Just Do It!
By The Rev. Dr. Andrew Stirling
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Reading: Philippians 4:4-9
I've been thinking a lot this last few days about why the Raptors are so popular. Not only are they winners on the court, but there is something brilliant about their marketing team, who made it possible not only for people at the games in the arenas, but for fans almost everywhere to feel as if they’re part of it. The phenomenon of Jurassic Park has clearly got the imagination not only of the city, but the whole world. Even the BBC, who were covering it showed pictures of Jurassic Park at the moment the Raptors won. It’s as if, somehow all of us feel we’re part of a team and that they are a part of the city, and the whole of the city seems to be celebrating. It’s like we’re not just spectators when it comes to the Raptors, but participants going along with them for the ride. It’s brilliant and it makes you feel connected.
In the passage that the Apostle Paul wrote, Paul is basically saying the same thing about people who follow Jesus Christ, that we don't follow him from a distance as if we’re spectators watching the faith. We get involved in the faith. It is part of who we are. We identified with Christ. We want to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We want our lives to go along with his. Writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul has a problem: there are two people in this particular congregation in Philippi who aren’t getting along – Euodia and Syntyche. These two have been arguing and bickering and it’s caused a whole lot of problems.
Paul tells them to focus on what really makes a Christian, on what it means to follow Jesus Christ. In this incredible passage from Philippians he gives the example. He’s basically saying to these two who’ve been squabbling, “Never mind your differences, push those to one side, focus on the things that really matter.” He then pointed out four things that I'm thinking as we take you into our hearts as members of this church, maybe these four things should be the most important things we think about.
The first of these is, Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always.” If you break the phrase down, rejoice, have joy, in the Lord, in the Lord Jesus Christ, always, all the time. The great Christian writer, C.S Lewis was a very devout man and he said “There is a difference between being happy and having joy.” He says that happy is something that you feel, it’s an emotion. It can be for a moment or a period of time, but joy is something that lasts forever. Happy is when everything is going well and you have a lot of pleasure. Joy is something you experience in every part of life. He says that what makes Christianity so powerful is that it wants to be joyful.
I said the same thing last week. Joy is part of our faith. Joy is part of what we celebrate and what we actually consider important. Our faith is not a miserable faith. Our faith is a belief that we can rejoice because the Lord is always with us. We’re never far from Him and He is never far from us. We belong to Him and He is a part of our lives. That is what faith is. That is what makes our life and belonging to the church such a profoundly joyful experience. In a moment you're going to be making a promise to the congregation, and when we lay on hands, we pray that the spirit of God is upon you, and that the peace and the joy that comes from that faith.
Paul also says “I want you to carry out your life with gentleness”. It’s kind of a funny word in Greek, it’s hard to know how to translate it epikaia, what does it really mean? Does it mean gentleness? Does it mean forbearance? Who uses that word anymore? Does it mean patient kindness? No, I like the phrase that I read not long ago. It says basically “meet people halfway”. That’s a good translation. Meet people halfway. That’s what he’s trying to say to Euodia and Syntyche in the Philippian church, to meet each other halfway. And that means two things. One is when you meet people halfway you have your own voice. It’s not as if you give up your voice and what you believe to be right and what you believe to be true. You should have a voice about what you believe is right. You should be able, in any world and in any place, to share your faith. That is part of being a free person. That is part of joy. Have your voice, say what you believe, but meet people halfway. Respect with gentleness and kindness others. Let them have their voice and let them be able to speak to you. As Christians, we meet people halfway. That is the power, I believe, of gentleness and of patience and it’s something we really should do.
The third thing he says, and now we’re getting down to some nitty-gritty, “I want you to pray at all times.” Pray continually. Pray for others and pray for yourself. Not long ago we lost one of our greatest people: Jean Vanier. Vanier was somebody who worked with people who had many challenges in their lives, mental and physical. He just said this about prayer, “Prayer is so simple, so gentle, so loving. Prayer flows from faith, from our belief and trust that Jesus is living with us and in us. Jesus is God with us, in our everyday joys and pains, in our crises, in our work, in our leisure activities. God is with us when we go to bed, as we sleep, as we awaken. Though we may not always feel it, we trust in Jesus’ promises and that’s why we pray.” In other words prayer is a conversation, prayer is a back and forwards between us and God. It is because God in Christ is always there.
It was fascinating, do you remember when Kawhi Leonard had the shot that won game number 7 against Philadelphia? Hands up anyone who remembers the shot? Anyway, Kawhi was interviewed afterwards and it was fascinating. He talked about the struggles he’d faced when he played in San Antonio, and how they’d traded him nine games into the season to the Raptorsm where he had to follow in DeRozen’s footsteps. He was asked “Was this the lowest moment of your game?” and “Was it the lowest moment in your life?”
He said “Yes, when I was released it was hard. Last year was a very down year for me. I was going through a lot and with everything that was going on.” Referencing the injury to his leg and other things he said the following. “You know, God is good. I prayed every day, ended up getting healthy and now I'm playing basketball. You can see what God can do for you.” I thought, here is a man who has had some rough times, yet prayer helped him through it. It was prayer that got him out of it. So it is in our lives too, we’re not alone and we can pray any time and the Lord is near. He’s there for us.
Finally, and I love this, you've got to live it. Paul says, “Whatever is right, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, do these things.” The Christian faith is not just about believing, it’s not just about reciting the Apostle’s Creed, it’s not just about our affirmation that we believe in God in Jesus Christ, it is also about the way that we live. I love the tagline, don't you, that says, “Just do it”. The Christian faith is about doing it, living it. It’s about the things that are right, the things that are just, the things that are pure, and the things that are lovely. These are the things that we should be holding onto when we follow Jesus Christ. Because whatever is pure, whatever is just, whatever is right, whatever is beautiful, whatever is holy, we find in Christ Himself. When you find Christ you find those things.
I'm going to end with a quote, and I don't want to upset anyone in this room, but I'm going to quote from the losing basketball team’s Steph Curry, who has been part of the Golden State Warriors for a long time, and has won a lot. This is what he said:
“When I was at school was in my ninth grade, my mother took me to church and we met a youth pastor named Jason. I felt at that moment a calling. I went down to the altar and I gave my life to Christ. That became the beginning of my own personal journey. I think my faith is about the personal relationship, more so than the following of certain religious traditions or religious practices. It’s important to make sure you're feeding your spirit with the right things versus what the world is throwing at us.”
He called it a constant battle. He said, “My mum challenged me, ‘go find a bible, Steph, and I can rely on it to give you strength. It will give you a sense of purpose’ and to remember who I'm playing for when I lace up my sneakers”. He chose to write in his sneakers, are you ready for this? “Philippians, Chapter 4 verse 13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Even lose. Just do it. Amen.