Summary: We all experience conflict in life. Often times conflict happens with people we are closest to. Somtimes, the relationship we thought would last forever is blown apart by it. How do we handle this conflict when it happens or repair the relationship?
Two long time friends decide to go camping in the woods for the weekend. They pack up their gear and head out. As they hike to their favorite campsite, a large grizzly bear ambles onto the path about 100 yards in front of them. Both friends freeze in their tracks hoping the bear won’t spot them. The bear sniffs the air, growls loudly, and begins to charge at them. The first friend promptly sits down on the ground, takes off his hiking boots, and starts to change into tennis shoes. The second friend panics and tells him “You don’t have time to change shoes NOW! Do you seriously believe we can outrun that bear? The first one replies, ’I don’t have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun YOU!’
The caption above the joke read, “Hey! What are friends for?” Its funny as a joke. But it’s not so funny things happen to friendships in life. If you have ever had a relationship you expected to last for the long haul end because of troubles, you know what I’m talking about today. Let them fend for themselves; I have my own problems to worry about!
Common Ground (Why am I listening?)
Maybe you have seen a friendship broken because of abandonment. Or a marriage relationships dissolving when times are “for the worse”. Maybe you have been part of a business partnership that fell apart because of financial struggles. You might have even part of a church that split because of tough times. Have you ever had a time when you expected unity and what you ended up with is a shattered relationship and a broken heart? Have you ever seen unity that was supposed to last, blown apart by troubles and hardship?
It happens doesn’t it? The world is such a troubled mess and often those troubles enter relationships we cherish. When the trouble comes how do we go about maintaining unity in our relationships? That is the question I want us to focus on today as we explore Philippians 2.
As you turn to chapter two, let me remind you about what we have discovered so far in chapter 1.
Paul is rejoicing in the good news of Jesus in the midst of suffering for his name. Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel. And he says his chains have advanced the gospel. The palace guard has heard the story of Jesus. And other brothers have been encouraged and emboldened to share the gospel as well! His purpose and goal has been Christ! For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And he tells his readers that his suffering has been a gift!
It is in this context, Paul using his own life as an example, that he turns his attention to the Christians in Philippi and he makes this appeal to them.
Turn to Philippians 2:1-16.
Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)
1 If YOU have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
The emphasis is clearly on being united with Christ. And the questions he makes here are rhetorical; they have an assumed answer. The Greek case of the word translated “If” in the NIV suggests the idea is a reality. “If” could and probably should be translated “since.” The assumption Paul is making is that “since” they have encouragement from being united in Christ; “since,” they have comfort from his love; “since” they have fellowship with the spirit; and “since”, they have tenderness and compassion.
Observation: These qualities are byproducts of the life that is surrendered to Jesus (Humility).
Encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion If you life is surrendered to Jesus, you probably know what Paul is talking about. You’ve probably experienced it. The word “encouragement” in the text is the same word that Jesus uses in John 14:16 when Jesus promises to send a counselor or comforter – literally someone who will walk beside and guide the disciples. Have you ever experienced encouragement by the presence of “the comforter”? We are reminded in a similar way that comfort comes from God’s love. We know God cares for us and ultimately desires the best for us. And we share a common bond, fellowship, through the Holy Spirit. Christians are united by his love and drawn together as one body through the Holy Spirit who indwells them.
With this seed, Paul says they have hearts that are tender and compassionate. Literally, those words means they have "eyes that are able to see the needs of people around them" and "hearts that seek to alleviate those needs." On the basis of what they have in Christ, he urges them to continue to behave in such a way as to make his joy complete starting in verse 2.