Summary: In life… the greater challenge proves to be not so much how to succeed… but how to last. The course we choose is critical… but so is the strength to stay that course.

(Note: Some of the structure and portions of this message drew upon ‘A Life Worth Living’

material by Nicky Gumbel and Alpha.)

Bob W. Ireland crossed the finish line on Thursday, November 6, 1986, as the New

York City marathon’s 19,413th and final finisher - the first person to run a marathon with his

arms instead of his legs. Think of it! Bob is a forty-year-old Californian whose legs were blown

off in Vietnam seventeen years ago. He recorded the slowest time in the marathon’s history: 4

days, 2 hours, 48 minutes, 17 seconds. When asked why he ran the race, he gave these three

reasons: to show he was a born-again Christian, to test his conditioning, and to promote

physical fitness for others. He said, "Success is not based on where you start, it’s where you

finish, and I finished."+

In life… the greater challenge proves to be not so much how to succeed… but how to last.

The course we choose in critical… but so is the strength to stay that course.

It’s true of one’s walk as a radical follower of Jesus. We may come to recognize who Christ is

and what he is calling us to be… decide to follow… but so much can then draw us away…

distract us .. dissuade us…

Jesus knew this and spoke to this.

This morning we hear wisdom from the great apostle Paul on how to live with extraordinary


Philippians 4:1-9 (NIV)

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you

should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!


I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes,

and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause

of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the

book of life.


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.


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.

[ NAMES : Euodia – You Oh Dia & Syntyche - Soon Too Kay (Strong’s Dictionary)

= Udie and Sue

v.1 ‘you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown ‘…they were his beloved crown

How appropriate that we should come to these words of wisdom on this particular day.

• Words of a father to their spiritual children.

• Words of one giving a commencement speech at a graduation of students who need words

of wisdom to guide them through life.

Four things to guard and govern well.

1. Conflict – Watch your relationships with others

Clash between two women… well regarded leaders… probably of house churches… probably

of personalities because Paul doesn’t take sides… and asks others to help.

Respect… and perspective

• ‘who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel’

• ‘fellow workers’

• ‘whose names are in the book of life.’

> It is one of the ways that people fall away from following Christ.

Ex – people who say they use to follow… but then someone hurt their feelings… broke their

trust… conflict can leave walls of defense and something painful that wants to be avoided.

When conflict arises our ordinary sense of strength is to become more defensive and

defiant… but Paul says… it’s a pseudo strength.

Hurt can make us feel weakened… so anger comes and offers a sense of strength… but

it’s only pseudo strength.. a feeling … a false strength if we chose to let us consume us.

Illus – Spiderman 3… at first he is afraid of what is taking him over… and then he begins

to like the new sense of strength… power… until he realizes it will destroy his destiny.

When you experience conflict, draw upon community to resolve it.

Go to those who share your values and vision… not merely those who support your case or

anger… but who can help bring reconciliation and peace.

2. Anxiety – Watch your relationship with the Lord

The Greek word translated “anxious” (Philippians 4:6) means “to be pulled in different


If anybody had an excuse for worrying, it was the Apostle Paul. His beloved Christian

friends at Philippi were disagreeing with one another, and he was not there to help them. He

was in prison with the possibility of his own death! Yes, Paul had a good excuse to worry—

but he did not! Instead, he took time to explain to us the secret of victory over worry.

He understood the common road… the temptation of ordinary strength…

Our ordinary sense of strength wants to control… or at least try to control…

When you experience anxiety, engage God’s involvement through prayer

and thanksgiving which offers to restore you in trust and peace.

• Worry and prayer cannot go well together… like water and fire.

• Instead of worry… pray…

• Worry takes us away from Lord

Three things he ties together….

Value God’s presence in your life

• Says Rejoice in the Lord 16 times in this letter and 2 times here. Many things we can’t

rejoice in but can always rejoice in our relationship with the Lord… it will be the one thing

that you can stand on

Pray for everything that you may feel anxious about

• Do so in detail… taking the very things that worry you… express what you seek.

Do so with thanksgiving..

• When you do this with thanksgiving… it’s like the wings on a bird… it lifts them.

• Confidence builds confidence… if we just get anxious and never look at all God is doing

we have a hard time rising in true prayer.

> Then the peace of God that transcends… will lift us beyond what we can understand.

Will guard your heart… like the guard protecting the city from intrusion

3. Negativity – Watch your unseen thoughts

Culture… cynicism = safe…no expectations… therefore not vulnerable…

strong… but it’s anything but safe… or entirely true for that matter.

We live in a world where so much is negative… fearful… cynical…

We can’t escape unless we retreat from the world entirely… but we can overcome the impact

Our thoughts are vital

“Sow a thought, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny!”

When negative perspective surrounds you, set your mind on that which is

true and good.

Isaiah 26:3

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you."

2 Corinthians 10:5

"… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Martin Luther – “You can’t stop a bird from flying overhead, but you can stop it

from nesting in your hair.”

Sir Thomas Moore – “Occupy your mind with good thoughts or the enemy will fill them with

bad ones. Unoccupied they cannot be.”

4. Influence - Watch the example of others who walk in the life of Christ

Paul understood that we need the right tracks to follow in… especially if we

are trying to walk outside the common path.


Shepherds eating breakfast outside the town of Gevas, Turkey, were surprised to see a

lone sheep jump off of a nearby cliff and fall to its death. They were stunned, however,

when the rest of the nearly 1,500 sheep in the herd followed, each leaping off of the same


When it was all over, the local Aksam newspaper reported that "450 of the sheep perished

in a billowy, white pile" (those that jumped from the middle and end of the herd were saved as

the pile became higher and the fall more cushioned). The estimated loss to the families of

Gevas tops $100,000-an extremely significant amount of money in a country where the

average person earns about $2,700 annually.

"There’s nothing we can do. They’re all wasted," said Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of the

26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd.

- Citation: Sam O’Neal, St. Charles, Illinois; sources: "450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in

Turkey", (7-8-05); "Sheep in Mass ’Ewe-icide,’" The Sun Online (7-8-


> If there had just been a sheep that knew a different way.

Not so different than us… we need alternatives… and Paul says LOOK FOR THOSE WHO

ARE DIFFERENT from the ordinary.

When you feel a loss of inner inspiration, learn from those who model

soundness and strength.

Ordinary view of strength is independence….

Word ‘received’ = a tradition that has been handed down.

• Paul had an apostolic authority.

• Bible often suggest others and ultimately Christ.

• After watching the pros of a sport you recreationally play… we often go and play inspired

by how we saw them play so well. > Same with life and spiritual life.

Closing question…Who are your eyes on? Who’s the poster on your wall?