10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
—Philippians 4:10-13, NLT
God will give us what we want. If we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will get righteousness. But if we want someone else, He will let us pursue it, find it, and become fully consumed with it. That thing will leave us empty in the end. It will leave us anxious.
“Anxiety … is fear and worry about what the future holds … it is being stricken by the unavoidable and the uncontrollable.”
“… Being the captain of your own ship and the master of your destiny means you are going to sail you ship through the waters of anxiety.”
“If you want to be conformed to the image of Christ, you will be. And if you don’t, you won’t.”
—Pastor Jon Furman, “Joy That Overcomes” (series: True Joy, part 10, on Philippians 4:2-9)
2 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. 3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
—Philippians 4:2-9, NLT
This Sunday we begin a journey as a church through Paul’s epistle (letter) to the Philippians. We’re calling it “True Joy,” for in Christ we find this true joy that will never fade. No matter our circumstances, we can stand in joy and embrace reality head-on. In Jesus we see the perfect Example and goal, and in Paul we see another one who lived in this joy. This joy becomes louder than his suffering.
The Apostle Paul wrote this God-inspired letter sometime around AD 60 from a prison cell (or house arrest) in Rome. He wrote to this faithful church in Philippi, because he loved them, and primarily as a thank you for their sending one of their best to his side, with a personal gift. He met them about a decade earlier (see Acts 16:14-40), and they received the Good News of Jesus as from God. In this letter, which is a short 104 verses, he outlines what the Christian life shall look like, and God’s plan for true community built around Jesus. There’s much in there about happiness, humility, holiness, and contentment. Sounds like a letter we all need to read. (Even memorize. Join me in memorizing it together between now and Easter Sunday.)
We learn in this letter some key things, which I’ll quickly summarize. But first, they all tie to the greatest event in history, which is actually a series of events: the Gospel. Jesus came, God as a Man, lived a sinless life, died the death of a crucified criminal, took on the wrath of God, and rose from the dead. These are crazy events, yet they really happened. This changes everything.
We learn in Philippians three simple things about what Jesus has done to Paul. Even from a prison cell this man is:
- really happy
- really humble, and
- really driven
(The Gospel is why Paul is happy, humble, and driven. He’s met Jesus and he’s now a new man being made new every day.)
So he writes in this happiness — a true and abiding joy — to a church that was doing many things right. Continue reading