|Create Date||January 2, 2019|
|Last Updated||January 5, 2019|
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ADVENT 3rd WEEK - AGGRESSIVE GRATITUDE
Chris Khoury - SERMON SUMMARY - 16 DEC 2018
In the movie, “The Count of Monte Cristo” Richard Harris plays the role of an older prisoner who has been locked up in an island prison. Surrounded by cliffs and rough seas, it is a fortress that no one can escape. In this place Richard Harris has found a way to survive. Every morning when the guard tossed his bowl of watery gruel that was barely enough to keep him alive, through the cell door he would say, “Thank you.” In fact the guards only realised he was dead when for the first time in 12 years he did not say “Thank You.”
Can you imagine being grateful in a place like that. He had been unjustly imprisoned, beaten, mistreated, but his spirit survived only by sheer gratitude.
When I at times feel ungrateful or filled with anxiety and discontent, I have to ask myself, where is my attitude of gratitude?
Today I want to talk to you about having an attitude of ‘aggressive gratitude’. That is what I think the old man in the prison had, an attitude of gratitude, coupled with the emotion of aggression.
READING TODAY FROM EPISTLE OF PHILIPPIANS.
Paul is writing to the church that he had founded some 15 years earlier. In the letter he does not correct them on some point of doctrine, or because of any sin. Rather it is a letter of encouragement and friendship. He is encouraging them to keep going, to walk in the faith, to not get discouraged despite the circumstance. The amazing thing is that Paul wrote this letter when he was in prison, under house arrest, most of the time chained to a prison guard. Despite his circumstances he is living in the peace that surpasses human understanding.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS SCRIPTURE POINT BY POINT.
REJOICE - IN THE LORD - V4-5
Paul in this letter uses the word ‘rejoice’ numerous times. Here he says we are to rejoice, “in the Lord.” He does not say, rejoice because life is so great. He does not say rejoice because it is good for your health. Rejoice, because your daily reality is shaped by your heavenly reality. Rejoice, because the Lord is near! He rejoices despite the circumstances. Imprisonment in those days was not a form of punishment. It was a place where you were held while you waited for your fate to be decided. You would either be beaten or executed. It could happen at any time.
DO NOT BE ANXIOUS - V6
Anxiety can be called, “the modern plague.” There is no shortage of things for us to be anxious about. Paul says, do not be anxious about anything. Jesus said (Matt 6:25) Do not worry about your life... Jesus’ teaching and Paul‘s theme here is, God is in control, he can be trusted. Our citizenship is in heaven and we can count on that. No matter what happens here on earth we do not need to be anxious. It is difficult to take Paul’s teaching and Jesus’ admonition to heart.
GOD IS IN CONTROL
We don’t really control the circumstances of our lives. Any one of us can be in an accident at any time. No matter what we face we are never outside of God’s superintending control. Though we live and die as residents in this world (which is passing away), our true citizenship is with God in heaven. Because of that, we need not be anxious. We are safe and secure in God’s hands. We can be thankful knowing that eternal life, not death or disease, is our deepest reality. Because of that, we need not be anxious. We are safe and secure in God’s hands.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever remains true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 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.
THE ANTIDOTE TO ANXIETY: GOD’S PEACE - V7
The old prisoner in The Count of Monte Cristo survived by being grateful. His gratitude marked his days and nights and gave him power to determine how he was going to feel even in the worst circumstances. Within ourselves or within this world we will not find peace or be able to live without anxiety. The peace we have comes from God - it is a peace that will guard our hearts. It is the peace we experience “in Christ Jesus”—it’s his peace, shared with us by the Spirit. As we maintain a prayerful posture of aggressive gratitude, our hearts and minds will be guarded. God’s peace—Christ’s peace—is our guard. Its like having a battalion of armed guards surrounding a castle, protecting it - ensuring the safety of the inhabitants inside.
With God as our guard, we can have peace within, despite the circumstances without.
Paul reminds us of our heavenly connection, and urges us to rejoice, pray, be aggressively grateful, enjoy the privileges of your heavenly citizenship—even in the harshness of daily reality, God’s peace will guard you.
The church at Philippi was facing persecution and other sources of trouble. Paul urges them to turn their eyes upon Jesus and through his eyes focus on what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and thus praiseworthy. They should not flee the world, but continue in their ministry to the world with a mindset that is tempered by God’s peace.
How about us? In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, do we draw away from the world into a “Christian cave” where we have our own music, movies, books, clothes? Sadly, we sometimes become what Dwight Moody warned against—becoming so “heavenly minded” that we become of no “earthly good.”
We live in the time between Jesus’ first and second comings (the “time-between-the-times”), during which, as Paul says, we have dual citizenship. The Christians in Philippi were citizens of both the kingdom of Rome and the kingdom of God. What Paul wanted them to know, and what I pray we will take away from his message, is that through prayerful, aggressive gratitude, we can enjoy the peace of God even here, despite the troubles, trials and tragedies that come upon us as citizens in this world. That is the message of this 3rd Sunday in Advent.