While away on vacation I had the opportunity to watch the Cincinnati Bengals practice in Paul Brown stadium where they play their home games right on the Ohio River. I’ve never attended a professional football game. I’ve seen a lot of professional baseball and many college football games, but never professional football. I was fascinated by the organization of their practice. Granted it was a public practice, but it was orchestrated like a military strike. Every 10 minutes an air horn would blow then players and other personnel would scatter in all directions, but literally within 1 minute, new drills would start, including the full running of plays. Having played the game, coached youth teams, and led adults in many circumstances, I know it’s not easy to organize people to work so well together, no matter what they are doing.
I’m not sure what the appeal of football is, but for me it has to do with the overcoming of obstacles, especially for a person carrying the ball. It fascinates me to watch the lengths to which a player will go to score who can see the goal line. The nearness of the goal creates a whole new level of intensity that causes players to throw their bodies around with abandon to score.
In Philippians 4, Paul speaks of the nearness of a goal to motivate both his readers and us. Sunday I will conclude the sermon series Unity Under Fire from Philippians. Paul wrote a personal letter to this small church in the city of Philippi. He wrote from prison where he was likely chained hands and feet. Sometimes in these Romans prisons there would be another chain that would go from the feet to the neck. Then there would be a chain from somewhere on their body to a pole to limit their movement further. Laws were written against having those chains too short, which means sometimes prisoners did experience that. The environment was dark and damp. No windows. There would have been rats and other such critters. There were no provisions to speak of for sanitation. And prisoners were together in close quarters, men and women. What could possibly keep someone moving, someone going in the midst of such tremendous difficulty? Paul spoke of a goal that motivated him, that would motivate them, and will motivate you and me to live with passion and eliminate distractions that would hinder us from reaching that goal.
You can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions below. You can watch or listen to the message on the Bethany Place website.
Do This, Not That
Unity Under Fire, Part 5
1. See your teammates as partners in the gospel
Philippians 4:1–5 (ESV) Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
2. Live with anticipation of the ultimate goal
Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
3. Model a ruthless focus on what is good
Philippians 4:8–9 (ESV)
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Questions for further thought or discussion
How would you describe laboring in the gospel? How would thinking of yours and others service in this way promote unity?
How would a strong belief that Jesus could return any moment help feed unity?
How does experiencing God’s peace through prayer effect unity?
What steps can you take to train your mind to look for what is good and true in other people?
Who is counting on you to model a positive focus that leads to unity and joy?