CS Lewis once said, “All that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
People today are consumed with the pursuit of happiness – books, conferences, internet blogs all claim to provide the secret. Religious charlatans and well-meaning Christians alike promise all kinds of “Breakthroughs” and people flock to their ministries to find the secret.
Happiness is a fleeting moment of physical exhilaration. Biblical joy on the other hand is “the settled conviction that God sovereignly controls the events of life for believers’ good and His glory.”
There are times in life and ministry where the circumstances you find yourself in are extremely difficult. Everyone of us have experienced such moments. How do you respond? What are the expressions from your heart during such a time?
- Do you vent frustration?
- Are you angry and bitter over your situation?
- Are your heart and lips filled with complaints or do you manifest a confident and joyful hope in God?
- Do your eyes turn inward or upward?
At a time of increasing opposition by the Jewish religious establishment and growing persecution by the Roman government, Paul finds himself accused, arrested and in prison in Rome. Paul is writing this letter after having received a financial gift from believers in Philippi brought by the hand of Epaprodite (4:15-18).
In this letter from prison one might expect to hear a tone of defensiveness or a word of complaint but instead this letter resonates from from a heart filled with joy! “Joy” and “rejoice” are used at least 15x in the book and are found in every chapter.
This letter shows us in a real and personal way what the gospel of Jesus Christ can really do in a life! In Philippians we learn how to triumph over circumstance and how to live in harmony and happily together as a community of believers.
Sooner or later we will all face an experience that is beyond our ability to control. We may find ourselves in some sort of prison: sick bed, hospital, accident, grief or sorrow of lost relationship or unmet expectations. How important then that we know in advance the secret of overcoming it!
We are called to shine the light of Christ brightly and that light shines most brightly when we are walking through dark valleys! The world needs to see the reality of our profession of faith – they see this in our joy in the midst of the ups and downs and disappointments of life!
Paul had joy! His joy was not based upon his circumstances – he did not rely upon “happenings” to find his happiness. His is joy was in Christ! (“Christ” is mentioned 17x in the first chapter alone!) Paul’s joy came from His relationship with God – not the vertical/temporal but the horizontal/eternal.
One resolution to keep in 2016: Resolved to find my joy in Jesus Christ.
We take our text from Philippians chapter one verses 1-2.
The Proclaimers Of This Joy (1:1a)
Lets first get acquainted with the Preachers:
PAUL: A Jewish theologian trained by a Doctor of the Law named Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Saul was committed to Judaism and a rising young leader entrusted with authority from the chief priests to arrest and imprison those of “the way.”
This sincere and zealous man was struck down on the Damascus road by Jesus Christ Himself. He is gloriously converted and commissioned as an apostle to the Gentiles. (Acts 9)
After a brief visit with Barnabas with the church in Jerusalem, Paul departs for Tarsus where he labors for Christ in obscurity. Not until Barnabas is sent to Antioch in Acts 11:22-26 and realize that the task of discipling these new believers is more than he can handle alone does he find Paul and bring him to Antioch where they labored for a year.
TIMOTHY: Paul is never a lone-ranger looking to go it alone. He is clearly a courageous, decisive leader with a a passion for God, but a look at his life clearly shows someone who drew good people around him, equipped them, exhorted them and empowered them in ministry. This is certainly true of Paul’s relationship with Timothy.
Timothy is an uncircumcised half-Jew living in the Gentile city of Lystra. His father is a gentile, mother a Jew. On their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas meet Timothy who is converted to a Christ-follower. Timothy joined Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey. It was on this journey that Paul received the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:6-10).
The relationship between Paul and Timothy is close. Paul refers to Timothy as his “son in the faith.” He wrote two letters to Timothy with instructions on how to administrate and minister in the local church which is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” The confidence, love and trust that Paul has for this young man is documented in 2:19-22.
One hallmark of Paul’s life was the men that he mentored and encouraged throughout his ministry. Paul was a disciple-maker! What you will be remembered for is not your bank accounts, your business achievements etc, but the people whose lives you have invested in for the sake of Christ!
Getting acquainted with their Position – Bondservants of Jesus Christ (1b)
This was a position of public identity before others. The term – bondservant was the title that Paul often identified himself by. How different from our day, today servants of God so often seek out titles, position and honor.
Bondservant is from the root Doulos and simply means to bind, a slave.
We are called to be bond servants of Christ. As bond-servants we are the absolute property of our Master, to be treated and disposed of as he wishes. Five marks of a bond-slave: (Luke 17:7-10)
- Willing to have one thing on top of another put on him w/o any consideration being given him.In doing this he must be willing not to be thanked for it.
