Posted by: lepages | March 6, 2010

Rejoice always!

Its been a really busy week, so blogging just hasn’t happened. Its been a good week, but an at times, draining week. Yesterday my head felt like mush. Today, after a great prayer time at church I was able to get out on the bike for a couple of hours with a few other guys – absolutely fantastic – loved it. Home, bath, lunch, see to the birds and then a bit of admin before going to the Bedford Street Angels first anniversary celebrations – an excellent time, seeing and hearing of how God has been working in and through the project and winning favour with many in authority in our town.

All of this reminded me of my sermon last Sunday – those of you on Facebook might have seen my sermon points being knocked about. Anyway, for your encouragement to Rejoice, Request & Reflect you can have a listen to my preach here on the Rutland Road Church website, or you can have a read of my notes below.

God bless you.

Rejoice – Always
Philippians 4:4-9

Introduction
This morning is going to involve a little bit of interaction – its not just going to be me telling you about things, but us entering a journey of exploration together, and hopefully a journey of experience too. The interaction is going to begin with our Bible reading – we’re going to read it out loud, together, to one another. You can read it from the church Bibles, or you can read it from the screen, but…. can I encourage you to read it to one another, so as you are able, turn and look towards different individuals and speak it over their lives. The reading is another section from the letter to the Christians in the town of Philippi, Philippians 4:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

(New International Version)

Brilliant!!

On Thursday I was at Life in the Spirit conference and one of the final speakers Roger Welch spoke from a passage in Revelation and he said he could do a sermon with either 5 headings – all beginning with the letter ‘R’ or 3 headings all beginning with the letter ‘R’ – depending on which Bible translation he used for his Bible reading (incidentally I have here a CD with the 10 talks from this year on it as MP3’s – some excellent stuff – each speaker very different – if you’d like to be inspired, challenged, motivated, reflect, then ask me if you can borrow the CD and feel free to copy the MP3’s for later listening) Roger chose to use the New Living Translation which gave him 3 ‘R’ s for his preach which was an excellent reflection on World Mission and what it means to engage in mission in Britain today too.

Early on Friday morning before I was really awake, I realised I had 3 ‘R’ s for us to think about today! Different ‘R’ s to what Roger had on Thursday I hasten to add!! Interesting… I wonder whether Roger chose a passage with ‘R’ s in it because his name begins with an….. lets not go there!! 😉

I want to put it to you that these 3 ‘R’ s are not just nice suggestions, not just good ideas, but are commands for us in living out our Christian lives! They are there for a reason – they are there to bring blessing to your life!

The 3 ‘R’ s are:-

1.Rejoice
2.Request
3.Reflect

Another fascinatingly random observation is that these 3 things beginning with the letter ‘R’ all have the same number of letters, they all have 7 letters…. and 7, in biblical terms is known as the number of perfection, it symbolises completeness. So perhaps we need all 3 of these things in their fullness if we are to live full and complete lives as Christians!! 😉
So the first one, the letter ‘R’ for Rejoice

When does the Bible say we should rejoice?

Not just single answers please!
Come on everybody, when does the Bible say we should rejoice?

ALWAYS!!

And what does the scripture say we should be rejoicing in?

Again, everyone please!!

THE LORD!

Brilliant! Thanks so much for your contributions – there’ll be more opportunity shortly, but lets for a moment think about this command to rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Its interesting that the Lord doesn’t tell us to rejoice ‘in every circumstance of life’ – there are things that happen in life which are not a cause for rejoicing – we’re not called to pretend that everything in the garden is rosy, when its not! Think about the situation in Haiti, or in Chile. Being a Christian doesn’t deliver you from tough situations in life. Look at Paul, the writer of this letter, writing from prison, under chained guard – his situation in and of itself was not something to rejoice in, though we saw in the first of our series that he rejoiced in the opportunities he had to share the gospel with others. We are not told to rejoice in our circumstances, we are told to ‘rejoice in the Lord’. We’re not told to rejoice in his blessings on our lives, though its right and fitting that we do that – we are told to rejoice in him!!

Our rejoicing is not to be some false triumphalistic lets pretend everything is alright – its to be a rejoicing in our Lord.
Paul says, having said ‘Rejoice!’ Let your gentleness be evident to all.

This rejoicing is not a downward looking rejoicing that says I’m better than you, I’m in a better place than you, its a quiet, confident rejoicing in the Lord, knowing that your life is secure in him, that he has you in his hands, but in truth, its not a rejoicing about you and your state in him, its a rejoicing in him! In who he is! In all he is! And Paul brings it home, its a rejoicing because he is near ‘The Lord is near.’

That is something worth rejoicing in, whatever the circumstances of life.

The Lord, the Creator of all things, the Maker of heaven and earth as we reflected in the Apostle’s Creed, is near to us if we are Christian believers. The Lord, the one who gave his life on the cross to deal once and for all with the problem of the wrong stuff in our lives, who rose again from the dead and is now ascended to the Father and seated at his right hand in glory is always near to us by his Spirit, he lives in us by his Spirit. He is never far away. The Lord is always near. We sometimes sing Dave Fellingham’s song ‘In every circumstance of life you are with me, glorious Father.’

Knowing that God the Creator of all things, the Lord who sacrificed his life to enable you to be adopted as children of God, to enable his Spirit to be with you always, the one who said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6) is near, whatever is going on around you is something worth rejoicing in.

Rejoice in him, rejoice in who he is, rejoice in all that he means to you, rejoice in the fact that he is near and is with you, whatever is going on in your life.

