Written Sermons & Bible Studies

What Does it Matter? | Place of Grace Fellowship

What Does it Matter?

Let’s recite together the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power

And the glory forever and ever.  Amen

 

Today is the fourth in our series on prayer. We will look at the final part of the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke Chapter 11, 4: “… And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 

 

The Apostle Paul is a great example of staying focused on what’s important. Paul faced intense times of trial. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is imprisoned in Rome, and he may be executed. He hears that people are preaching the Gospel of Christ, but some are not doing it for the right reasons. They are doing it out of spite and to make him suffer. He doesn’t become worried or defensive. Instead, he praises the fact that the Gospel is proclaimed. With the heart of a pastor, he tells the Philippians not to worry either. He wants them to focus on what’s important, and that is knowing Christ and growing in their faith.



Philippians 1:9-11 & 15-18 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God…Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.  What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.



In this passage, we find Paul in Rome under house arrest. He is not likely in chains and had faced worse imprisonment in other places. However, he is being tried and may face execution. His situation is not good. He is in prison and cannot spread the Gospel. What matters to him is the spread of the Gospel. He has enemies in the church that are working against his efforts. He has Jewish communities who want him executed. The Romans don’t know what to do with Paul. Yet, when he looks around, he sees Christ proclaimed. 



Paul focused on what mattered. He shrugged off what didn’t not matter. The Gospel was being spread by his rivals and those who envied Paul’s influence. Others advanced the Gospel with goodwill towards Paul. Christ was proclaimed out of love by some but out of selfish ambition by others. It did not matter to Paul because Christ was proclaimed. Paul rejoiced because Christ was proclaimed.

Some of you said you missed me talking about Tampa Bay Quarterback Tom Brady, especially on Superbowl Sunday. He’s back. One of the reasons Brady was great is because he understood what mattered—gaining yards. He didn’t go for the big passes. He used impossible to defend short passes to advance the ball and gain yards. He never scrambled, he took the sacks, and he kept the lost yards to a minimum. He maintained focus and did not lose sight of what mattered – whether it was a lineman in his face, or a hero’s pass down the field, or a for-sure short pass to Gronkowski. He moved the ball forward.



Whether Paul or Brady, they knew why they were put on this earth. They never lost sight of what mattered. They were both masters of not getting distracted by what doesn’t matter.

 

 In his letter to the Philippians, Paul addresses the temptation of distraction, or being overly concerned about things that do not matter. The Philippians had lost sight of Jesus Christ. They were no longer advancing in the full love and knowledge of Christ Jesus. Their love was not overflowing more and more. It had come to a halt because of persecution and because they were worried about Paul’s imprisonment and possible death at the hands of the Romans. A combination of grief, worry and difficulties halted their journey along the path of salvation. 



In Paul’s view, they had taken their eyes off what really mattered. They had forgotten the importance of their love of Christ. They no longer focused on growing in the knowledge of Christ. The Philippians were not doing anything bad; they were just distracted from their path. Under those circumstances, how could they not be? But Paul treated their distraction and lack of focus on Christ as serious. Paul feared they would not stand righteous before God’s judgment. Despite very real threats around them, Paul believed taking their eyes off Jesus was a bigger deal. For Paul, you were either growing in your love and your knowledge of Christ or you were moving away from Christ. The temptation of distraction was as devilish as any other temptation.



Paul wanted to remind the Philippians about what matters. He encouraged them to focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t. Having Christ proclaimed matters. The Philippians growing in their faith and standing before God pure and blameless matters. Nothing else matters. For Paul, the Gospel of Christ, the grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit and their community of faith were of the utmost importance. Everything that stopped them from advancing in their knowledge and love of Christ was a distraction. They were grieving over Paul’s ordeal. They were being persecuted. They were not a community of one mind. Paul wanted the Philippians to come together and focus on the Gospel. 



For Paul, one of the best ways he avoided distraction was to focus on what really mattered. This was important to maintaining his faith in Christ. This was important to Paul’s relationships with the people around him. How did he stay focused on what really mattered? Through prayer. 



In our own lives, it can be hard to stay on the mark. Work, Covid, kids, finances, spouses, obligations, news, entertainment, etc. So many distractions come our way. It can be hard to spend time with God in prayer. It can be difficult to devote the energy to our relationship with God. Yet, of all the components of life I mentioned, time with God in prayer is the most important. Prayer is the one activity that can improve our focus and prioritize all the other obligations, necessities and opportunities in life. 



