Sunday Sermon: ‘Don’t Let Life Steal Your Joy’

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Today we start a brand-new study of the book of Philippians which will take us through the rest of the summer. We have given the title ‘Finding the Good Life’to this study because we believe that’s what Paul is trying to teach us. Everyone is searching for ‘the Good Life’and Paul is going to tell us how to find it, so you will not want to miss this study. As you can see from the message slide, this series is going to take us through an entire book of Philippians. I’m not for sure how familiar you are with the book of Philippians, but it’s a great book and probably one of my most favorites. As a matter of fact, many years ago, when I first started teaching a Sunday School class in the church I grew up in, the book of Philippians was the first book I taught. It’s a great book and you’re going to get a lot out of it. Along the way you’re going to hear many of the more famous verses you’ve heard over the years. What’s really neat is that you’re going to actually hear them in the context of when Paul said them. So, let’s get started.

When you hear the term ‘the good life’, what comes into your mind? What does that term mean to you? If you watch TV commercials or other forms of advertisement, you know that the good life is often portrayed as having something to do with alcohol, or expensive toys, or traveling the world to exotic places around the world. Put a Mastercard in your wallet and you’ll be able to go anywhere in the world you want to go and enjoy the good life. Own a certain car, drive certain kind of car tires, wear certain kind of clothes, carry a certain kind of handbag, have certain kind of friends, and making it to the top in your career, and you’ll enjoy the good life. But is that the good life? Is the good life clothes, food, or places to travel? Is that having the good life?

A couple of weeks ago, something startling thing happened that shook even Hollywood. A beautiful young woman who was a world-famous fashion designer took her own life. She could have anything she wanted, but apparently there was still something missing that drove her into deep depression. Then, just a few days later, a world-famous chef took his life also. Both of these individuals could have gone anywhere in the world they wanted to go, wear any kind of clothes they wanted to wear, eat any kind of food they wanted to eat, stay in any kind of hotel or resort they wanted to stay, they could have done anything they wanted to do, yet, there was still something missing inside of them. But, it’s not just these two individuals who were empty and searching. There are also rock stars and professional athletes and perhaps the most notable of all, a famous comedian who also ended their lives.

I don’t enjoy reminding us of their sadness, but I want to point out that apparently ‘things’don’t bring us the good life. Things don’t bring us real happiness. So, what does? Over the next several weeks we’re going to carefully study a man, who although he was suffering immensely, was full of joy. Even though Paul was in prison and about to face death, he was still rejoicing. We’re going to learn from him what the good life really is and how each of us can experience it.

Look once again at what Jesus said: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and life more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Who is the thief? It’s Satan and according to Jesus, his intent is to steal your joy. He wants to destroy you. He wants to rob you of the good life. But on the other hand, notice what Jesus wants to give you. Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and life more abundantly.”The term ‘life’ refers to the eternal life that Jesus desires to give us. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus died on the cross in our place so that we can be forgiven of all our sins and have an eternal home in heaven. But there’s more. Jesus said that He came to give us life, and life more abundantly. What does that term mean? It means a life that is rich and satisfying and that has real purpose. Jesus wants to give us joy from the inside out, versus the outside in.

Turn with me to the book of Philippians.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s begin with a brief introduction of who Paul was and why he was writing to the Philippians.

I. WHO WAS PAUL?

As many of you know, Paul was a major leader in the early days of the church. At first, Paul was opposed to Christianity and did all he could to destroy it. But then he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and it completely changed his life. Not only did Paul become a Christian, he became what many consider the greatest Christian who ever lived. It seemed that whatever Paul did, he did it 110% and that applied to his Christianity as well.

Paul was called an ‘apostle’ which means someone sent out on a special mission. Paul’s mission was to tell as many people as he could about Jesus Christ and why He died on the cross. “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified …”Why was Paul so focused on the crucifixion of Jesus? “Christ died for our sins”Paul wrote. Paul knew that the first step to experiencing the good life is putting your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Therefore, Paul could not keep silent about Jesus. He was driving to go and tell as many people as possible.

In order to tell people, Paul went on what we might call ‘missionary journeys.’ Paul’s journeys took him thousands of miles to places like Asia Minor which is modern day Turkey, Greece, and even to Rome. On one journey, Paul came to a city called Philippi and there he preached the gospel and led several people to the Lord. He also established a church there, which we now call the Philippians, and who became the recipient of this letter.

II. WHAT WAS PAUL’S PURPOSE FOR WRITING THEM THIS LETTER?

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

A. A THANK YOU LETTER

First of all we see that the book of Philippians was a ‘thank you’ letter. Look again at our text –

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…

The word ‘fellowship’ means partnership. The believers at Philippi had been in partnership with Paul in spreading the gospel. How had they been his partners in spreading the gospel? Look over at chapter 4 –

Philippians 4:15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

After Paul left Philippi, he traveled to other cities. One city was called Thessalonica. While in Thessalonica, the new Christians in Philippi sent money and other supplies to Paul in order to support him in his ministry. Apparently, they did this more than once. When Paul arrived in Corinth, they did it again. No doubt they did it other times that we don’t know about. The Philippians were a giving people.

Notice also that Paul said that the Philippians were the only churchto support him in his effort to spread the gospel. When I read that, I wondered if any other church ever supported Paul. Were all the other churches ‘takers’ but not ‘givers?’ This we do know, the Philippians did a lot for Paul and he’s writing them a letter to say thank you.

