This sermon is number 20 in a series of 24
Philippians - Part 20
"Happiness Needs Harmony"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want to speak you this morning on the subject: 'Happiness Needs Harmony' [from Philippians 4:1-5]. This is our twentieth study of the book of Philippians, and as you've noted of course we've now entered into the fourth and the last chapter - and God willing we shouldn't have too many weeks left of this little book of joy. We're looking at 'Happiness Needs Harmony' today. Now I don't know about you, but to me nothing sounds worse than standing beside someone who cannot sing - and I'm not singling anybody out in particular by saying this. It's often quite excruciating to be in the position of standing beside someone, and maybe they don't start the same place as everybody else, or they don't finish at the same time as the rest, and everybody else seems to be in some kind of musical harmony but they seem to be on another musical planet altogether.
We could take that analogy to the army, and if you've ever seen this, there's nothing worse than perhaps a battalion or a troop who are marching out of step. You've seen the trooping of the colour on the television, at times maybe a soldier faints or he gets out of step, and it looks awful - it just takes away the whole uniformity of the exercise. Now my pet hate is when you're watching the news or the television or something like that, and a man's mouth is moving in different synchronisation to the words that's coming out - I hate that! I can't watch that whatsoever. In all of those analogies we could say this, that to enjoy these experiences there has to be harmony. There has to be harmony, the things have to be working together.
It's the same with marriage, that we often advise our young marrieds and our engaged couples that they need harmony, and we quote that little verse from Amos: 'Can two walk together except they be agreed?'. They're needs to be that agreement, the solving of problems, and a general agreement in the partnership that will make that marriage a success. I think that the greatest illustration of harmony of course, is the musical world. I don't know whether you've noticed, but generally speaking today, even in congregations of churches, singing in harmony is a dying art. Singing in parts is relegated to choirs, if there are choirs even left in many of our churches - but certainly you very seldom hear harmony in a main congregation in the public service. It seems that melody is the most common.
Now I don't want to read too much into that, but to me it's interesting when we consider that we live today in an age that is more individualistic than perhaps we can remember, an individualist society, a society where we depend on others less than we have ever done. We don't seem to learn to lean on one another as in bygone days, and that can be seen even in the streets around our district, and in your own neighbourhood where you live. Years ago, I'm told - I have to be told - that neighbours used to go in and out of one another's homes, they used to exchange bottles of milk and little dishes of sugar and so on, and even come in if there was an open door and sit down and just have a yarn with you. Now that's not done, in fact, perhaps in your neighbourhood, to speak to someone who lives beside you is seen as intruding.
We live in this individualistic age, we don't co-operate today as much as we used to in our various gifts and abilities that we have. There's not as many basses and altos, and tenors and sopranos, we all just sing the same way - if you like, we're all singing solo. I fear that because of these individualistic lifestyles there is a danger that when, as believers, and indeed in general society, when we fall out with other people there isn't as great pressure put upon us to put that thing right, because basically our lives to a large extent don't need anyone else.
Think about it, if you fell out with your neighbour - and I have to be careful because some of my neighbours are here today - but if you fell out with your neighbour, it's not that hard living on in the neighbourhood and the house in which you live and just ignoring them, because most of the time you probably don't see them that often. So there's not as much pressure on us. Now the danger, I fear, as we come to these verses in Scripture - and everything I say today is taken directly out of the exegesis that we have before us - the danger is that this way of life can enter into the church. In an individualistic age we can be out of harmony with one another and think that it doesn't matter - or perhaps the antithesis of that, we can think that we can sing solo and do our own thing, and that we don't need the brethren round about us, we don't need their gifts and their ministries and all their resources that they have been given by God, and we can get on on our own - we don't need the rest of the choir.
Well Paul happens to come in, right into the middle of our individualistic society, and put us all straight, and it's this he says: 'Happiness, joy, needs harmony'. Do you want to have joy - joy has been right throughout this whole epistle - in every sphere of your Christian experience? Harmony will be needed in that sphere to have that joy. Now there are four areas that Paul covers in the verses that we're going to look at, and we've started a bit late this morning, so do bear with me as I try to get through this all in the time that we have. The four areas that he gives us are: one, joy with the saints; two, joy in service; three, joy in the Saviour; and four, joy in the second coming. All of these are governed by harmony with the Lord and harmony with other believers.
