Speaking Of Life 2046 | Dissolving Disagreements Cara Garrity I have a friend with two small preschool boys, and because they’re so close in age, they have a tendency to fight over toys. To keep her sanity, she told them that if they can’t resolve their disagreement without fighting, they have to work on a 100-piece puzzle until they finish it. For two preschool boys, a 100-piece puzzle takes an eternity to finish. They have to work together, and by the time they’re done, they’ve forgotten what they were angry about. This story reminds me of a reference in the Bible to two adults who were at odds. It appears in the letter to the Philippians where Paul writes, I urge Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:2-3 (NRSV) The Bible is silent about what caused division between these two women, but it’s clear from the text that they had worked together well, even against difficulties, to promote the good news about Jesus and his love and acceptance. Their disagreement can make us pause when we think about holding grudges or having a negative attitude against others, particularly those who are believers. While many things can cause disagreements in relationships, this passage presents a challenge to be “of the same mind in the Lord.” This shifts our perspective. It’s like the story I told about my friend’s little boys who were fighting over toys. When the little boys had the same goal in mind—finishing that puzzle—they remembered that they really loved each other, and their fight over the toys didn’t really seem that important anymore. As believers, much of what we disagree about might be important to us, but probably isn’t a dealbreaker when it comes to whether or not we believe in Jesus’s acceptance and love for everybody. It’s our human tendency to focus on smaller issues. These might seem easier to control or judge in ourselves and others rather than holding on to the reality of Christ’s mind being in each of us through the Holy Spirit. Paul’s correction to Euodia and Syntyche is to lift their eyes from their disagreement and see the goodness of God’s Spirit at work in them and through them. This is having “the same mind in the Lord.” If we’re spectators to a disagreement, our role is like the “loyal companion” Paul addresses and encourages us to help those at odds to see each other in a different light. Rather than listening to complaints, we point to Christ and call one another up to be of one mind in him. So, the next time you feel irritated at a brother or sister in Christ, you don’t need to do a 100-piece puzzle. Instead, look to Jesus and focus on the goodness of the Holy Spirit. Notice the same Spirit that is working in you is also working in them and through them. He is there; you just need the right mindset to see. Praying for you “to be of the same mind in the Lord,” I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 • Exodus 32:1-14 • Philippians 4:1-9 • Matthew 22:1-14
The theme for this week is when doing changes thinking, which helps us remember that engaging in helpful practices and spiritual disciplines can deepen our connection to God. The Psalm 106 call to worship, and Exodus 32 tell the story of how Aaron and the Israelites tried to dispel their worries and fears by creating a golden calf, an unhelpful practice. While we might not engage in outright idolatry like this, we can recognize our tendency to seek comfort and guidance in externals. This week’s sermon outline is based on Philippians 4:1-9, and it focuses on how doing certain practices (or disciplines) can help transform our thinking, especially during periods of worry. Lastly, Matthew 22:1-14 tells the parable of the wedding guests who weren’t ready. This encourages us to think about what practices we could engage in to ready our hearts so that we can be transformed by the love of Jesus.
When Doing Changes Thinking
How many of you have heard before that smiling more makes you feel happier? I’ve heard it before, too. My next question is how many of you intentionally try to practice that habit of smiling more? If you’re like me, it’s the follow-through that sometimes trips me up.
There was a recent video on Ted Talk about the value of smiling. Let me share some highlights:
- We are born smiling. Using 3D ultrasound technology, we can now see that developing babies appear to smile, even in the womb. When they’re born, babies continue to smile—initially, mostly in their sleep. And even blind babies smile to the sound of the human voice. Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans.
- Being around children—who smile frequently—makes us smile. A recent study at Uppsala University in Sweden found that it’s very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles.
- British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.
- Wait! The same study found that smiling is as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 pounds sterling (nearly $20,000) in cash.
