ďJoy over CircumstancesĒ
Do you know some people who live with a constant state of joy? It seems they always have a smile on their face or something good to say. You know those people, donít you? So do I. At times I wonder; why are they smiling? With all the problems in the world today, how can you find any joy? One of the most inspiring messages about joy that has ever been written is found in the Bible. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the man who wrote it was in a prison. Living in a dark, damp cell, isolated from his friends and loved ones, he found joy where there appeared to be none. He wrote about the joy he found in Jesus Christ and how it is available no matter what circumstances one faces. It takes a special person to live with unspeakable joy in the midst of trying or difficult times. Yet that special person can be you, and that joy can be found in a daily walk with the Lord. The letter of Philippians encourages those who have no joy to find it. It inspires us to know that Jesus is the source of true joy. From time to time we experience happiness in our relationships or through certain events that take place. Yet that is not the true joy of which Paul writes. His focus is on a lifestyle that originates in a relationship with the God of this universe and His only son, Jesus Christ. If you are seeking to experience some real joy in life, I invite you to stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes. We will take a look at Paulís encouraging letter and hopefully be inspired by it.
By most standards the Apostle Paul was a defeated man. The year was AD 61, and he was living behind bars in a Roman prison. The game clock on his life was quickly running out. He did not know for sure if he was going to live or die from one day to the next. Instead of feeling defeated, however, the Apostle Paul feels a great amount of joy. He relies on those who know him to provide for his daily necessities and to take care of his needs, and yet Paul is not worried as to whether or not that will happen from one day to the next. He does, however, write a very personal letter to his dear friends living in the city of Philippi. And he writes this letter with great joy, for some 16 times the word joy, or a form of it, is found in just four chapters. Paul begins by thanking them for their partnership in the gospel. They have been working together for a long time in the effort to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people everywhere, and he is thankful for their love for each other and for the partnership in the gospel. Thatís the way he begins his letter in chapter 1. If youíll notice with me these words, which begin in verse 3: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ." Imagine with me for just a moment: Several times every day in that prison cell Paul falls to his knees and he prays to his Father in heaven. In every prayer he makes, he mentions his dear friends in the city of Philippi. He thanks them for their partnership. He thanks them for their help. He acknowledges the prayers, no doubt, they pray on his behalf. He even includes a number of things about which he prays for these Christians, in verses 9 through 11. Yes, they have been together from the very beginning, ever since Paul became a missionary. He does what they cannot do, and they in turn do what he cannot do. Paul travels to places these people cannot go, while they stay home and raise and give the money for him to travel. Paul shares the Good News of Jesus with people who have never heard it before and the Philippian Christians stay at home and pray on his behalf. Yes, together they have done some good things in the name of the Lord in the past, and yet Paul firmly believes, as he writes this letter, their work is not finished. He believes that somehow, someway God will allow them to work together in the future. Well, a traveling evangelist behind prison bars does not say something very good for the future of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet once again Paul does not think about that. Heís not worried about the future. For even if the gospel message of Jesus is proclaimed by people who do not have true motives, he is still glad itís being proclaimed. Even if they are trying to gain attention for themselves instead of drawing attention to Jesus, Paul is happy that the Good News is getting out and people are responding to it. He is not afraid of those who oppose him. Paul is not afraid of those who falsely accuse him. Whether he lives or whether he dies is not a daily concern on his mind. He realizes that even if he is in prison, some good things are going to happen. That perhaps is why he could write these words in chapter 1, verse 18: ďWhat does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.Ē Yes, the Apostle Paul rejoices in the simple fact that Jesus Christ is being shared with those who have never heard that Good News. There is something, however, that concerns the apostle. Some of his friends in Philippi were not working together. Problems of disunity had arisen, and that disunity was preventing the gospel from being shared in that area. It was causing some major difficulties and perhaps even some divisions there within the local church. Thatís what Paul addresses in the second chapter. Notice his words, which begin in verse 1: ďIf you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any a fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 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.Ē Pride and selfishness had risen their ugly heads in the church in Philippi, and Paul says, thatís not good. If you want to be united, if you want to bring together the family of God, if you want me to have complete joy, then be like-minded, be unified, and think about the interests of others. There are two women specifically identified in the fourth chapter who evidently are having these struggles. We donít know for sure the problems that have caused that kind of disunity or problem, but Paul writes this letter, and he encourages others to come alongside these two women and to help them, to encourage them, and to put an end to that divisive spirit. When I think about the importance of unity among believers today, Iím reminded of a championship basketball team. If you are like me, you enjoy watching a basketball game from time to time. The one thing that impresses me about a good team is that oftentimes the star players will give up some of their abilities in order to allow the other teammates to take part; that, they are willing to say, ďIím going to step aside, and Iím going to let other players make this play or make this basket. I want them to be involved as we, together, pursue a victory for our team.