But the Lord is real, he knows what real life is like. He encourages us to rejoice in him – but he doesn’t say ‘divorce yourself from the realities of life’ – it sometimes concerns me when we sometimes pray ‘Lord, help us to put aside all the things we have been thinking about, concerned about, for this time with you.’ I’m not sure the Lord wants us to put things to one side to spend time with him… and then pick them up again later! You see God wants to be a part of every part of our lives, he wants to be at the centre all the time, not just as we gather for collective worship on a Sunday, in our cell groups or at other times. He is with us always.

So we come to our second ‘R’

Request

We are to rejoice in God, we are to rejoice in him, in who he is, in all that he has done, but we are not to be divorced from the reality of our lives, living in some false cocoon. Paul knows as he writes that people will be anxious about things – the likelihood is that a good number of us here are anxious about some things. Paul doesn’t say, don’t be anxious about things, just ignore them and focus on the Lord – no he says ...present your requests to God

Its okay to come before God with your requests, rejoicing in him doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of the struggles of your life. As you rejoice in the Lord, present your requests to him, bring to him the things that you’re anxious about – don’t hold on to them. Paul says Do not be anxious – that’s present tense, he is saying in effect don’t continue in a state of being anxious – do something about it – and what does he say – ignore your anxious feelings and focus on the Lord? No he doesn’t! He tells us to present our requests to God and he suggests 3 active words that we base our requests to God on – prayer, petition and thanksgiving.

Requests to God are not like going into a MacDonalds and saying ‘Can I have a Big Mac please, er with a large fries and a coke please.’

Prayer is not like that. An online dictionary defines prayer like this:-
A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.

This is getting serious with God, acknowledging who he is – as we come to present our requests to him.

Its interesting that Paul goes on then to use the word petition – that’s a word that is used in a variety of ways! We have it as a noun don’t we – we present a ‘petition’ – a list of names together making a request – and maybe there’s a value in us bringing our requests to God together as a petition, with others – Jesus said that there was a special dynamic as two or three requested things of the Father in his name….

The online dictionary again though defines the word ‘petition’ like this:-
A solemn supplication or request to a superior authority; an entreaty.

We should rejoice in our Lord, but when we come before him with our requests, lets remember who it is we come to and let us approach him with the respect he deserves.

‘Lord, I’d really like a hamburger and if you could throw in some cheese as well that’d be great’ is perhaps not the most appropriate way for us to approach the Lord of all creation.

If we are anxious about things we should not remain being anxious, we should bring our requests to God in prayer, we should petition him to hear our prayer, perhaps asking others to come and stand with us in prayer, and finally Paul says we should do it with thanksgiving.

The online dictionary again defines thanksgiving like this:-
An act of giving thanks; an expression of gratitude, especially to God

Why give thanks?

Its not to earn God’s favour. Its about reminding ourselves of who this God is that we come to with our requests, its about reminding ourselves of his past faithfulness to our requests. As we do this our focus shifts from the thing that we are anxious about to the one who is able to meet our needs, and as we do that so we find ourselves rejoicing in him, in who he is, in the joy of having him near us in our lives. Our focus shifts from our fears and concerns to faith in our faithful God. And as those things happen then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So lets get active again. I want to suggest that we stop for a few minutes to pray. I’ll be very surprised if there are not a number of us here who feel anxious about some things. We need to bring those things before our God with prayer, petition and thanksgiving, knowing that he hears our requests and will answer and bring us peace. I’m not going to ask people to share things publicly before us all. I’m going to suggest that if we are feeling anxious about anything that we raise a hand and that 2 or 3 near us then stand with us in prayer. If you feel able to share what you’re anxious about with those who come to stand with you in prayer fine, if not, that’s okay, just encourage others to depend on the Holy Spirit to help you in your praying. So who’s standing anxious at present and needs to bring requests to God and wants others to stand with them – raise your hand with me. 2 or 3 folk gather with each person, share and pray into the area with thanksgiving presenting your requests to God. We’ll play a music track whilst we pray and then when the track finishes we’ll go on to our last ‘R’ for the morning.

Well, our last ‘R’ is
Reflect

I’m afraid this ‘R’ isn’t actually in our Bible reading, but its a word which sums up v8 & 9 really well. Reflect on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, anything.. excellent or praiseworthy.

One last blast of corporate participation, bit of brainstorming, or whatever the latest pc version of that phrase is – shout out as many different things which we could reflect on that would fit with those descriptions – I’ll repeat them so they come over the pa

There are excellent and praiseworthy things in every part of life and we are told to think about such things – why? Because it lifts our spirits, it causes us to reflect on the goodness of our God and whenever we do that we are blessed. It enables to see the wood for the trees, to adapt an old English expression.

If our focus is just on the negative things that happen in life, we will live a negative life marked with sorrow, sadness, discontentment. If our hearts are filled with God and rejoicing in him, if we think about the blessings of life, if we bring our anxious thoughts to God and place our requests before him, thanking him for his many blessings in our life, then we will live a life that is filled with God’s goodness – a life that is truly blessed.

In concluding and handing back to Paul & Julie to lead us on in our worship I’d just like to give testimony, and others might like to as we continue in worship.

I’ve had some negative stuff happen in my life – extreme pain of appendicitis – marriage on the rocks at one point – deep depression where it was hard to see anything positive in life – then the physical and emotional struggle of my accident 4 years ago. I haven’t always lived up to those commands throughout, but I do know that throughout as I have followed these three ‘R’ s God has lifted me above my circumstances, he has always been there, he has always been faithful and I want to encourage you today to live by these 3 ‘R’ s – rejoice in the Lord always, bring your requests to him rather than staying in an anxious state, and reflect on all the wonderful things that surround in every part of life. If you do this, your life will be all the better and you will live in the reality of God’s blessing in your life rather than letting the devil steal the blessings away by causing the negative things to grow big and dominate you life.

God bless.

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