Summary: Four simple applications that will help you enjoy the people God brings into your life.
This morning, we will continue with Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the Christians in Philippi. If you were here last week, you would know that we discussed the author and the setting in which the author wrote the letter. As you remember, Paul was writing from prison, and he was there because his teaching about Christ conflicted with the teaching of the day. They put him in jail for creating public disturbance. As I mentioned last week, I will further introduce the context of the letter along the way, as the information becomes significant to understanding the section of the letter we will study.
The introductory information relevant to today’s passage comes from the book of Acts, chapter 16, where Dr. Luke records Paul’s first trip to Philippi and the people Paul introduced to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. These people became the first members of the diverse congregation at Philippi Community Christian Church.
The membership at Philippi Community Christian Church included
the wealthy Asian female merchant, Lydia, and her household, a Greek slave girl, and the Roman jailer and his family. Not only was the membership diverse in ethnicity, but they were diverse in socioeconomic status.
To these diverse believers Paul wrote this joy-filled letter. I want to show you what I’ve discovered from the letter to the Philippians that made possible for joyful relating despite differences that would otherwise become barriers or causes for relational conflicts.
From the outside, people might think that we, the Marin Community Christian Church, is a fairly homogenous church. But anyone who has been with us for more than a year knows the diversities that have at times become barriers and causes for relational conflicts.
We have generation differences, philosophical differences, and cultural differences. We have professional and educational differences, socioeconomic differences, and language differences, even though English is our common language during our worship gathering.
We also are different in what we consider fun and what we consider important. We differ in our preference for music and preference for worship style. I imagine that some of you would think that I had not done my homework unless I referred to Calvin at some point in my preaching, while others of you would wondered why I would mention Calvin and not Hobbes in the same sentence. That’s the kind of diversity we have in the church.
Philippians 1:3-8: Four ingredients to experiencing joy in your relationships:
If I didn’t know Paul, I might think he was trying to butter up the Philippians, that is to say something nice in order to get what he wants. But I do know Paul, and he is not one who uses flattery to manipulate. Paul is one who seeks to please God and not people. Paul is one who spoke the truth, and he had to remind himself that truth-telling needs to have the motive of love rather than the motive of demonstrating superiority.
The Apostle Paul demonstrates in these six verses, four very simple, yet important ingredients to experiencing joy in any relationship. Let’s look at them in the order they show up.
The first ingredient for experiencing joy in our relationships is the practice of affirming: (We see this in verses 3-5.)
Paul tells the Philippians that he values them and they bring him joy. Paul counts them as partners in the important work of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
You want to experience joy in your relationships? Begin by affirming the people you are relating with. You cannot enjoy those you criticize. This is not to say that you overlook sin, or you do not correct those who are going to hurt themselves or others. Nevertheless, there is enough good in the worse of us to affirm. You can only enjoy those you affirm. Affirmation lubricates relationships.
Affirmation often takes the form of verbally praising what another does or is worth. But affirmation can take other forms also. When you take time to play with your child, you are affirming her that she is important. When you are patient in teaching someone a new skill, you are affirming him that he has the potential to learn the skill. Husbands, when we fulfill our vow of fidelity and unconditional love to our wives, we are affirming our integrity and the value of our wives.
Most of us know how to affirm people, especially people who are like us or people from whom we want something. Unfortunately, we often do not affirm those who are different from us or who oppose us, because to do so we suggest they are right and we are wrong. Even worse, we sometimes don’t affirm those who are closest to us, because we take them for granted.
The good news is that we can intentionally affirm anyone and everyone. I’ve seen fathers who affirm their children but are careless with their wives. I’ve seen the reverse also. I’ve seen church people who affirm one another at church and are careless with their family members at home ... and sometimes I’ve seen that in me. I’ve also seen people who affirm those they work with but are careless with words and actions at church meetings.