Ē That seems to be the message Paul is trying to convey here. Think about how you can work together. Think about how you can bring someone along who perhaps is not as strong in the faith as you might be. They were to think about their influence on those in Philippi, but perhaps even greater, they were to think about the influence they had on people in that community who did not know Jesus. They were to live a life of service and humility. Paul uses Jesus Christ as the ultimate example of that. In the very next passage, in chapter 2 in verses 5 through 11, he includes these words about Jesus, how that He did not count equality with God something to be held onto at all costs, but He humbled himself and He became a servant, even here upon the earth. He served people even to the point that He gave His very life so that everyone will have the opportunity to receive His salvation. In the third chapter, Paul finally reveals the source of his joy. His joy is not based on his current circumstances of living in a prison. His joy is not based on events that happen from one day to the next. Rather, his joy is based upon a relationship with Godís one and only son, Jesus Christ. There is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is based on something good taking place in oneís life, while joy can be found no matter what takes place in oneís life. Happiness comes from outside sources, while joy comes from within. Paul is happy for the gifts and for the prayers that are offered by the Philippian Christians. He is happy that he has had the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with many people in the past. Yet all of that happiness is a result of the joy that he has found in the Lord. There is absolutely nobody and no thing that can take away from his joy. Thatís what motivates Paul. Thatís what inspires Paul to keep on living in spite of his circumstances. No joy is any greater than the joy he has found in walking with Jesus Christ each and every day. That is the next point he makes here in the third chapter. Listen to his words, which begin in verse 7: ďBut whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christóthe righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.Ē The Apostle Paul recognizes that the source of his life is found in a relationship with Jesus and everything else is secondary to that. In fact, Paul even states, ďEverything that I am, everything that I was in the past, everything that I was able to do or to accomplish is absolutely nothing. It's nothing more than rubbish or garbage to be cast aside compared to knowing Jesus Christ.Ē That was the ultimate thing for Paul. Now, to know Jesus goes far beyond knowing a few facts and figures about Jesus. It might be nice to know some things about Jesusí birth and ministry upon the earth, His death, His resurrection. All thatís good, wonderful, but Paul writes about truly knowing Jesus. That means to submit to Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life. The Apostle Paul writes about knowing Jesus and having that connection and that daily walk with Him that far surpasses anything else this world can offer. Thatís what is most important to Paul. His joy comes from a life that is grounded in a daily walk with the One who saves him. At one time Paul thought he was somebody special. Other people thought the very same thing. They thought he was somebody special. In fact, here in Philippians and in other letters he wrote, he identifies some things that set him apart and made him special, but now none of that really matters to him anymore. The only thing that matters is knowing Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection, the significance of Jesus rising from the dead and how through that he can be connected into Godís family. Do you remember a time when you were called upon to give up something that was of great value? You held onto that, and it became a very precious memory over a long period of time. Yet the time came when you had to part with that precious thing, whatever it was, but not long after that you were able to receive something that was of far greater value. Perhaps you thought to yourself; why did I hold onto that for so long when this over here was waiting for me? Isnít that what Paul is saying here? He gained so much more in a relationship with Jesus Christ than he could have ever have received or gained without Jesus Christ. With that kind of joy deeply embedded in Paulís heart, he now focuses on what lies ahead. He does not dwell on all of those past successes or failures. He does not think about the life he once lived. He does not dwell upon the prison bars that he sees every day. He doesnít think about those who are saying bad things about him. He doesnít worry about whether or not he will live from one day to the next. What does Paul do? He maintains his focus on the prize that is before him. He is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven now, and he longs for the time when that will become a reality and when he can be in Godís presence forever. Thatís where he goes next in chapter 3. Notice these words beginning with verse 12: ďNot that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Ē Yes, thatís a beautiful passage of Scripture. The Apostle Paul does not worry about or think about what has happened in the past. He is not dwelling upon any kind of previous mistakes when he tried to oppose Jesus and His message. He has something far better to think about. He has a prize that is waiting before him, and he anticipates receiving that someday. With that kind of joy