Continuing our series 'Finding Joy' we continued looking at the book of Philippians starting at Philippians 1:20 through to chapter 2:4. The passage starts with Paul talking about his immediate situation. He doesn’t know what his future holds, he is facing either release or death. Release will mean he can continue to serve Christ on earth, death means his earthly ministry will be finished, and he will be in the presence of his Lord. He writes in Philippians 1:20–21 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
In these two verses we can see the whole purpose of Paul’s life summed up. In everything his one desire is that Christ is exalted. Paul knows that death will mean greater joy as he will be with his Saviour and so he desires that. Yet he wants to do what God desires for him. Joy in the Christian life comes from serving Christ and for Paul this was by doing what God had called him to do, to serve the people God had put before him. Paul knows that the Philippian church needs him, that God has equipped and appointed him to serve them. He places their needs above his. He lays down his life, not by losing it, but by living for others so that they may grow and be joyful.
Paul calls the Philippian church to do their part. He points them to the citizenship they have in God’s kingdom. We don’t live in the fullness of God’s kingdom while we are on earth but we are to live and act with the reality of it. In all we do we need to make sure that we are representing that kingdom in a way that causes others to desire to become part of it. We are to live in a way that upholds the authority and glory of it.
Paul then calls the Philippian church to be united. Their unity comes from being united in Christ, from having the same purpose, to see Jesus exalted and others come to know Him. This happens as Christians together do as Paul instructs in Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. We are called to serve others and we can only do this as we connect with them and are willing to sacrifice for their sake. This leads to joy as we exalt Jesus together no matter what the circumstances are.
Last Sunday we touched on the two opening verses of Philippians, so if you missed it I’d encourage you to listen in the link on the sermon below! In verse 3 Paul moves into an overview of his thankfulness to the believers in Philippi and into a prayer for them which shows again the depth of his love for those gathered in the city.
We see clearly from this passage that Paul has no regrets or hurt from his previous visits to the city, nor does he hold any ill-will to the people there. Paul probably had more justification than most would have to think of Philippi as a horrible place. The city leaders were the same ones who had seen him set a young woman free from bondage and in return had stripped him naked, beat him with sticks, put him in stocks and kicked him out of the city. As he writes to the believers his heart is full of joy as he thinks about them.
It is important to note though that Paul’s feelings of joy as he thinks about the believers is not just the feelings of an old man who is remembering the good times of the past. In verse 5 – he makes it clear that the joy he feels is also because of their faithfulness in sharing the gospel. He describes the church as having been his partners – not just in the past, but also to this very moment. The consistency of their faith, and their heart for mission is of great joy to him, as it would be to God. Paul had been an incredible missionary and we know that a number of the different churches or groups that he had established had not been faithful in following Christ – but here he reflects on the value of the church in Philippi for their consistent witness. It is easy to skim over that this morning, but I think it is worthwhile pausing for a moment and considering the importance of being consistent in our faith and in heart to tell others about Christ.
Paul continues to encourage the believers gathered in the city – reminding them to be joyful because God is over all things!
Listen along as we continue to work through the passage!
We are starting a new series which is a study through the book of Philippians. It will take us a few weeks to work through the book, but I am confident that as we see this section of scripture unfold that you will be encouraged, and challenged by what it contains!
I want to start this series by asking you what do you think of when you hear the word joy? How would you describe the feeling of joy?
I think the idea of joy is something that has gone missing to a large extent in our society and unfortunately that is matched often by an absence of joy amongst Christians as well. I am sure you are familiar with the old song – “I’ve got the joy joy joy joy, down in my heart, Where? Down in my heart?” The saying goes that many of us have the joy so deep down in our hearts that our face hasn’t found it yet.
One of the great things about the book of Philippians where we spend some time studying over this series - is that from the start to the finish of this 4 chapter letter, Paul infuses his writing with the encouragement to be joyful. Not silly, not foolish, not ignorant, or disengaged from life – but genuinely and deeply joyful.
So as we start this series – I’d like to pose a few questions for you to ponder over the next number of weeks as we explore Philippians. Are you joyful? Have you forgotten how good it is to feel the warmth of a joyful heart? Have the burdens and troubles of each day robbed you of your joy? When was the last time in the midst of trial or trouble did you stand on the truth that as Nehemiah (8:10) writes – “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
I’d encourage you to listen along to the message as we set the scene for the series by looking back at the way things were when Paul sat down to write this letter to the church at Philippi.