For our competitive markswoman, a quiet mind focused only on the target will deliver results. If she lets in any thought but the target and disrupts her clarity of mind, she will miss. Sure, she needs to breath correctly, squeeze the trigger just so and practice, but without focus on what matters, the rest cannot produce good marks. The Lord’s Prayer provides us with the template for praying. Today’s verse asks God to protect us from temptation. In our world, I believe distraction is our primary form of temptation.



In our relationship with God, Jesus commands us to pray. He asks us to focus on 

one thing, our time with God. Jesus demonstrated the importance of a strong

relationship with God because he spent a lot of time in prayer. He made it apriority.

He stuck to it no matter what was happening in his life. Before he was taken

away on Holy Thursday, he prayed. When he was dying on a cross, he prayed.

Focusing on what matters not only impacts our relationship with God, but also with people. Distractions can damage and even destroy relationships. How often do we get in a conversation with someone we love and get off track? Paul identifies relational discord among the Philippians. The Philippians are not of one mind. Paul believes that if the Philippians focus on what matters, their discord will melt away. Easy to say, right? Usually much harder to practice during a conversation. It is critical to know what’s important before you enter a conversation.



Brady never enters a game without a game plan. He knows how he will respond before that 300lb lineman comes barreling down upon him. He knows when to throw short or long. His decisions are made before he goes on the field. That markswoman has taken the time to meditate and calm her mind before she goes into competition. She pauses takes a few deep breaths and slowly squeezes that trigger as she exhales. She is prepared and has a plan.



When we enter a complicated conversation, do we prepare? Do we know what matters the most and what we hope to accomplish in our conversation? Today, I hope to provide some guidance for difficult and important conversations based on our passage.



Be curious about the other person. In prison, Paul advanced the Gospel through the Roman Praetorium guard. I imagine he was curious about their life, listened to them and asked amazing questions.



Philippians 1:12-14 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. 



Curiosity really helps a conversation. It means you are asking questions and listening. Curiosity keeps conversations neutral. In a conversation, avoid I and you. Using I and you creates sides. Use conversation extenders like, “it seems like” and “can you say more?” If the purpose of the conversation is to share your love of the person—and with loved ones that is usually the “what matters” of the conversation—then curiosity is a great way to show love. With people we are close to and even those we have limited connection to, it is easy to be judgmental and challenge their view of life. That almost always leads to disagreement and arguments. Part of curiosity is a deep respect for the other person. If you are investing the time to talk with someone, then hold them in positive regard. Believe that their point of view has merit. Listen to what they share even if it seems crazy. Take a moment and imagine how different were the life perspectives of an imperial guard and Paul. Yet Paul shared the Gospel with them. It was because Paul respected them as through the eyes of their Savior. 



In any conversation, you will be tempted to take the conversation down different tangents. If you want to build love and trust and avoid arguments, let go of everything that does not reflect the reason for the conversation. I mean everything. Paul didn’t sit in prison and discuss Roman politics or the latest gladius technology with the Roman guards. He didn’t get into meaningless arguments. He listened to their life and shared the Gospel. He let go of everything that did not matter.

In a conversation, you will be surrounded by all kinds of targets. They do not belong to you. You only have one target to shoot at – the one you planned to shoot at before you started the conversation. The other targets do not belong to you today. They may be targets for another day, but not today. The other targets may be politics, an old argument, finances, girlfriend, boyfriend, time with family. Unless you specifically set out to speak about one of them, they are not your target today.  Stay focused on your target. Your conversation partner may try to tempt you to shoot at other targets—don’t. If you find yourself moving your bow to another target—stop, pause, center yourself and get back on target. A pause is much less damaging than hitting the wrong target. 



Relationships are destroyed because people do not focus on what matters and more importantly people do not let go of what doesn’t matter. How many things in our life, if we truly prioritized our activities and concerns really matter– very few? Of all the things that really matter, there are three at the top of the list, our love of God, our love of family and our love of others. Yet we spend so much of our life tempted to focus on other, much less important distractions. 

How do we avoid distractions?



First, we connect with God through prayer because that relationship really matters. Second, we remind ourselves that we first love our family and neighbors, and all other concerns are secondary at best. Third, we let go of everything that doesn’t matter, and let God take care of it, and us. Amen.



About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

Categories
Social Share