgraced into the stocks of the
Philippian jail, only to found singing at midnight just before God miraculously
released them. And how about Christopher Love, a 17 century Welsh pastor,
sentenced to death for his faith. He wrote his wife when all appeals were
exhausted, “Today they will sever me from my physical head, but they cannot
sever me from my spiritual head, Jesus Christ.” Onlookers reported that as he
walked to his death, his wife applauded while he sang of glory.

We’re pikers, Beloved. Give us a flat tire, a quarrelsome child or a criticizing


spouse and you’d think our world had caved in. That may not be you, but it’s
me. How convicting. We’ve a small God in reality, whatever we say in theory.

So Why rejoice? Why would our big God not just take the trouble away?!
Why do something so countercultural as rejoice when your world is falling
apart. Sure we should rejoice at victories, right? Baptism of new believers –
great time to rejoice. Got a promotion at work? Great time to rejoice. Son or
daughter gets thru the temptations of youth and comes out the other side with
faith intact. Sure we ought to rejoice. But what about when that doesn’t
happen? When you lose a loved one in death; when the promotion is stalled
because of your Christian commitment; when the son or daughter strays; your
friend betrays you and worse betrays the faith. Why rejoice then?

Rom 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that
suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and
character produces hope.” In other words, we rejoice in suffering bc it is one
way God is keeping us dependent on Him and building character into our
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lives. It’s a way he grows us; matures us. Right after James urges us to count it
all joy when we meet trials, he adds in Jas 1:3 for you know that the testing of
your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So why rejoice at
trouble? Because you see it as evidence of God’s love and best plan for you.
May not look like it at the moment. Certainly doesn’t feel like it. But behind
the curtains God is pulling the strings for our ultimate benefit. Hard as it is to
believe, God is using this nasty circumstance to our maximum benefit. And
that is a cause for rejoicing, isn’t it?

Charles Spurgeon accomplished great things for God – more than most people
could do in 10 lifetimes. But he also suffered greatly – gout, an invalid wife,
severe bouts of depression. He once wrote this: “Our afflictions are the
health regimen of an infinitely wise physician. I daresay the greatest earthly
blessing that God could give to any of us is health -- with the exception of
sickness! If some men that I know of could only be favored with a month of
rheumatism, it would be God’s grace to mellow them marvelously.” And
Spurgeon meant that for himself because he said, “I’m afraid that all the
grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours
might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my
sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable.” So – “Rejoice in
the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.” It’s a way to stand firm. It’ll
change your life.

II. Be Reasonable

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Reasonableness -- ἐπιεικής


– hard word to translate because there is no single English word that captures
the breadth of its meaning. Most English translations use “gentle”. And when
used elsewhere in the NT, it is universally translated “gentle.” Titus 3:2 is one
example: 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to
show perfect courtesy toward all people.” You can see in that context that it
clearly speaks of bending over backward to treat others with dignity, respect,
and forbearance. Some of the words used to translate it include yieldedness,
non-retaliatory, big-heartedness, kindliness, geniality, magnanimity, and sweet
reasonableness. You can see that it’s difficult to incorporate all of those into
one word.

What is clear is that if rejoicing is an inner attitude of complete trust in God,


gentleness toward others is a logical outworking of that trust. That gets us
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closer to the deeper meaning of the word. What Paul is getting at is, if you are
truly trusting God, you don’t have to win every argument, exact every ounce
of fairness or exert all your rights. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have your
say and seek justice where possible, but not at the expense of harming others.
Rather than constantly exerting your own rights, you are leaning over
backwards to see the other person’s point of view. There is an unnatural
gentleness and reasonableness about you that reflects outwardly your
inward trust in God. This means that you are willing to absorb abuse rather
than inflict it. Sweet reasonableness – in fact, beyond reasonableness.

Perhaps the best commentary on this verse is found in I Cor 6. When the
Corinthians had grievances against one another, they were marching straight
off to court. They weren’t messing around. No one was going to deprive them
of their rights. But Paul says in I Cor 6:5 I say this to your shame. Can it be
that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the
brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before
unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for
you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you
yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” Paul’s point is, you
may win the lawsuit, but you defeat your greater mission – the gospel of
Christ by which wretched sinners are routinely pardoned when they repent.
Why not reflect that. Absorb a wrong rather than inflict one. This word
“reasonableness” if about giving up one’s rights when it harms the cause of
Christ to insist on them. Do you see how that applied to Euodia and Syntyche?
Great! Do you see how it applies in your life? And do you see that Paul is not
just applying that to believers but to “everyone.” Now comes the crucial
question, right? How big is your God? Is He big enough to cover whatever
loss you might suffer? In this case, we stand firm by standing down!

Not long after Tim Keller started Redeemer Church in NYC a young woman
started to visit – darting out quickly after each service. One day Keller caught
her and she said she was exploring Christianity. When asked why she
responded that she had made a big mistake at work one day that she thought
would cost her the job. But her boss went in to his supervisor and took
complete responsibility for what she had done. As a result, he lost some of his
reputation and upward mobility. She thanked him profusely and said she had
seen supervisors take credit for what she had accomplished, but never seen
one take the blame for something she did wrong. When asked why, he
modestly deflected the question, but when she insisted he finally told her, “I
am a Christian. That means among other things that God accepts me
because Jesus Christ took the blame for things that I have done wrong. He
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did that on the cross. That is why I have the desire and sometimes the ability
to take the blame for others." That’s why she ended up in church. That’s what
it means to live out the gospel and absorbing blame rather than inflicting it –
because the Lord is at hand as Paul reminds us in vs. 5.

Beloved, one way we’ll know we are getting it right is that we will be known
– at home, at church and in the world in general, as those who are fair, caring
and committed to others before self. Our lives should reflect a supernatural
willingness to be wronged rather than inflict wrong. That comes from the joy
within, which comes from the greatness of the God we serve.

Conc – A. W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think
about God is the most important thing about us.” Most of us need a new
view, Beloved. Most of our minds go to a reluctant, made-in-our-image God
complete with all the limitations that implies. No wonder we’re not joyful
within and reasonable without. Our God is too small.

Billie Burke was a famous actress in the early 20th century. She was taking a
transatlantic cruise one time when she noticed a man suffering a bad head
cold. Asking if he was uncomfortable, she advised, “I know just what to do.
Go back to your stateroom and drink lots of orange juice. Take two aspirins.
Cover yourself with all the blankets you can find and sweat it out. I know
what I’m talking about. I’m Billie Burke from Hollywood.” The man smiled
warmly and replied, “Thank you very much. I’m Dr. Mayo from Mayo
Clinic.” I’m afraid that’s us – spending overmuch time telling God how to do
His business, or more likely how He has messed up and here’s what He ought
to do rather than learning of Him and trusting all that we know and all that we
don’t know. That’s the secret being rejoicing inside and reasonable outside.
Let’s pray.