Summary: We must be careful to not allow circumstances to steal from us the joy that Jesus freely gives us.
SERIES: ENJOYING THE JOY OF JESUS
SERMON: CIRCUMSTANCES CAN ROB US OF OUR JOY
READING: PHILIPPIANS 1:3-14
INTRO: We follow Jesus who, in the shadow of Calvary, explained to his followers, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”- John 15:11. This “joy” of which he spoke was not simple “happiness”- the result of a happening; happenstance. Dictionary says, “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being.” This is not a statement that says Jesus went around laughing all the time because life was so grand. We know otherwise, He was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”-Isaiah 53:3. We know that he was hated and sought out for execution by his own people. These are not things that make one happy. But He had joy!
Joy, happiness, gladness, contentment are things we would like to own. So why are they in scarce supply? Why are we not full of joy all the time? We are going to be looking at one answer today from the book of Philippians, a love letter from Paul to the people who had supported him. It tells us:
Four things that can steal away our joy
How Paul did not allow these thieves to change his priorities, and
Four ways for us to combat the joy-thieves.
The amazing thing is that “joy” is referred to 16 times in 4 chapters.
The amusing thing is that Paul had no obvious reason to be joyful!
Paul would probably use better English than this but Tom T. Hall, wrote, “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’. Me and Jesus got it all worked out. Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” Properly understood, that is so true. We need only Jesus to tell us which things can give us joy.
CIRCUMSTANCES CAN BE A THIEF OF OUR JOY. There is an old, old musical called “Oklahoma.” In it Gordon McRae sings, “Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.” It’s not difficult to be happy under those circumstances.
But when the clouds roll in….
Happiness may be easily found in good circumstances, but absolutely nothing had gone right for the author of our reading today since he gave his life to Jesus…if one views this through worldly spectacles. We are given an early clue to the quality of life Paul can look forward to in Acts 9:15 and 16. On the occasion of Paul’s conversion, Ananias was chosen to go visit him. He had a talk to God in an attempt to convince Him of the irrationality, hopelessness and danger in God’s plan. The next verse says, “ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’”- Paul’s ministry would major in personal suffering for Jesus. From that day forward this spiritual giant of an ambassador for Jesus would be beaten, left for dead, tricked, put in chains, forbidden to speak God’s word, bear the burden of concern for bodies of believers, and would eventually be executed while incarcerated.
With that job description who would take it on? Only one who has the joy of Jesus.
This shouts to us that circumstances need not be a thief of our joy in Jesus.
REVISITING THE DEFINITIONS Let’s remind ourselves one more time that joy is different from happiness.
"A Life of intimacy with God is Characterized by Joy." Oswald Chambers
"Happiness is a consequence of good things happening around us; it is superficial. But Joy comes from inside, from knowing that God has not forsaken us and that He does indeed love us. That Joy can come from no one but the Holy Spirit." Ruth Senter
“Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again...I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is." C.S. Lewis
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME As the apostle to the Gentiles pens a love letter to this church he includes, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”- 1:12, and “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”- 1:19