Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,
In our sermon series through Exodus, we are now at the point where the Israelites are beginning their 40 years of wandering through the desert wilderness. When they began their journey out of Egypt, they never would have imagined it would last 40 years. There is no way we can reasonably compare our current situation with theirs, as theirs was far more daunting. Nevertheless, we do have this in common – I’m sure none of us imagined that self-quarantining, social distancing would last so long. Maybe you are feeling weary, even struggling.
One passage that speaks directly to us now is James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
In the midst of the challenges we face in light of the COVID 19 virus, there is a joy we can experience if we persevere with the conviction that through this, we will mature in ways we might not have otherwise. This could mean growing in patience, or learning to depend on God in greater ways. It may mean giving up a need to be in control. This could be a time of evaluating our priorities. It could mean coming to appreciate in greater ways those we may have taken for granted, such as the teachers of our children, or our spouse. Perhaps we can work on deepening our relationship with God.
It has been said that we should never let a crisis go to waste. There is wisdom in that. So, let us persevere, becoming mature and complete.
This week we finish our reading of Philippians by looking at chapter 4. Paul concluded chapter 3 by reminding us that our citizenship is in heaven, and while we still remain in this world, we await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His power “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
Vs. 1 – While we have this wonderful promise for eternity, it does not distract us from living as followers of Jesus now in this world. And so, because of this great, eternal assurance we have, Paul exhorts us to “stand firm in the Lord.” What does it mean to “stand firm in the Lord?” What does such a person look like? Is there someone who has inspired you to stand firm by their personal example? What helps you to stand firm in the Lord? What hinders you in this pursuit? How can we encourage one another to stand firm?
Vs. 4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always.” This may seem unrealistic – to rejoice always in a world filled with disappointment, sorrow, illness, tragedy, etc. Yet Paul experienced more pain and suffering than any of us are likely to experience (see II Cor. 11:16-29). What do you think was the key to Paul’s joy? What does it mean specifically to rejoice in the Lord? How can we cultivate this joy?
Vs. 5 – Why do you think the quality of gentleness is so important that our own gentleness should “be evident to all?”
Vs. 6-7 – What is the key to being free from anxiety? When was a time you experienced the peace of God even in the midst of troubling circumstances?
Vs. 8 – What we choose to dwell on in our minds will determine out attitudes and behaviors. How does what Paul suggest (think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy) contrast with what the world would fill our minds with – for instance, through television, movies, social media, etc.? How can we train our minds to think about what Paul states?
Grace and peace,