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We enjoyed Father’s Day afternoon last week poolside at FMC with the Bohm family.  Hannah and I had been there the day before.  She had recently been working up the nerve to dive off the diving board and really struggled that day to get her body to commit to do what her mind was focused on.  Even though she had done it the previous day she kept saying things like, “I can’t,” and “I don’t know how.”  Thom worked with her.  He talked to her about how to put her hands, how to reach for the water, how to get her mind to focus on just falling in head first.  Lexi worked with her.  I shouted my two cents worth from across the pool.  The Bohm’s encouraged her.  Even the lifeguards were cheering her on.

Each time she would nervously walk to the end of the board, put her hands in the position, bend her knees and then jump in.  She was upset with herself for not following through.  She just kept saying she didn’t know how to do it. 

Now people who know me, know I am pretty protective of my 80’s “poof.”  Seeing me without my big hair or without my hair fixed isn’t exactly pleasant.  But I thought to myself, “Maybe if I go dive off the board it will give her some courage.  She knows I don’t like to get my hair wet in public, but if I sacrifice that it might show her I believe in her and know she can do it.” 

I went to the edge of the board, and in an instant the “poof” was gone.  I was wet and Hannah still wasn’t diving.  It dawned on me:  All of the knowledge in the world and the example of someone else even if it comes at a great sacrifice, won’t make you succeed unless you apply the knowledge and become motivated by that example to put it into practice.

Stand for the reading of this one verse that the Apostle Paul speaks to the Philippian church:  “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.” Philippians 4:9

Silent Prayer

God had spoken to His people in the Old Testament.  He had given them the information they needed to understand in order to please God.  They had knowledge.  Yet, rather than apply the knowledge to their hearts and lives, they lived in rebellion either by simply rejecting the information or by twisting it to mean something God never intended. 

So, like me in a very small symbolic way, sacrificing to try to show Hannah how to dive and that I believed she could follow in my footsteps, God sent Jesus to demonstrate the Father’s feelings about what we could become. He sacrificed everything so that we could become completely different people.  And yet, many Christians today are existing without exercising faith.  They are existing without living an abundant life.  They are existing and allowing fear, defeat and anxiety to keep them from diving in head first to the things God wants them to be and do.  Knoweldge and example are powerless if they aren’t applied to our lives.  Paul says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  THEN the God of peace will be with you.

I remember studying for tests in high school and college.  I was a great test taker.  I knew how to cram the information into my brain just long enough to regurgitate it onto the test paper.  I never took the information in long term.  I didn’t allow it to impact my life or become a part of me.  If I had, I probably could have been on jeopardy and won a lot of money by now! 

Paul had to tell these people that the information they were receiving wasn’t supposed to provide temporary enlightenment or wasn’t simply to inspire them to make it through the day.  It was supposed to change their lives.  Unlike the Philippians, the Thessalonian church had not only gotten the message, but it transformed the way they lived.  Listen to what Paul said to them:  “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (I Thes. 2:13)  We can’t just believe God’s Word, but we must let it work in an through us as well.

Paul was an example of someone who not only knew and taught the Word, but he also lived it.  James 1:22 tells us not only to be hearers of the Word, but doers of it.  Our lives must reflect that we have received God’s Word.  And only in doing God’s Word do we gain the confidence that we need to continue growing as Christians.  Hannah did finally dive last Sunday.  After some drama, after great patience on the part of those enduring their place in line as she would stand at the end of the board and contemplate for minutes at a time, after multiple pep talks . . . she did it.  Once she did, you couldn’t stop her.  She gained great confidence.  She had tremendous joy.  She was thrilled with herself.  She wanted everyone to watch her.  She possessed great satisfaction.  She is already talking about how to challenge herself and what trick to master next.  

Paul had told the Philippians to put into practice the things they had learned and received and seen and heard in his life because he knew that was the secret to being able to do more and more for Christ.  What are some of those things that perhaps we too can put into practice in our own lives?

Paul demonstrated a great concern for others.

He desired to see people become all God intended.  He wanted to see people live up to their potential.  He was a great encourager.  He was also building people up, even when he was pointing out what they were doing wrong.  He was trying to show them that with God’s help they could become what God had planned. 

We see in Philippians 4 that there were two women who were at odds with each other. Their names were Euodia and Syntyche.  They were leaders in the church.  I talked about conflict two weeks ago, and I encouraged us all to accept the fact that conflict is a part of life.  Avoiding conflict isn’t necessarily the best way to go, but dealing with conflict in a godly way is what will grow and stretch us all and be the testimony to a watching world that Christians can process the difficult parts of life differently and with love and respect for one another. 

