Summary: This sermon shows us how to correct the causes of conflict that are killing the church’s joy.
RESTORING JOY TO THE CHURCH
September 15, 2002
The book of Philippians is a book about joy. Over and over again the apostle Paul writes of joy and rejoicing in this little book. In the section we are studying today Paul tells the Philippians how they can make his joy complete and I believe by implication how they can make their joy complete as well.
Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found:
Not in unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.”
Not in pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, canker, and grief are mine alone.”
Not in money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said, “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”
Not in position and fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
Not in military might -- Alexander the Great conquered the know world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
Where then can we find real joy? The Bible teaches us that God is our source of joy. So why then is there so little joy in the church today? We could ask ourselves the same question Paul asked of the Galatian church: “What has happened to your joy” (Galatians 4:15)? In the case of the Philippian church the answer was conflict. One commentator said, “The danger of disunity seems to have been the only factor threatening the Philippian congregation at this time” (Beacon Bible Expositions, p. 60). Paul says that rather than being divided by conflict they were to be “one in spirit” (v. 2). The Greek behind that phrase literally means ‘sharing the same soul.’ “The Philippians are to act together as if one soul activated them” (BBE, p. 62). Instead they each had there own purpose for the church, they each looked out for there own personal interests and they did not have the attitude of Christ.
If the church does not correct these causes of conflict it will crumble. Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come” (Mark 3:24-26). Allow me to paraphrase that while applying the truth to the church. “If a church is divided against itself, that church cannot stand; it’s end has come.” If the church is filled with conflict it cannot at the same time be filled with joy so we must correct the causes of conflict before we crumble.
CORRECTING THE CAUSES OF CONFLICT:
1. We must share the same purpose. (v. 2)
The quickest way to have conflict in any organization is for the members of that organization to have different purposes for the organization. When that happens each group within the organization is fighting against the other groups in an effort to see that their purpose is fulfilled and the result is that nothing is accomplished other than fighting. It is sad how very often this very thing happens in the church. Having one purpose focuses our energy and gives us power, but having different purposes diffuses our power and leaves us impotent.
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” “Which channel to you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?” (Charles Shultz) Can’t you just see God looking down on us from heaven and saying, “Why can’t you guys get organized?”
Why do we need to get organized around one purpose? Because there is great power in unity of purpose just as there was in the unity of Lucy’s fingers forming a fist. Vesta Kelley said, “Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.” When snowflakes stick together they have the power to shut down airports, stop traffic and close businesses. But individually they are powerless. So it is with us in the church. If each of us are pulling in our own direction we will literally pull the church apart and nothing good will be accomplished. But if we will come together as one body activated by one soul we will discover the power to accomplish the purpose for which we are on this earth -- the fulfillment of the Great Commission.