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19th Sunday after Pentecost
Philippians 4:6-20

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Nobody really enjoyed working with Jeff.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Jeff was a very hard worker, very knowledgeable, and certainly made the company quite a bit of money.  But nobody really enjoyed working with him.  Although he might have been a good worker, but he wasn’t an easy worker to get along with.  And there was a reason for this.  If you were trying to help him out with a job, he didn’t always tell you what he wanted you to do, he’d assume you knew what you were supposed to be doing when you didn’t really know, sometimes he would give commands like, “go get aobiaodsaodf and bring it here” and then walk away, he had a short temper and would easily get upset if you weren’t doing what he wanted you to be doing, working with Jeff was a frustrating endeavor!

Maybe you’ve had that before too.  Perhaps you’ve tried working with someone who was very difficult if not impossible to work with- didn’t know what they were talking about, what they wanted to do, who got upset easily, and so on.  It’s frustrating!  Right?

But maybe what’s even worse than that is that sometimes perhaps we feel that same kind of frustration when we consider serving God.  Is God difficult to serve, to “work for”?  What are we supposed to do?  How can we serve him?  Are we doing the right thing?  Are we actually doing things that are pleasing to him?  Does He get fed up with us?  Is he clear in giving us directions?  How do we serve him?

Today is our last Sunday focusing on the book of Philippians and the joy of being a Christian.  And we are looking at the whole picture of the last words that Paul gave to the Philippian Christians.  And there is specifically 4 things that Paul gives them to focus on as they seek to serve their Lord.

First, he encourages them: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.”  He first encourages them to communicate with God.  How?  Through prayer.  God has given Christians the awesome privilege of coming to him at any time and at any place with anything that is on their hearts or minds.  God wants His people to pray to Him.  He wants prayers not just full of our wants, needs, and desires, certainly he wants to hear those too, but prayers “with thanksgiving.”  God wants prayers full of gratitude for what He’s done.

Second, God encourages His people to pursue godly thoughts.  “Whatever is 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.”  He wants His people to fill their minds with good things.  Things that are true as opposed to false things, lies, deceptions, error.  How does one know what is truth?  God’s Word is truth.  If something doesn’t measure up to God’s word – don’t think about it.  Whatever is noble- honorable, reverent, whatever is right – just, whatever is pure – chaste, whatever is lovely and admirable, friendly.  Finally, consider only those things you’d consider if you were in the presence of God as if God Himself could see your thoughts.

Third, practice godly contentment.  Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Everything finally comes from God –whether he gives us something or he allows things to come into our lives, yet He remains in control of all.  God uses circumstances and situations in order to grow the faith of His children.  It is service to God to be content and satisfied with the blessings of God.  If a person is constantly longing after more things or other things than what God has given him, what is he saying to God?  “God, I’m not pleased with what you’ve given me.”  Here God tells His children to be content.  Recognize what God has done for His people: Redeemed them, released them from sin, rescued them, refreshed them with grace upon grace.  God’s people can serve Him by being content in every situation.

Fourth, provide for God’s kingdom.  Paul said, “I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.  They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”  In their service to God the Philippians sent a monetary gift to support Paul in his ministry of sharing the gospel.  God was pleased with it because it flowed from a heart of faith, a heart of thanks to God.  It’s serving God when God’s people provide for his kingdom.  And it’s not just through treasures.  It’s through time spent helping and serving so the church can continue to function, it’s through using your talents and abilities for the good of others, it’s through prayers that help expand God’s kingdom.

All those things are pleasing service in God’s sight.   And we kind of know all of that, right?  So perhaps the question is not so much, “How do we serve Him”  But, “How don’t we serve him?”

But, do we do that?  Do we serve God by doing these things that Paul encourages us to?  Do we pray perfectly, have perfect thoughts, perfectly practice contentment, and gladly provide for God’s kingdom?  Do we do that?  Do we find ourselves praying all the time with constant thanksgiving to God?  Do we always have thoughts God would approve of?  But remember, God can see all of our thoughts: impure thoughts, thoughts of greed, anger, revenge, thoughts of lust and selfishness.  Are we content with what God has given us and the situation in which God has placed us?  Do we have a continual longing for more of this or more of that?  Do we always joyously provide for God’s kingdom with our time or offerings?  No.  None of us can say that we do.  But why?  Hasn’t God done far more for us that those 10 lepers in the gospel text?  Hasn’t God not just provided amply for our physical lives- with shelter, food, clothes, health?  Hasn’t God even more than that provided for our spiritual lives?  Why don’t we serve him?  Why don’t we jump up and down with excitement to do whatever he asks of us?  Is it not because there exists inside of us an attitude of complacency or entitlement?  As if God should have done all that he did for us?  As if we deserved it?

Have we lost our respect for God?  Do we consider God simply not worth our whole-hearted service?  As if God doesn’t deserve our whole-hearted commitment.  Or is it simply, “I just don’t really want to.  I don’t want to do what God wants me to, I don’t care what God says.  I don’t have time to serve God.”  Why should God even want us?  Why would God even want our service?  God doesn’t need anything from us, ought he not just fire us, get rid of us?

But perhaps the even better question is: How did HE serve us??  God knew us even before we were born, God knew our failures and shortcomings even before we committed them, He knew our lack of love for Him, He knew our selfishness and our self-serving ways, and yet what did He do?  He served us in the most amazing way possible!  He sent His Son to pray perfectly and teach us how to pray, He sent His Son who had perfect thoughts all the time, He sent His Son who had perfect contentment in life, He sent His Son to provide everything for His kingdom.  How did God serve us?  Jesus died not in order that we can now finish the job on our own, not to make us nice people, but to declare us innocent of our sins and clothe us with His perfection!   Through His service to us He gifted us with the life that never ends in paradise!  All this he did that we should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

So as you go about your life this week, try this: Each day this week take 5 minutes, just 5 minutes alone, and simply thank God for the blessings He’s given you in your life.  Pray to God with thanksgiving.

Try this.  As soon as you find yourself thinking about something, mulling something over in your head, wondering something, ask yourself: Is this true?  Is this noble, is this right, is this pure, is this lovely, is this admirable, is this excellent or praiseworthy?  If not, don’t think about it!  If yes, good!

Try this.  Sometime this week, sit down and make a list of all the things you can think of that God has done for you.  List not just physical blessings, but spiritual ones, list things like Jesus going to the cross for you, God bringing you into his family through baptism, writing your name in His book of life.  Then when you find your heart longing after something or are tempted toward discontentment take that list out, learn again the secret of contentment.

Try this.  Set aside time to pray that God’s kingdom would grow here in Bemidji and throughout the world.  Find ways to be more actively involved in the work of this congregation.  Find ways in your own personal life that you can reach out to people with the hope that you have.

And the real cool part is that when we serve God, WE actually get blessed.  Why?  Because when we serve God we are doing what God created us to do.  It is enjoyable for us as Christians!  It’s something we WANT to do!  Our God has served us in the most magnificent way – He served us by laying down his life to win us for Him.  Our lives of service, our entire lives, are an opportunity to say, “Thank you” to God.  And in the process, we get blessed!  Think about it: Would your life be more enjoyable if you lived more thankfully?  Would your life be more enjoyable if you entertained only pure, noble, excellent thoughts?  Would your life be more enjoyable if you lived contentedly?  Would your life be more enjoyable if you realized you helped make eternal differences in the lives of people by helping to build God’s kingdom?  Absolutely!  What joy is ours as we GET to serve God with our lives!  Amen.