Let's look at the first: to have joy with the saints you'll need harmony. Verse 2: 'I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord'. Now we've looked at this verse in previous weeks because we've known already that there was a potential for a split, as it were, certainly among these two sisters in Christ, but perhaps within the assembly - a threat that this assembly that was doing so well in many respects could be severed and split with some personal difficulty between Euodias and Syntyche. So Paul comes in and urges them, and I would say it's stronger than urge, he pleads with Euodias and Syntyche, these two women, to live in harmony in the Lord. Ultimately that's what he's asking them to do, live in harmony with one another in the Lord. The reason why he pleads and calls upon them to settle their disagreement is because they are both in the Lord, because they both belong to the Lord - as it were, Lord is saying to them through Paul: 'I want you to settle your disagreements'. So Paul pleads with them.
There was this problem of disunity within the assembly. Euodias and Syntyche were among those women, Paul says, who played a prominent part in the assembly at Philippi. Euodias and Syntyche, verse 3, 'I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel', he's still talking about Euodias and Syntyche. These women had a prime move and part in the gospel effort in the church at Philippi. If you cast your mind back to the Acts of the Apostles, you will remember that it was a women's prayer meeting where Paul first preached the gospel upon his arrival at Philippi. It was from that prayer meeting that Lydia's heart was opened to receive the gospel of the Lord Jesus, and she was saved - Acts chapter 16. I want to say that any assembly that is blessed by faithful, godly praying women is an assembly that should be thankful to God. Godly women have an important part to play within the church of Jesus Christ.
Just think for a moment of the sons that were born of godly women. Sons they had trained who became leaders, giants in the church of Jesus Christ. Don't just think of the sons, but think of the services that women rendered to the church of Jesus. Think of the songs, even in modern days and in our modern era - Fanny Crosby is one - songs given to the church, written by sisters. Supplications offered on behalf of the church by women. We could cite specific examples: Eunice training up Timothy in the way that he should go, giving him the word of God that made him wise unto salvation; Dorcas in the Acts of the Apostles, with her practical needle, clothing the people of God who were naked with her charitable deeds. In the Upper Room prayer meeting in Acts 1 verse 14 we read that there were many women in the prayer meeting, and there they were upon their knees supplicating before God.
Now I do not want to be misunderstood today, there are ways that the New Testament tells us women cannot serve the Lord in the local assembly - there's no doubt about that. But let us never forget that there are many ways laid down by God in the New Testament age of grace where women can serve the Lord in the gospel. There are many things that women can do - for a perusal of those, look to 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 in your own free time. But what Paul is looking at specifically here in our text is labouring with him in the gospel - and we have to acknowledge that there are places that women can go, that there are things that women can do, things that women can be that men cannot be in reaching souls for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Roy Lauren, the New Testament writer, says: 'Women have rendered Christ and the church an incalculable service. They have stepped in when men have failed the church by default. They have carried on when men have given up. They have established a measure of devotion and consecration seldom reached by men', and I believe he is true when you see Mary at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just think for a moment of the service that women of God have rendered to God in the home, teaching their children, bringing them up, guiding them in the way that they should go, praying for them, maybe praying for their husbands as they go out and labour in the gospel. Think of the women on the mission-field, think what we would do without women on the mission-field, for there are very few men going to the mission-field these days!
These women that Paul is talking about, Euodias and Syntyche, had shown a remarkable spirit of co-operation in the work for the Lord. They had shown teamwork in the gospel, and they were working with the apostle Paul, trying to reach other people with the word of God. Yet these two individuals had fallen out! Now we're not told what the cause was of their falling out, and maybe it's better that we don't know, but the pity is that Satan got the advantage of their quarrel - and what was tragic to the church becomes comic to the adversary. The accuser loves it when believers fall out with one another. I hate politics, I have to confess that, I used to love it but I hate it now with a passion - but sometimes my eye catches the news, or a political programme when the Unionists and Nationalists are on together, and they're debating with one another. I've often saw this sight where the Unionists start bickering with one another, as they always do; and then the Nationalists turn to one another, and they start laughing with each other because their opponents are fighting amongst themselves and they think it's comical.
Satan laughs when believers fall out in this fashion, like Euodias and Syntyche. Often the world around says: 'Well, this proves that Christianity is a farce'. Often believers, maybe you've been in a church split or something like that, and you really ask questions - how believers can say things about others, as they do, and do things to others. Whatever you do, don't let the devil get the victory, because one man has said, and I believe he is right: 'Christianity must be of divine origin, for it lives in spite of its adherents' - isn't that right? Even after all the years of bickering and strife and splits and schisms and all the rest, Jesus said He would build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If this was only a human organisation it would be finished! Praise God it is not.
