Summary: What will it take to liberate us from our prisons and lead us into circumstances where we experience unending joy?

Completion Of a Good Work – Philippians 1: 3 - 11

Intro: Michaelangelo Buonoarti was one of the world’s most talented sculptor. Many have enjoyed his work in pictures or photos. Others of us have seen the real thing. There is a set of 4 sculptures Michaelangelo done around 1453 that some claim were never finished. The were commissioned for the tomb of Pope Julius but never installed there. They have been called collectively “The Slaves.” Michaelangelo referred to them as “The Prisoners.” They are four figures of men who appear to be struggling to be free from the stone which imprisons them. The pictures I’ve seen are mesmerizing, fascinating. I think they touch a place in humanity where we long to be free from the forces that hold us as prisoners in our own lives. Looking at the statues, you become aware that it would take the hands of a master sculptor to free the images from their stone prisons. --- What would it take to liberate us from our prisons and lead us into circumstances where we experience unending joy?

I. During this season we hear the carol, “Joy To The World.” But, does our world have joy? Do you have joy in your life?

A. What is this elusive thing we call joy? It’s not giddiness or happiness. Rather, joy is a sense of contentment in spite of what the circumstances seem to demand.

B. Paul understood joy. In Verse 4 he wrote, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison and still he “prays with joy.” In this letter alone Paul uses the word JOY more than anywhere else. He uses the word to describe what he is experiencing and as a command to those to whom he writes.

C. Joy is not gratification but a deep sense of something more. Joy allows us to see beyond any particular event to the sovereign Lord who stands above all events and ultimately has control over them. Joy that comes from the Lord is a joy fueled by being in the right relationship with god through Christ Jesus. It comes because we are living the life Christ intends us to live. Do you have joy that sets you free? Often when someone is living a joyless life it’s because they are centered on themselves, their wants, their needs, their wishes.

II. We live in a land and time in which joy is fleeting and nearly non-existent. All our technology and intelligence have not brought us joy. We have metal detectors in our schools, security guards in our stores, and we sit isolated in our homes guarded by security systems, heavily bolted doors and closed and locked windows longing to have joy, happiness and freedom.

A. In Verse 9 Paul writes to the church in Philippi and to us, So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of . . .”

B. For Paul has discovered that true joy is gained when we participate in loving others. Not a vague, open-ended, no restriction on it type of love; but, love that is mature, love that comes from Jesus, love that is full of practical knowledge. --- We honestly believe if we can just find the right person or live in the right neighborhood or drive the right car we will be loved and find joy and happiness. We are “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

C. The one thing for which our world hungers and longs is believers who will practice what is preached. Somewhere along the line, today’s Christians need to believe and act like 1st century Christians. We know how to bring others to Christ. We know it’s the right thing to do. The problem is 99% of us never bring the joy of serving the Lord to those beyond the walls of this building because it is safer to stay here. I’d rather be miserable or keep what little joy I have for myself.

III. Paul was filled with great joy because he knew his friends in Philippi not only knew the joy of the Lord; but shared it as well. Therefore, their joy would increase. Three thoughts in this Philippians 1: 3 – 11 describe the true Christian fellowship in which Paul finds joy.

A. Verses 3 “I thank God every time I remember you.” I think it truly remarkable that even in prison, Paul is thinking of others. As he awaits his trial, he thinks more of the Philippians than his own circumstances and that brings him great joy.

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