While in prison at Rome, a young man by the name of Epaphroditus, who was probably a member of the church at Philippi and perhaps someone that Paul himself had led to the Lord, arrived with a care package. It’s not hard to imagine how much this must have pleased Paul and encouraged him. Look at what Paul wrote about the arrival of Epaphroditus.

Philippians 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an fragrance of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.

Paul said that their love gift was like a sweet-smelling sacrifice presented before the Lord. Indeed, it was a sacrifice because the Bible says that the churches of Macedonia were some of the poorest churches of that time. For them to repeatedly send aid to Paul was huge.

B. A LETTER EXPRESSING PAUL’S JOY AND GLADNESS

Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…

In this letter, Paul is going to use the words ‘joy’ or ‘rejoicing’ a lot. Some say as much as fifteen or sixteen times. That’s a lot when you consider that this letter is only four chapters long. If I wrote a letter to you and used one word sixteen times, you’d think that I was trying to get a particular message across to you and that’s exactly what Paul was doing. Joy and rejoicing is a major theme in this letter and that’s why we say that this is a book in the Bible that teaches us how to find the good life.

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord…

Philippians 4:1 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

For a man, who was in prison and about to face death, to refer to joy that many times, he must have known something that we all need to learn.

C. A LETTER GIVING GUIDANCE

There was a third reason Paul was writing this letter. Although the Philippian church was a great church and without any major problems, there still seemed to be some issues in their church that had the potential of stealing their joy if they were not careful, and that’s one of the reasons Paul is writing them this letter. Strangely enough, resolving their problems and experiencing the good life are going to go hand-in-hand.

III. WHAT WAS PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE PHILIPPIANS?

In his opening, Paul speaks of a special prayer that he is praying for his dear friends at Philippi. Look at what it says:

Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

There was probably several months between the time Epaphroditus first arrived and when he left to return back to Philippi. During that time, Epaphroditus shared with Paul both the good things and even some not-so-good things that were happening in the church at Philippi. Apparently, there was some sort of division stirring in their church. As a matter of fact, a little later in the letter, two individuals are called by name. What their disagreement was we’re not told, but it seems that maybe it had to do with some sort of power struggle. Apparently, both of these ladies were prominent members and probably some sort of leaders and maybe they were on opposite sides with each other on some issue and to make matters worse, they were each building a team. Another major theme we’re going to see in the book of Philippians is the importance of Christ-like humility.

So, what did Paul pray for when he prayed for the Philippians?

A. PAUL PRAYED THAT THEIR LOVE WOULD CONTINUE TO FLOURISH

Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more…

Here is the first step to experiencing the good life. The good life that is from God contains an abundance of Christlike love. Paul said in another letter, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)        

It seems to me that probably Paul was using some psychology here. Although he is genuinely thankful for their love and support, he is also using what they have already done as a way to steer them in what they should continue to do. We used to try to do that when we were raising our girls. If we saw them doing something that was Christlike, we would praise them a lot as a way of encouraging them to do it even more. Everyone wants to be successful and why not use past successes as a way of promoting future successes?

Paul is saying to them, “You have been on the right track. God has used you mightily. Don’t stop. don’t get sidetracked. Keep going!”Literally his words mean, “May your love continue to overflow.” Some have said that it’s like a bucket sitting under a spicket that is filled with water, yet the spicket isn’t turned off. The water keeps pouring into the bucket and because the bucket is already full, the overflow splashes on to everything around it.

As I read that I thought, “The bucket first itself had to be full in order for it to be able to splash out onto other things.” Brethren, our bucket has to be first full of the love of God before we have something to splash out onto others. If our bucket is dry and empty, we’re not going to have much to give. We first have to cultivate our personal relationship with the Lord so that we will have something rich to share with others. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that ministry without love is cold and useless. Paul first praises them for their love and then he prays that their love will continue to grow and overflow.

B. PAUL PRAYED THAT THEIR LOVE WOULD NOT BE FOOLISH 

Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ… 

We live in a day of great confusion. We live in a time when many would tell us that we should accept everything. The message we hear today is – “If you love people, you will let them live as they please.” 

But let’s suppose your child wants to play in the middle of a busy street. If you love them, will you let them do as they please? Will you let that child stay there if you know they are in danger? You won’t. You will do everything you can to get them out of the street; not because you don’t love them, but because you do love them.

Paul prayed that the Philippians’ love would continue to flourish, but also, that it would be based upon God’s knowledge and with wise discernment.

C. PAUL PRAYED THAT THEIR LOVE WOULD BE FILLED WITH THE FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Philippians 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Notice what happens when we learn to live in the abundant life Jesus desires to give us:

We are filled with the fruits of righteousness 

We bring glory and praise to God

 The New Living Translation says all of this better than I ever could, so therefore I’m going to close my message today by having us read together these verses from that translation.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NLT)

Application:

Jesus desires for each of us to experience the good life. Notice once again what He said –

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Satan will do everything he can to keep us from enjoying the good life. He will do everything he can to keep us from coming to Christ and receiving His forgiveness. Satan will do everything he can to keep us in the bondage of our sins.

Perhaps God has been speaking to you about your need for salvation. Today is a good day for you to break that grip Satan has had on you. Today is a good day for you to turn to Christ and receive God’s forgiveness.

Christian, are you living in the victory that is already yours? Are you enjoying the good life? Is your bucket full of God’s love and splashing out onto the world around you? If not, today is a good day for you to turn your life around. Today is a good day for you to begin experiencing the abundance of God’s good life.

God bless you my brethren.

 

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