But yet this problem is still with us today, and it is still one that needs to be addressed because each of these sisters, Euodias and Syntyche, each thought they were right and neither would take the first step to make up. Paul says that there is but one way to settle this kind of disagreement, and it is the right way: in the Lord. In the Lord! They needed to be restored in harmony, they needed to be brought together in agreement once again. Paul is insinuating that it is all their responsibilities. If there's anyone falling out with anybody else, it's not just their responsibility, it is all of our responsibilities to make sure that the assembly is guarded, that strife does not deepen and separation does not become aware. You will notice that he says: 'I beseech Euodias and Syntyche', those who were the offenders, but he says to the assembly and verse 3: 'I entreat thee also'. There was a responsibility upon the assembly to make sure that these things did not happen and did not go unnoticed. What did Paul say in Galatians? 'Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted'. It is an obligation not just to the quarrelling, but to all of us. What Paul is saying is that to have joy you've got to have harmony with the saints.
The second thing that he tells us that outflows from this, is that to have joy in service you need harmony. In verse 3, look at it, he asks the man he's writing to - he calls him 'my true yokefellow', or it could be translated 'loyal comrade' or 'team-mate' - he asks this one who is loyal to him in his ministry to help these women who were quarrelling. For he says: 'They worked hard with me, and they shared my struggle, they contended at my side in the cause of the gospel'. One translation says: 'Help these two women to keep on cooperating'. These women used to co-operate, they used to work together in the gospel, but for some reason they had stopped. But Paul is now introducing to them, one: his true yokefellow who he's writing the letter to; then he mentions these women who once worked with him; then he mentions Clement; then he mentions the rest of his co-workers whose names are written in the book of life - which presupposes that there were that many of them who helped Paul that he couldn't even begin to list them in such a short epistle.
So he's bringing to us right away, I hope you can see the theme of service, and harmony in service, and how harmony is necessary if we are to work together as the church of Jesus Christ, and if we're to have that joy transcending our whole being. How many men and women who have laboured for the Lord, whether you call it full-time work, pastoral service, mission-field, are at this very day estranged from one another because of some ungodly sinful fall out? He is telling them that they don't have to see eye to eye on every issue, that's not what scriptural, Biblical unity is - we aren't producing clones and robots who think all the same way and say all the same things. You know the little quip: 'Two men looked through bars, one saw mud and the other saw stars'. Our views about things in life, and even at times certain grey areas of Scripture, are determined by subjective things like the position in our lives that we have, like the influences that we've had during our Christian experience, the environment that we live in or have been brought up in, or even the education that we've been given. We must say, we have to say, that there is always room for difference of opinion and originality of thought among the people of God.
Now you might say: 'Well, then how can we be of one mind?'. Well, that's not what being of one mind means; being of one mind is a condition that comes when we come together in the Lord. I'll explain it: diversity without division. Did you know that is possible? Difference of methods without disunity of mind is possible; a disagreement without a dispute and a departure - Paul is saying that these things are possible, and diversity at times can be a good thing; but disunity, Paul says, will destroy the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. So even when you can't see eye to eye on a certain thing, Paul urges you that for to have joy you need harmony in your serving of the Lord.
To have joy with the saints you need harmony, to have joy in service you need harmony; thirdly: to have joy in the Saviour you need harmony. In verse 4 he says: 'Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice'. 'Always be full of joy in the Lord, I say again, rejoice'. 'Rejoice in the Lord always', the Amplified Version says 'rejoice' could be translated 'delight, gladden yourselves in Him'. I want you to note a progression here for a moment, because when the problem of disunity comes into an assembly or into the life of an individual believer it often spawns the fruit of depression, and that is exactly what happened to these believers in Philippi. They were cast down, they were disheartened, they were depressed. I don't know about you, but we all experience discouragement at times in the work of the Lord and in our lives as Christians. None of us is exempt or immune from that. How easy it is for all of us to be downcast, to be discouraged, to be depressed, disheartened.
What happens usually is that the circumstances that we're in affect us to such an extent that they determine our joy and our capacity for it, and even stifle our expression of it so that we cannot feel our joy in the Lord any more - the joy of having our sins forgiven, of being in the commonwealth of God and all the rest of it, all the blessings that we are blessed with in heavenly places in Christ. For these Philippians the case was that their division and their disunity had robbed them of their joy. You know sometimes I counsel believers, sometimes often young believers, who have no joy in their salvation. One of the reasons is that the old accuser has been pointing out something to them in their past, and he has literally been pummelling them with it; battering them down, wounding them, dragging them into the muck, trying to make them feel guilty about things that Jesus bore on the cross and has wiped away with His own precious blood. One of the things I often say to those young people is this: 'The devil cannot take away your salvation, praise God he cannot do that - but one thing the devil will do if you let him is take away your joy'. Because he knows he can't take away your salvation, the best and the greatest thing that he can do is to take away your joy.
