Do you ever have the feeling that your life is out of control?? Sometimes it seems that the pace of life is so rapid that it’s hard to even hang on.? Every day blends into another day, and sometimes we want to just scream “Stop!”
It’s not just the speed, it’s also the problems that we face.? Almost every we encounter problems – some small, some big – that sometimes cause us to lose hope.? Just yesterday I got a call from someone in the church who had just experienced an unbelievable tragedy.? Even when life is going well, it’s hard to feel in control.? When something tragic happens, it’s becomes almost impossible to do anything more than survive.? Never mind joy.? For a lot of us, we’ve given up on ever wanting to experience a life of joy.? Sometimes it’s enough just to feel that we can hang on and keep going.
Today, we’re going to start looking at a book in the Bible called Philippians, because it talks about how to live a life of joy no matter what’s going on in your life.? Philippians is actually a personal letter from the apostle Paul to a church that he founded.? Out of all the letters that Paul wrote, this is one of the most personal.? It was actually written while Paul was under house arrest for a period of two years. ?I get a flat tire and I lose my joy.? Paul is imprisoned for two years, and all he can write about is joy.
This letter is going to touch on a lot of issues that we face.? It covers some topics relevant to our church right now, as well as many issues in our personal lives.? The main question we’ll wrestle with is this: how is it possible to sustain joy in the problems and complexity of life?? How can I live a life of joy right here, right now?? Joy is different from happiness.? Joy is better.? Happiness comes and goes; joy can remain.? Happiness depends on what’s taking place around us.? Joy is internal.? You can have joy no matter what’s going on in life.? We’re going to begin to discover how we can live a joyful life even when our circumstances are against us.
Where Joy Begins
If you have a Bible with you, let’s look at Philippians 1.
One of the keys to a joyful life: RELATIONSHIPS
We’ve all had people who have walked with us at a time of need.? Personal examples.
The Philippians & Paul had developed a deep relationship through riots, beatings, jail, and hardship (Acts 16, Philippians 4:10-19).
10How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me… (Philippians 4:10)
The warmth of this relationship is evident in this letter.? Paul and the Philippians had obviously developed a relationship that sustained them, even through adversity.
3Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy…7It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart…8God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
The problem today:? Over time, that which was central to the early church – relationships – has become secondary.? Our emphasis on other things, even good things, has led us to de-emphasize the importance of relationships.
That’s what church is about: not buildings, budgets, committees, programs, sitting in rows, but in eating together, serving together
Not an event or a program, but a relationship built over time
Church can be about more than relationships, but it can’t be or do anything unless relationships are at its core.
The time will come that we will need these relationships to sustain us.
We need these relationships to encourage us, hold us accountable.
There’s a longing in our hearts to belong to this kind of community.
How do we develop that kind of relationship??
1. Partner together
3Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4I always pray for you, and I make my requests with a heart full of joy 5because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.
Partner = a two-sided relationship – includes not only faith, but more
Working together, financial support, hospitality, service
This is why it’s important to serve God – not just for your benefit, not just for the ministry you will accomplish, but also for the relationships you will build.
Illustration: Foodfest – workers got to know more people in one night than they had in a couple years of attending
How to partner with others: work together, provide practical help, financial support, prayer, hospitality.? The result, the byproduct: strong, abiding relationships
2. Suffer together
7It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart. We have shared together the blessings of God, both when I was in prison and when I was out, defending the truth and telling others the Good News. 8God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
Had become partners not only in working together, but also shared his suffering
When your association with someone costs you something, then you have a genuine relationship.
Was dangerous to associate with Paul.
They treated his misfortunes as their own.
When trouble hits, some friends go into hiding.? Some take on your troubles as their own.? We need people who will walk with us no matter what we go through.
Personal illustration: leadership crisis; friends who cleared the calendar, could call on day or night
Need to say, need to hear, “I am committed to you, no matter what”
9I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. 10For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until Christ returns. 11May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Paul’s prayer for these people he loved was essentially that they would love even more
Love never reaches the saturation point.? We never get to the place of “Enough love already!”
What happens when we commit to praying for others, specifically and purposefully: God not only honors those prayers, but he changes our hearts so that we love others even more.? That’s why it’s good to pray for our enemies.
This doesn’t require a program. It requires two things:
A change of attitude
Redefine the checklist of what church is – attend service, financially support
Church isn’t essentially about programs, budgets, services.? It’s ultimately about two relationships: with God, through his Son the Lord Jesus, and with others.
A specific action
Invite somebody to your house
Meet somebody at work for lunch
Join a couple of others who get t ogether
Get involved in a ministry
Take a risk – trial and error
25And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)
He’s not talking about church services.? He’s talking about community, relationships, eating together, getting together in houses.? Not encouragement and warning from the pulpit, but from person to person
Need support of the community – Encouragement (“I’m with you”) and warning (“I won’t let you get too far off course.)
We want this – to have joy, to have these sort of relationships.
Help us to take one of the action steps
May we be a church known by its love.