Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Phillippians 4: 4-9
Rev. Samuel Wansley
The scripture text reminds me of the awesome responsibility of preaching and teaching the word of God. Those who accept the call of becoming teachers of the gospel must know how it feels to be joyful in the Lord. It is why we made the decisions to fully go forth and teach the word. We also know that it must be done with gentleness or we run the risk of running people away from the house of God. As Paul states, in every situation, in every situation, pastors and teachers of the gospel should approach with prayer and petition and thanksgiving.
A close friend of mine shared with me how he was in awe of one who accepts the work of a teacher of the gospel. He couldn’t understand how in the world one would want to engage in a career with so many downsides. They must tell people what many don’t want to hear and try to convince men to accept a God that they cannot see, who sits high in his heavenly kingdom somewhere and is supposedly in control of their lives. A preacher listens tothe problems of the congregation, sit with those who are sick or dying, and holds conversations to encourage men and women in jail. You're basically on call night and day to do whatever can be done for those in need and still find time for your own needs. How he said, can you do it? It's a thankless, demanding vocation with few rewards. After some thought, it occurred to me that I'd never looked at it that way before. Just like the apostle Paul, I had to look at this work as a whole.
Yes, there are many disappointments. We experience pain and sorrow. We get discouraged, but there is no other profession that brings more peace and joy than being a minister of the gospel. I rejoice that God chose me as an instrument to do his will.
People come to me for sympathetic words from my heart during the rough times in their lives. In those hours when they have no one to turn to, they want my help. There are the bereaved moms who need to be comforted. Fathers who have lost all hope and need their spirits uplifted. Young couples seeking counsel and ministries that need to be practiced in the name of Jesus. Women and men entering the ministry with the right spirit will find endless reasons to be motivated to do this work. What other profession has so much work to be done with so few workers ready to give their lives for such a worthy cause. In other occupations, men depend on status and influences to get respect for their accomplishments and recognition. But we are recognized and surrounded by angels of God and we’re heirs of the kingdom of heaven. It doesn’t get much better than that.
At times it seems as if we’re just preaching to pews. We leave the church building thinking that it’s all in vain, but then someone comes up to you later that week and says, that something you said, made all the difference in them living a life that is pleasing to God. Or even better than that they make the decision to accept Christ as their savior. That's part of the satisfaction of being used by God.
We are charged to tell the broken-hearted, that God sees them, He knows what they’re going through, and God feels, loves, and is with them, in the midst of their pain. Then as I look out over the congregation and see the wounds being healed, souls being strengthened and hearts being comforted — that’s the joy of being used by God. To look out over an audience and I may not see it, but I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in the sanctuary to take away the grief and smooth over the pain of everyone present. It is also comforting to know that during my times of sorrow, and sickness that they are praying for me and my recovery from every strong hold that the devil is trying to use to silence my tongue for the Lord. Because of the fruit of my labor, souls are being saved. This is enough of a reason to rejoice in the Lord.
Paul is trying to encourage the church to remain steadfast in the Lord. Things will happen that will dampen your spirit and try to steal you joy, but no matter what rejoice in the Lord always. Be like the palm tree; with roots so deep that even during a hurricane it bends, but does not break. Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter how angry the storms in your life may be, keep your faith deeply rooted and steadfast in the Lord. Paul knows that the world will beat you down if you let it. If you allow the workings of the world, get into your mind and start to influence your thoughts, it will eventually drive you up the wall. Your thoughts will cause you to take actions that will lead you to defeat. Satan wants you to second guess your calling. God is trying to talk to you and Satan wants you to question instructions you receive from God. Remember how he deceived Eve with his craftiness? When she listened to the suggestions made by the devil, her mind began to focus on the wrong things. She started to entertain thoughts of wisdom and knowledge...thoughts of being like God. When our thoughts control, they will lead us to death. This is why the bible says, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” your thoughts can lead to your sinfulness. We can, and we should take control of our thoughts. This is an area that many of us never think about., controlling what comes into our mind or what stays out. Some of the things that you bring into your mind are some of the same things that come out. The bible says it’s what comes out of a man that defiles him. You are responsible for what you think! Exercise control of your thoughts. Guard the gates of your mind.During this pandemic many countries prohibited foreigners from entering because of the fear of what they would bring with them. You should copy those actions and deny the devil entry into your mind.
Don’t allow anything in that does not have a passport from the Lord. The devil was kicked out of heaven. Why would you allow him into your mind, body or soul? Are your thoughts godly thoughts? Are they good thoughts or are they things that you should have never listened to? Are they thoughts that lead you to, or away from God? Know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Deny them entrance if they are evil, dirty, vengeful, or thoughts of jealously or anger Do not let them in! Let in only the serious and sincere thoughts.
If you allow the Spirt of God to come in, the devil will stay out. Focus not on the things that are impure, mean, unhealthy or lustful. Don’t think on the things that were constantly on your mind when you were young and away from home in a city where no one knew you or could see you when you had to sow your wild oats. Cover your mind with the pictures that allow you to envision hope, love, and peace rather than the figures that only show the vulgar demeaning and ugly things of this world. Choose which images that you’ll have, to keep you company.
Now, let me ask you to think for a moment why does Paul fell it necessary to counsel us about our thoughts? Because sooner or later what has been hidden in the back of our minds, those things long ago forgotten, will find their way to the front of the line in our thoughts. The things that use to be! We come into the world with certain mental and emotional tendencies and bias, but that is not our character. Add the thoughts of our experiences and how we perceive our lives. This becomes the making of our character: “You are what you think you are. This is why we should fill our children with positive thoughts about themselves. It they see themselves in a positive light, they will become positive people. If they only hear the negative about themselves, the odds of them becoming someone with positive views and thoughts about themselves is greatly minimized.
Some of you have become so accustomed, to the lustful, the impure, the frivolous, the contemptible, that you have lost all tendency to dwell on the pure, and the true. The bible says, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,... ...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5). In our key passage; Paul says that if you have, and keep these blessed thoughts in your hearts and minds, as your companions then whether the world smiles or frowns on you, you will be praiseworthy—think about such things. Focus on the good things!