How many believers have given him a foothold where this is concerned? Yet Paul comes in again: rejoice, joy - how many times have we heard this phrase that could be said to be 'happiness'? But it's apart from our circumstances, because if the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22 tells us that this type of deep joy that transcends all of life's circumstances and environments is something that comes from the Spirit-filled Christian's life. I look for the day when the church will be banished of all this false impression of sombreness and deadness. It makes me sick to think that many portray Christianity, Bible-believing evangelicalism, as some kind of long-faced depressive state that you're in where you can't enjoy anything! That's not what I'm in, thank God! The Christian life is a fountain of joy, and each of us, Paul says, are to guard that joy - for there are numerous agitations around us in this world that would cause us to be cast down, that would rob us of that joy. We need to guard against it.
One writer said: 'This joyous spirit is to be maintained at all times, and in all circumstances, for any lapse from it weakens our defences against a settled state of depression'. When the source, now mark this - maybe you're sitting here today, and you say, 'I can't rejoice in my health. How can I rejoice? Look at what I'm going through! Look at what I'm suffering! I can't rejoice, my children aren't saved, my children are putting me through a nightmare! I can't rejoice, my husband's bad to me, or my husband's not saved, and I wish he was saved, and we just don't have as many things in common as we used to have when we were first married, there's a division between us, there's a wedge coming and pulling us apart'. Listen: 'Rejoice, I say again, rejoice in the Lord'!.
I'm sure very few of us could rejoice in our circumstances. He doesn't ask us to rejoice in our circumstances, he asks us to rejoice in the Lord. But the only way to rejoice in the Lord is to have harmony with the Lord and with the Lord's people. When the source of your rejoicing is the Lord, you'll be able to say with Habakkuk: 'Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation'. At times we can't rejoice in the things that are around us, but praise God we can rejoice always in the Lord. We see the Saviour Himself in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, staring Gethsemane and Calvary and the face, and what did He speak of in John 15:11? 'My joy'.
It's interesting to observe that here the exhortation to rejoice is associated with the exhortation for these quarrelling saints to settle their differences. Christians cannot be rejoicing if they are in disagreement with one another. Disunity, Paul is saying, is the destroyer of joy - but joy is the outgrowth of love. The fruit of the Spirit as I've said, but go on in the fruit of the Spirit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy - joy comes from love. If you love the Lord you will rejoice in the Lord, if you love the brethren you will rejoice with the brethren, if you love your enemies you will rejoice over your enemies - and the secret of constant joy is this fellowship with Christ and with His own.
Jowett, the great preacher, put it like this - and I couldn't put it like this, so that's why I'm just reading out what he said: 'Christian joy is a mood independent of our immediate circumstances. If it were dependent on our surroundings then indeed it would be as uncertain as an unprotected candle burning on a gusty night. One moment the candle burns clear and steady, the next moment the blaze leaps to the very edge of the wick and affords little or no light at all. Christian joy has no relationship to the transient settings of life, and therefore it is not the victim of the passing day. At one time my conditions arranged themselves like a sunny day in June, a little later they rearranged themselves like a gloomy day in November. One day I am at a wedding, the next I stand by an open grave. One day in my ministry I win ten converts for the Lord, and then for a long stretch of days I never win one. Yes, the days are as changeable as the weather, and yet the Christian joy can be persistent. Where lies the secret of its glorious persistency? Here is the secret' - listen! - ''Lo, I am with you all the days'. In all the changing days He changeth not, neither is weary. He is no fair-weather companion, leaving me when the years grow dark and cold. He does not choose my days of prosperous festival, though not to be found in my days of impoverishment and defeat. He does not show Himself only when I wear a garland, and hide Himself when I wear a crown of thorns. He is with me all the days: the prosperous days, the days of adversity, the days when the funeral bell is tolling, and the days when the wedding bell is ringing. All the days: the days of life, the days of death, the days of judgment'. Isn't that it?