in mind, Paul keeps straining ahead. He keeps working hard. Oh, not to earn His salvation because that has already been received, but he keeps doing everything he can for the kingdom of God in order to advance that kingdom and to bring glory to the One who saves him. And so with that in mind, he can face the future with great peace, with great thanksgiving, and most of all, with great joy. As he begins now to draw his letter to a close, Paul once again thanks his dear friends in Philippi for their sacrificial gift. Like a breath of fresh air, they came to him at just the right time. We donít know for sure how much this financial gift was, but it truly blessed Paul. Perhaps he was cold in that dark and damp cell and needed an extra coat or blanket. Maybe his daily food was running out and he needed something else to eat. Whatever it was, he recognizes the gift and their sacrificial offerings. We find these words in the fourth chapter beginning with verse 10: ďI rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me the strength.Ē This humble servant of the Lord has learned to be content in any and every situation. He can be content with plenty. He can be content with very little. No matter what happens, whether he is a free man or in prison, he is content because he knows that through other people God is providing for him. Yes, God has blessed him through all these years of missionary work, and Paul is not about to give up on God now. He knows that God will not give up on him, and God will continue to take care of his needs, whatever they might be. Thatís why he writes there in verse 13, ďI can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.Ē Yes, itís Godís strength by which Paul lives. Itís not through his own strength and his own effort, but he depends upon the Lord. He puts his trust in Him, and he knows without a doubt that everything is going to be okay. That one passage, chapter 4 and verse 13, is one of the most memorized and often quoted passages of Scripture in all of the Bible. Oh, even in the midst of his difficult circumstances, Paul finds joy in Jesus, and Paul wants us to find the very same thing. No matter what else happened, God would provide for and take care of the needs of these Philippian Christians. He reminds them that again in chapter 4 and verse 19. Whatever they were lacking, the Lord would supply it. He would take care of their needs, just as He had taken care of his needs. One thing they were to do was to live with great joy. Likewise, God meets our needs today. There is no need to be worried about or concerned about what is going on around us. We know that He is in control and He will provide, just like He always has. When we understand that, we too can live with great amounts of joy. It is amazing to me how the Apostle Paul can write these words in the midst of some very difficult circumstances, and yet he does so with a heart full of joy. He has learned that joy comes from within instead of from without. He knows that the source of his joy is in his daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul writes this heartfelt letter, he reminds the Philippians, as he reminds us today, of something that is really important, that through Jesus Christ our needs are met and we can live without any anxiety or worry. As we do, we keep pressing ahead to the goal that lies before us. Oh, it is true we live in challenging times, and yet this letter encourages us to keep living for Jesus with great amounts of joy. When there seems to be no hope, when life does not make much sense and when the injustices of this world are great, there is always joy and peace to be found in Jesus Christ. There are many things we can learn from Paulís letter called Philippians, but here is the one thing I hope we learn and apply to our lives perhaps more than all of the others. No matter how difficult life becomes, find joy in the midst of your circumstances in a daily walk with Jesus Christ. My prayer and my encouragement for you today is that you will do just that, spend time reading and studying the letter of Philippians and allow it to bless your life as you walk with the One who saves you and as you find great joy in that relationship.
Written from a prison cell in Rome, the letter of Philippians is about joy. Not knowing if he will live or die, Paul writes to some of his closest friends and encourages them to live a life of joy, just like he is doing. Paul inspires us to realize that no matter what opposition we face or troubled relationship we experience, we are to focus on the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as our Savior. As we deal with challenging situations or difficult people, Paul wants us to keep pressing ahead to the prize that is before us. We are to be thankful for the blessings of good friends and the opportunity to share life with them. Yes, it makes no difference what each day holds. We are to allow Godís peace and salvation to inspire us to live a life of joy.
Thank you for taking time to view another message from "Key to the Kingdom." I do hope you found the study of Philippians spiritually uplifting and beneficial. If you would like to view it again, you can find it on our website, keytothekingdom.com. Finding joy in any and every circumstance of life is a message all of us can use. Other lessons from the Bible can also be found on the website. I invite you to spend some time looking at them or to download a free Bible study. As you do, remember, everything is absolutely free and requires no commitment. If you have not already done so, consider downloading the free "Key to the Kingdom" app onto your smartphone, or find us on Rokuģ Television. Another way to access our ministry is through Facebook. Type in "Key to the Kingdom" and you can receive inspirational messages, which are posted every Sunday night. All of these things are our attempts to make messages from Godís Word easily available. I trust you will want to take advantage of these free offers. As we close our time today, let me say again, thank you for being our guest. Please consider tuning in next time as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."