- He must not charge the other with selfishness.
- Having done all that he must confess that we are unprofitable servants.
- Must admit that doing and being what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one thing more than was our duty to do!
A position of service to one another. Paul speaks of himself as a bondservant to other believers for Jesus sake! In 2 Cor 4:5 Paul writes, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus sake.“
This is also a position of dependence upon one another. This releases the stress and worry from the circumstances of life, to know that I am not relying upon myself, my energies, my abilities but on the Master. It also reminds us that our position is one of humility – I am nothing, I am disposable (2:5-8).
The Place This Joy Was To Be Experienced (1c)
It was a place of rich history – Philippi
King Philip II father of Alexander the Great annexed the region in 356BC and renamed the village of Krenedis – Philippi = the city of Philip. The Romans conquered Macedonia in 2nd century BC.
Philippi was the site of one of the most crucial battles in Roman history. Anthony and Octavian defeated the Republican forces of Brutus and Cassius in 42BC.
Many war veterans settled in the region and the city became a Roman colony – enjoying all the rights of a city in Italy.
It was a pagan place
The church at Philippi was the first church Paul planted in Europe. (Acts 16:9-10). As Paul tried to move forward with the gospel – the Spirit of God would not allow him to go the directions he sought but directed him to Macedonia.
When Paul arrived in Philippi he met with Lydia and some women at the river outside the city. There were not enough male Jews to have a synagogue.
After casting out a demonic spirit of divination from a slave girl the owners had Paul & Silas arrested and thrown into prison. When the prison was miraculously opened, so was the heart of the Philippian jailer who was gloriously saved. (Acts 16:30-32)
It was a difficult place
This was an afflicted church – deep afflictions and suffering for being Christians. (2 Cor. 8:1-3)
This was a poor church – but they had supported Paul at one time in his ministry (Philippians 4:15) and now have sent another gift. Paul is writing them to thank them, let them know of his circumstances and warn them of the danger of false teachers.
The People Who Were To Experience Joy (1c)
Their position before God: Saints
We are saints because we are one “in Christ.” (Ro 4:22-24). No other religion makes this claim!
A saint is someone who has been set apart. This word is often translated “holy.” Let me illustrate this way. In the OT – many items in the Temple were called “holy” how did that happen? A common ordinary utensil, cleanse it and separate it for a specific purpose in the service of God.
So a Saint is someone who has been set apart from sin for God – this is not an issue of spiritual maturity (I Co 1:2) but of our position.
Their provision by God: Church Leaders
Three titles – one office (I Pt. 5:1-3)
- Bishop – (episkopos) overseer, speaks of administrative duties of the pastor (I Tim 3:1-7)
- Elder – (presbuteros), speaks of spiritual abilities of the pastor, wisdom, counsel, teaching
- Shepherd – Pastor (poimen), speaks of the nurturing relationship of the pastor, guidance and care given.
Deacon – diakonos – one who serves tables. (I Tim 3:8-13)
The Pronouncement Of The Secret To This Joy (2)
Grace & Peace
- Grace – that Divine influence upon the heart that is reflected in the life. God’s unmerited favor upon a man or woman to bestow upon him that which he cannot obtain by any effort of his own.
- Peace – to be one, to know quietness and rest in the inner man. The grace of God must always of necessity precede the peace of God. Rom 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith we peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Source of Grace and Peace
From God the Father brought to us in real-time through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no grace and peace in this life apart from Him.
From the introduction of this book we find a basis for Paul’s “Reflections of Joy”and as we meditate upon these opening words we too have reason for joy:
- When we consider our position for God in the world – bondservants of Christ! What a privilege. Never, never get over the unbelievable that you have been chosen to serve the CREATOR GOD!
- When we consider our position before God in heaven – saints! A most holy thing, chosen and set apart for Him, because He delights in you! What a reason for joy!
- When we consider the wonderful gift of the church! God’s means of ministering to us and through us (pastors & deacons represent both sides).
- When we consider God’s Amazing Grace – we are unworthy, with nothing beautiful that He should be attracted to us, slave of a torturous master, wallowing in filth, naked, uncared for, never having known love.
- When we experience the grace and peace in the midst of the turmoils of life we have reason for joy!
- Will your life characterized by joy in 2016? It can be as you look to Christ as your source of joy!
- One resolution to Keep this year: “I will find my joy in Jesus Christ alone!”