If you're rejoicing in the Lord you will have harmony with the Lord, and you will have that deep joy in your heart. Fourthly and finally, I'm going on a little while more because we started late today. Verse 5: 'Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand'. To have joy in the second coming you need harmony. We've seen that to have joy in the saints you need harmony, to have joy in His service you need harmony, to have joy in the Saviour you need harmony, and now to have joy in the second coming you need harmony. He's saying: 'Let everyone see that you're considerate to all people in all that you do, because the Lord is coming soon'. Another translation puts it: 'Let your gentleness, or your forbearing spirit, be evident to all. Let all men know and recognise your unselfish considerateness'.
Remember that this assembly is full of disunity and depression, and all of this has robbed the saints of the desired peace - and we'll hear about that in the next Lord's day we study this portion. But he says: 'Let your moderation', or a better translation, 'forbearance, or your yieldedness, your gentle considerateness, your sweet reasonableness, your agreeableness, your pliability, your courtesy' - really what he's saying is: 'This is the opposite of your obstinacy and your self-will, and your wanting your own way all of the time'. Many people have turned this word 'moderation' about and used it as a cloak for sin, and said: 'Oh, it's alright for Christians to drink moderately, and smoke moderately, and go to the dances moderately, and all the rest' - that is not what this means at all. Those things should be thrown out right away. The Syriac version says 'sweetness', and I think the best translation is this: 'Sweet reasonableness'. 'Let your sweet reasonableness be known unto all men'.
The opposite to an unyielding spirit, to being harshly dogmatic, self-determined, to always dominating your character and your views - and it takes the place, when we are like this, of meekness and of gentleness of Christ. It stifles the spirit of grace that was in Christ welling up within us and ministering to other believers. There was disunity between Euodias and Syntyche because one was determined to have her way. Paul wasn't calling them to sacrifice right principles, he is pleading for a mildness of disposition, whose noble impulses of gentleness and yieldedness urge the grace of giving up - to give up your right, that is sweet reasonableness. Oh, to God, if we had more of it about our church and every church - sweet reasonableness! Let it be known unto all men!
Someone might say: 'But if I yield I lose ground, and I may lose out!'. Paul says: 'That's not what the worry is meant to be', why? For the Lord is at hand! Use sweet reasonableness because the Lord is at hand. Now that could mean two things - it could mean the Lord is near, or it could mean the Lord is coming soon. The Lord is near in the sense that He'll provide for you, He'll never let a child of His own lose out - the Lord is standing by. Let me pause for a moment: who was standing by Paul? Chained to his arm there was a Roman soldier. You could say the devil himself was standing by Paul, but it didn't matter that the devil was breathing down Paul's neck, and he was in prison, all that mattered was that the Lord was standing by. Another was near, closer is He than breathing, nearer than hands and feet. If you could realise, if we could all realise that the Lord is here even this morning! All the foolish bickering and pride would cease, and how quickly we would be reconciled to one another.
It could also mean He is coming again soon, personally, and He will recompense on that day all those who have forfeited their rights. Praise God, there's a day of reckoning coming - and I can put my head down and take the blow because I know that one day justice will be done! Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay. 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age'. He'll never suffer one of His own to be a loser. Can you imagine what would happen if we poured this sweet reasonableness into our home, upon our children, our husbands, wives, our friends and neighbours, even our enemies? Wouldn't it be a breath of summer and a gleam of sunshine as we passed them by and spoke to them and acquainted with them day by day?
Paul says in verse 1, and with this we finish: 'Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown'. They were saints that he'd won for Christ in his ministry, and when a servant like Paul stands at the Judgment Seat of Christ, that will fill his heart to see the joy that comes from mature believers getting on together, working together, having harmony with one another in service, with the Saviour, and looking for the second coming. He'll be filled with gladness!
Wasn't it Rutherford who said: 'Oh, if one soul from Anwoth meet me at God's right-hand, my heaven will be two heavens in Emmanuel's land'. When he that reaps and he that sows will be together, and all the labourers and all the saints will be in glory forever - no matter what our differences have been down here. I think what Paul insinuates to us today is: wouldn't it be good if here and now we learned to get on with one another, because we will be in harmony in heaven! Seeing we are citizens of heaven, should we not seek harmony down here? If we do, it will bring great joy.
Our Father, we pray that Thou will pour in the spirit of healing into this meeting this morning. If there be any disunity, if there be any depression, if there be any lack of joy in our salvation, if the accuser is hindering us enjoying our wealth in Christ, Lord may You smite him a fatal blow today, and give the victory once again. May we all rejoice, regardless of our circumstances, in the Lord. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twentieth tape in his Philippians series, titled "Happiness Needs Harmony" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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