With smiling being this valuable, you’d think we would naturally do it more often. By not having a thought-out plan or practice to smile more, I forget. By not having a discipline or practice, we lose sight of how we want to think and feel. So what does this have to do with today’s text? For one thing, smiling is a sign of someone rejoicing. It’s a sign of joy—a joy that comes from the Lord. And the book of Philippians is known by many as the happiest book of the Bible.
Our scripture reading for today comes from the 4th chapter of Philippians. Paul starts off the chapter addressing a couple of women in the church at Philippi who had worked together to promote the good news, but who had a falling out. The rest of the letter Paul uses to help us understand the connection between how we behave and how we think or feel. He concludes by reminding us to rejoice. Let’s take a look:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
What can we notice about the passage?
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4 ESV)
We can notice that Paul encourages us to rejoice—always. This can also be translated “at all times.” He doesn’t qualify it by saying we should only rejoice in the good times or when things are going our way, but he says…always. This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience suffering, grief, or loss, or that when we are suffering, we have to put on a “happy face.” Instead, Paul is referring to an attitude of joy that isn’t tied to our external circumstances—where we are or what we are doing, it is tied to Christ—who he is and who we are in him. It’s interesting to note that Paul wrote this letter to the church at Philippi from prison, so he is walking his talk. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul refers to himself and his situation as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10 ESV).
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. (Philippians 4:5 ESV)
The idea of “gentleness” can also be translated “reasonableness,” and the concept means living as a Christian within the larger community, not isolating oneself or being difficult to get along with, but living our lives “in a manner worthy of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). The next short sentence, “The Lord is at hand,” captures the idea that God, through the Holy Spirit in us, is as near as our next breath.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
These verses address the issue of worry and prescribe the antidote: prayer and thanksgiving. These are practices that we can engage in to move our thinking from ruminating on problems toward the peace of God. When we make our requests known to God and trust him, we can rejoice. He guards our hearts and minds with that trust.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)
Paul offers practical ideas for breaking the grip of fear in our lives. In addition to prayer and thanksgiving, he suggests that we replace worried thoughts with what we know is true, excellent, beautiful, and positive in our lives. What is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise? Jesus! Keep our mind on him. By doing these disciplines of prayer, thanksgiving, changing thoughts to rest on Jesus, we can feel and know his peace more fully.
- Know that real joy is not connected to your external circumstances. Despite being in prison, Paul was an example of knowing joy and peace. God’s peace is not held captive by our circumstances but flows generously and freely to us. “Be still and know” (Ps. 46:10) encourages us to see that because our life and citizenship is not bound up in this world, but is bound up in Jesus, we’re OK and we’re going to be OK, despite the pain we encounter as human beings.
- We can engage in spiritual practices or habits to break the hold that fear and worry often have on us. When a fear or worry grips us, rather than dwelling on it, we can choose to pray, place the worry before God, think of what we’re grateful for, and lift our thoughts to who is in our lives. We can “be still and know” (Ps. 46:10) that we are never alone, and that God is as near as our next breath. We can choose to smile more (remember the illustration at the beginning?), and by engaging in these practices, we can change our thinking and feeling.
Doing something doesn’t mean we lack faith. We are physical beings, and we need practical strategies to break the hold of negative thinking. In Phil. 4:4-9, God gives us examples of helpful disciplines so that we can be released from fear, focus on Jesus, and live lives of rejoicing and peace.
Small Group Discussion Questions
- The Speaking of Life video focused on the importance of resolving our differences by having “the same mind in the Lord.” What does this phrase “the same mind in the Lord” mean to you?
- The video talked about how smiling more can make us happier. Have you heard of other practical strategies that have been scientifically studied to boost our moods or happiness? If so, please share.
- Paul talks about rejoicing always, even in the midst of difficulty. What do you think that looks like? How do we allow ourselves to feel sadness or disappointment (which is a natural part of being human) yet still know the nearness of God’s joy?
- Paul talks about praying, expressing thanksgiving, and thinking about what is positive in your life as a way of breaking worry’s hold on you. What ideas do you have to implement these strategies? Any practical tips or ideas you’ve tried?