The name “Euodia” means “a prosperous journey.”  The name “Syntyche” means “a pleasant acquaintance.”  These two women weren’t living up to their names.  Prior to whatever this disagreement was they had been working side by side along with Paul in the ministry.  Paul was concerned that their partnership in ministry was in jeopardy.  He was concerned about the dissension that their strained relationship was having on the rest of the church.  Their conflict probably contributed to the intention of Paul’s words in chapter two where he stressed unity and considering others better than yourself. 

Paul’s concern that Euodia and Syntyche get along led him to not only know the Word of God, but to do the Word of God and address the situation.  II Corinthians 5:18 says that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.  All of us.  Each one of us is supposed to live in such a way that through the things we do and say we help people repair relationships and have better relationships. 

Paul also showed this concern in the way he prayed for others.  He wanted them to live their best lives for God.  Look at Philippians 1:8-11

8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. 

His comment and prayer reflect his deep concern for the Philippian people.  We see again that he wasn’t only familiar with God’s admonition to pray for one another, but he lived it.  He put it into practice. 

He had a genuine concern for those who were new to the faith or weak in their faith.  He didn’t want to do or say anything that could cause them to reject the Lord.  (I Cor. 8:8-13).  He never had an “Every man for himself” mentality.  He lived his life with the understanding that our job is not only to make it to heaven, but to take as many people with us as possible.  He said in I Corinthians 15:1-2  “1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” 

Are you practicing that understanding of God’s Word?  Are you looking out for others who need encouraged or need to have their belief in God’s goodness reinforced by how they see you living your life? 

You see, Paul’s concern for others is a reflection of Christ’s concern for us.  Are we getting this?  We are supposed to live in a way so as to reflect what Christ has done for us to those around us.

Not only do we see in Paul’s life that he demonstrated concern for others, but we also see he dedicated himself spiritual growth.

Paul wanted to keep moving on in his spiritual walk.  He said in Philippians 3:8 that there was nothing better, nothing more satisfying, nothing more spectacular than knowing Jesus.  In addition, he said that knowing Jesus in His fullness was so supreme and so important that he willingly gave up everything that had made him prestigious or successful in order to do so.

Paul pursued spiritual progress with intention and intensity.  He said in 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Did he say, “I want to know about Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings?”  No!  He didn’t say he wanted to know about Christ.  He said he wanted to KNOW CHRIST in every possible way.  He wanted to BECOME LIKE HIM when it came to resurrection power.  He wanted to become LIKE HIM when it came to sharing in the passion of His suffering.  He wanted to be just like Jesus in every way.  He wanted to experience the highs and lows of being a Jesus follower.  He was willing to put himself into situations that would challenge his faith and help him grow.  He didn’t just want to hear that Jesus suffered.  He wanted to know what it was like.  He didn’t just want to hear that Jesus was resurrected.  He wanted to know what that was like.  And anything he could do to replicate the life of Christ in his own life, that’s what he wanted!  That is intense!

Answer this question in your own mind.  “Are you dedicated to spiritual growth?”  I didn’t ask, “Are you dedicated to coming to church because it makes you feel good or because you like the people or because it makes you look like a nice person to your neighbors.”  I asked, “Are you dedicated to spiritual growth?”  Some of you may honestly answer that question in your head with a “No.”  It’s okay to start there if that is where you truly are.  It points out that there is for some reason a disconnect between you and God.  Because if you are a Christian, that means you are like a branch connected to a thriving Vine.  We read in John that “He is the Vine and we are the branches.”  If you are truly connected to God without anything hindering that connection, you will not only want to grow, but you’ll be growing.  Ask God to show you what has gotten in the way of your desire for Him.

If you answered the question, “Yes, I am dedicated to spiritual growth” then answer this question, “What are you doing in order to do so?”  Are you coming to Sunday School?  Are you coming on Wednesday night?  Are you reading your Bible at home?  Are you reading devotional books and blogs?  Are you doing a Bible study with a friend?  Are you putting yourself in situations that will challenge your faith?  Are you testing some new waters?  Are you getting involved in ministry?  Are you learning to pray with more fervor and focus?

