Growing up working in the restaurant business taught me something about relationships. If you have eaten at a restaurant where they had an open kitchen you will know exactly what this looks like. A bunch of underpaid, sweaty, over tired, crabby people working together for a common cause. If you have been in that situation you know that this stress filled environment usually causes a lot of shouting, complaining, and usually poor language. But at the end of the day everybody usually is pretty happy to walk out to their cars…together. It’s prolly why my wife fell in love with me. When you go literally into the frying pan together there is a comradery that is built. That’s what it’s like when people share work together.
Want you to imagine today God’s church as a bit of a restaurant. I know that seems like a weird comparison. But you’ve got your pastor, your members, church council, people all working towards a common goal. Sometimes the cooks are going to bark at the servers. Sometimes the servers are going to mess up and sometimes the manager isn’t going to be on his game because he’s tired.
That’s what was happening to the early Christian church. Paul had this really great relationship with his churches. They were a family. But sometimes the family didn’t work so well together. Paul talks about it when he says, “When I set out from Macedonia not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except one.”
In a restaurant kitchen usually one guy makes the vegetables one guy cooks the steak and one guy puts it all together. If only one guy was doing that work it’s not fun, its stressful, and more importantly it breaks.
Paul had to be pretty discouraged when no one came to give him aid. But then Philippians 4. God provided encouragement and Gospel motivated love. “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me”. Sure Paul always had what he needed in Christ – forgiveness and grace but when the work for the Gospel was done together…he saw God’s grace in action all the more clearly. And just in case the Philippians thought that they couldn’t carry the load Paul shares with them this beautiful promise from God. “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” In other words Jesus is blessing us with some really important work. He’s given us the riches of forgiveness and blessed us in this life so let’s get after this work together.
As I go back through my memories of the times that Spirit of Life felt the closest…where we were the happiest… It wasn’t when a small group of us were eating at a restaurant those times are great…it wasn’t when a few of us came to a voter’s meeting…those aren’t so great. It was when we went into the fire together. The times when we walked in a parade to share Jesus, when we worked together at the concession stand to invite people to church, this year when we sang Christmas Carols door to door and invited folks to Christmas Eve worship. It was in those moments like the time some of us ran up to Bethesda to help out because the power was out. In those moments we saw God’s grace and love and were brought closer together by the common mission.
But you know what. Satan likes to make it so that we quickly forget as we grow how to work together. He likes to divide from mission. He likes to make it seem like the work is too hard. He likes to make us think I don’t have enough time to do those things anymore. Likes to make excuses like the somebody else syndrome where since the church is growing somebody else will do it.
The early Christian church was called to do something amazing – they were sharing Christ under persecution. Sin tried to break them apart and sin does the same thing to us. To make us think that Pastor will grow the church alone – to make us think that those new people will give so I don’t have to – to make us think that working separately is better than working together for God’s kingdom. Friends that’s not the church. By definition the church is a body of people who believe the same thing working together for the same cause.
But since imperfect people won’t always do that – we have a Savior who went alone. We have a Savior who meets all the unified needs that we have according to the riches of his grace. Those needs start with our most basic one – forgiveness and life in his blood. The cool words of this lesson – it says the Philippians renewed their concern for Paul. Renew as in they lost it at one time. Jesus never had to do that. He is always perfectly concerned and perfectly working to bless you with heaven though we were not always on his team.
You know as I read through this lesson I see a whole lot of Spirit of Life in the church at Philippi. Human people who yes get distracted but have God’s grace and mission at heart. God’s forgiveness for our wavering. But now see his motivation.
Paul says these words not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.
In other words God is praising them for the work they did together as a church in His kingdom. They were forgiven and motivated to support. And God gives you that same praise today. When a young man sits with his pastor till 10pm talking about the new building project and how to reach out…our work together is beautiful and blessed.
When a church president is up after 11pm talking to His pastor about how we’re going to share vision at Spirit of Life our work together is beautiful and blessed. When a young lady picks up our friends from the local group home – when we cook meals at local nursing homes with Jesus on our lips – when you look for guests to greet every Sunday – when you bring your children to hear about Jesus friends that is work done together and blessed by our God.
Four years I have been at Spirit of Life. Been a member of different churches my whole life. Not a Sunday goes by where I am not blessed by you. Every week I hear of things our members do to be all in for our mission together. Maybe it’s hard to keep that up? Maybe it’s hard to remember. Friends you can do this mission through God who gives you strength. God will meet your needs according to Christ Jesus and His grace.
So knowing that our needs have been met – knowing the together that exists at this church – continue to ask God to renew your concern. We have forgiveness. Now the mission is calling. Support it and grow it TOGETHER. I’m right here with you. AMEN