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Spiritual Growth - Philippians 4

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Today's Sermon focused on the lessons of Philippians 4:4-9.

In the scripture Paul tells his readers that they should "Rejoice in the Lord Always" and he emphasizes this point by repeating himself "Rejoice!"
Paul's advice is given based both on his own experience -- and on his appreciation of God's peace which transcends all human understanding -- and is his gift to us through his Son, Christ Jesus.
For the "Lord is near"  Paul tells us, and he advises us that we should not be anxious about anything, but instead, in every situation, we should present our requests to God with both prayer and thanksgiving.
From our vantage point in the Washington Metro area in March 2018, it is difficult for us to fully appreciate whether Paul's words can be easily applied to our busy lives.  Although we can appreciate that Paul was speaking to a church that faced potential persecution -- does his appeal have relevance for our lives today?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES!
We live in incredibly stressful times -- and though we may not be faced with physical persecution for our faith, the rapidly shifting norms of our society make it increasingly difficult to hold fast to the virtues passed on to us by our Savior. 
Anxiety is a reality of our every day lives
So, given this fact, can Paul's guidance to us be of use?  and if so, what are the practical steps we need to take to follow his advice?
First and foremost, we need to recognize that God is in Control.  This can be hard for us to believe in a society that teaches each of us that we must be self-reliant.  It is this self-reliance that drives us to look for solutions to all of the ills that beset us -- and that puts us in search of the magic pill or silver bullet solution that will solve all of our problems.  Eventually, we will comet to realize that "there is no magic pill."
Secondly, we need to realize that our ability to deal with the challenges that we face, whether they be from anxiety itself, or from anxiety associated with loneliness, separation, the loss of a job, the failing of a business, or all of the above, are founded in our attitudes.  Current research in the field chronicled by Dr. Kelly McGonigal illustrates that our traditional beliefs about stress and its impact on our health and wellbeing may be fundamentally wrong.  Indeed, her TED talk and her book (The Upside of Stress) make a compelling case that stress may actually be good for us. If we reflect deeply on these challenges, especially in those cases where the challenges drove us to our knees in desperation, at some point, we may recognize that the problem actually helped us to recognize the limits of our capabilities living without the presence of God in our lives.  Indeed, though it may not be true for everyone, for some of us, the challenge is what actually drives us to seek out the loving arms of God.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we must learn to rejoice and give thanks in every situation. Yes, we may face adversity -- after all we live in a fallen world.  Our bodies will eventually grow old, and weak, and we will die.  But the timing of this ultimate challenge is not under our control. 
What is under our control is how we choose to live in this present moment.  At one end of the spectrum we can choose to be stressed out of our minds with worry and doubt relying solely on our own capabilities and capacity for response. 
At the other end of the spectrum we can recognize the challenges we face an an opportunity to worship -- giving Thanks in a God who so loved the world that he gave us his one and only Son.  In this we can rejoice because we recognize that the Lord is near and the Lord is in Control.  All we need do is present our requests to God  through prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Seven Helpful Hints for Spiritual Growth

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his series on Spiritual Growth in Philippians, looking at the amazing passage of Philippians 3:1-16.  From this passage, he pulled out 7 helpful hints to help us grow spiritually.

1)  Remember that self-salvation projects will not work (verses 1-3).

We don't need go-to-church-ism or do-good-ism.  Those things may be helpful, but they are not essential.

We need Jesus.

The fuel is the Spirit of God, not our effort, not the structure of the church.

The point is not to know more and behave better, but to love God and love others.  The essence is Christ.

2)  Adopt a healty disregard for your own accomplishments (verse 7).

We want to impress people with our resumes, even with our children's resumes.  Paul had an impressive resume, but it was all loss.

3)  Encourage your own passionate longing to know Christ (verses 8, 10, 11).

Knowing Christ compared to everything else:  Everything else is rubbish!

This is the heart condition for dynamic spiritual growth.

Our passion may not always burn this hot, but we get it.

Whatever stokes your passionate longing for Christ, soak your heart in that.  (Romans 12:11)  Your life and infuence will follow.

4)  Develop a holy dissatisfaction (verse 12).

Paul wasn't resting on his laurels.

5)  Forget the things which lie behind us (verse 13).

Press ahead.  Don't wallow in the past, but remember as it helps you move forward.

6)  Strain forward to what lies ahead (verses 12b-14).

Streatch out, reach.  Again, this isn't casual spirituality.  The word used is also translated "upward calling" - your life can be richer and better.

If you don't get it, just try it!  Press in.

Perhaps the key for you is not greater effort, but greater surrender.

7)  Put into practice what you've been shown (verse 16).

Very few people need more information!

How has God stirred you?  Do that!

What has God said to you?  Do that, and watch God supply!

Our relationship with God is like everything else - if we aim at nothing, we'll get there.

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