Paul wasn’t comfortable being on auto pilot.  Listen, God won’t move a parked car.  If the engine isn’t running, He won’t force you to move.  But if you will turn on the engine and put your foot on the pedal He will steer you to where you need to go.  Christians are to be forward moving people.  Paul said that his desire was to be looking ahead, planning ahead, and moving ahead.  Philppians 3:13-14 “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Listen to Paul’s words in I Corinthians 9 about how serious he was about this forward and upward spiritual progression.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 

Anyone here do the P90X daily workout?  You people are insane!  Talk about torture.  Why do you willingly put yourself through that kind of boot camp intense workout?  It’s because you know the results are worth it!  Everyone say “worth it!”  

Paul talked about constant training.  Not a once a week effort, but a constant training program to help him move forward and be a model for others to follow.  Why?  Because it was worth it!  Being like Jesus was worth it. 

Anyone here straining themselves to grow as a Christian?  Anyone here pressing hard to reach for something more in their relationship with Christ?  Anyone here beating their body to make it obey what God says for it to do like Paul?  How dedicated are you to spiritual growth?  If the challenge hasn’t been received yet, let me reiterate in a different way, that doing so will look different than just attending church a few Sundays a month.  It will require applying the information on purpose.  Paul told the Philippian church to follow his example and level of aggressiveness when it came to their pursuit of their spiritual progress.

Not only did Paul demonstrate a concern for others and dedicate himself to spiritual growth, but he also desired to win the lost.  You see Paul put into practice the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel to a lost a dying world, and he challenged the Philippian  church to put it into practice as well.

Winning the lost wasn’t an occasional thing for Paul.  It wasn’t something he took a stab at every once in a while.  He didn’t focus on lost people when life was less stressful for him or when he felt like he had extra time.  It was a way of life for him.  Even while he was imprisoned, he was trying to win the lost.

Look at Philippians 1:12.  “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, IT HAS BECOME CLEAR throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

How had it become clear that Paul was imprisoned for Christ?  Paul had made it known.  You’d think someone who was imprisoned for preaching about Christ would shut up, hoping to get out for good behavior.  Not Paul.  It didn’t matter where he was.  It was his life’s ambition to tell people about Jesus.

If you know that God wants lost people to be saved and that He has commissioned every Christian to share the Gospel with the lost in order to see that happen, say “Amen.”  But listen, you knowing that God wants to use you to win the lost won’t win anyone to the lost.  You have to put that knowledge into practice, open your mouth and share the Good News.

Just like his extreme commitment to spiritual training in order to achieve spiritual growth, Paul worked tirelessly under any condition to spread the Gospel of Christ.  He stopped at nothing. 

Look at what he would do in order to share the Gospel: I Cor. 9:19-23  Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel.

You see, Paul didn’t just stop with the knowledge that Jesus made Himself a servant in order to minister to us.  He didn’t just stop with the knowledge that Jesus made Himself available to all people in order to show the Father’s love.  No.  He put into practice what he had learned and known about Jesus and He was telling the Philippians the only way they would be able to accomplish seeing souls saved was to do the same thing and put that knowledge into practice.

“If you are going to move from knowing what God wants to doing what God wants you are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

II Corinthians 11:23-27 tells us Paul was outside of his comfort zone on more than one occasion.  He was beaten and his life was threatened repeatedly.  He was whipped, stoned, shipwrecked and lived as a fugitive.  If sharing the Gospel required going without sleep, he did it.  If it required going without food, he did it.  That’s how vehement he was when it came to winning souls.

How have you been inconvenienced for the sake of the Gospel?  Paul told the Phillipians to be like him in his desire to see souls saved.

Put it into practice.  You’ll never learn to dive into the side of the pool if you don’t put the knowledge and example of others into practice.  You’ll never learn to move from diving on the side of the pool to the low dive if you don’t put the knowledge and example of others into practice.  You’ll never move from diving on the low dive to the high dive if you don’t put the knowledge and example of others into practice. 

Now I realize that not everyone here wants to dive or cares if they ever even learn how to swim.  But the more critical question is do you want to be like Jesus?  That’s what Paul’s pursuit was.  You won’t become like Jesus by merely coming to church and being a “pew potato.”  You become like Jesus as you put the information from God’s Word and the inspiration of the example of Jesus and other godly people into practice. 

Paul DEMONSTRATED a concern for others.  He DEDICATED himself to spiritual growth, and he DESIRED to win the lost. He did it by putting information and inspiration into practice.  And what happened? 

Look again at our main verse in Philippians 4:9.  And the God of peace was with him and will be with you as you put information and inspiration into practice as well.

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