Summary: Last in series on Prevailing Power. Churches are like people. They have attitudes, reputations, and pre-dispositions...
Churches are like people. They have attitudes, reputations, and pre-dispositions.
Some are good and some are not so good. There are some churches known for their good works and some know for their awesome battles.
There is a town in Texas where a church got into a disagreement over if it was ever appropriate to tell a lie. Eventually the discussion became so heated that the church actually split. One group was known as the lying church and the other as the non-liars. How is that for a great reputation to have?
This is nothing new. John records the reputations of seven churches in the initial chapters of Revelations.
The Seven Churches of Revelations
· Ephesus – The Loveless Church
· Smyrna – The Persecuted Church
· Pergamom – The Compromising Church
· Thyatria – The Corrupt Church
· Sardis – The Dead Church
· Philadelphia – The Faithful Church
· Laodicea – The Lukewarm Church
The Philippian church was known for its grace
2 Corinthians 8:1 (NCV)
8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace God gave the churches in Macedonia.
The Philippian Christians were known for its grace.
Grace is not wimpy. Somehow when you use the word grace in a sentence you get a kind of wimpy weak-willy image in your head. It sounds like a grace-filled Christian is sort of like walking around wearing a ballerina tutu. Not really something you want to do most of the time.
Wrong Image. Grace is not weak or wimpy. Grace is the generosity of love and acceptance that you give people who don’t deserve it. It is the parallel universe of mercy. Mercy is not giving a person what they deserve. Grace is giving them what they don’t deserve.
The key piece of grace is GIVING. It is proactive. It is forceful. It is has leverage in life. It has the power of a great wave of water. It is prevailing. It changes people.
My wife is a woman of grace. With her permission I’ll tell this story on her. I was serving on a board here in town and was told about one of the key employee’s having been told that she had cancer. I was told that she wanted to keep it quiet and that the board was asked to keep it confidential.
Well, I went home and told my wife that this woman was going to be out of the picture for a while but that I couldn’t go into details.
This person was also the one we interacted with on our daughter Susan’s behalf so the next time Donna talked to her she told Donna that she wouldn’t be in office for a while. Donna asked, “why?” Susan Shehan mumbled something about hospital and surgery. Donna, said what’s wrong? My mother was there and was dumbfounded to watch my kind and quiet, grace filled loving wife back this poor woman into a corner asking questions and offering support.
Donna ended up going over to her home and helping with the recovery. Today this lady and my wife are good spiritual pals at least partly because of Prevailing and Powerful Grace!
How do you become a church of this kind of power?
This morning we’re going to reverse engineering a Prevailing Power Church – the Philippian Christian Church.
What we will find is a three-step process – in reverse order.
I saw a movie that was told from the last to the first – it was real strange and strangely powerful. Things didn’t end up the way you thought. Or maybe I mean things didn’t start the way you would think. Hopefully this won’t be that confusing!
3rd Step: Mix Trouble with Joy to get Grace
2 Corinthians 8:2 (NCV)
2 They have been tested by great troubles, and they are very poor. But they gave much because of their great joy.
The Philippians were not rich people. In fact the scripture reveals that they were very poor. Philippi was at one time mining community with gold and silver mines in a nearby mountain. The mines gradually played out and the city became a stop on the road from Rome through the area.
In 42 AD it was the site of two great battles between Octavian and Antony. It was just 8 years later that Paul came and established the church. Picture an town, once robust, that had lost its source of wealth and was ravaged by war.
I’ve seen mining communities that have played out. I’ve seen the empty buildings of Calumet, the empty mine shafts of Ishpeming, and open pit in Republic, Michigan.
In these towns, even without the destruction of war, there isn’t much left of the people. They are tired and very poor.
There was every possible reason for this church to get a reputation for being poor and needy. Not the Philippians! They viewed this kind of trouble as a honing of their faith. The joy they knew because of Jesus in their lives resulted in something totally amazing!