Summary: What is real joy and how to do you find it? Paul the Apostle begins teaching us by showing joy is found by partnering with others’ lives and sharing the gospel.
There’s a well known saying out there: "what’s in it for me?" In broadcasting we would define a story’s newsworthiness by asking "why should I care?" All around us exists a mentality of "me first." And even though when we come to Jesus we receive something invaluable as a person - the salvation of our souls.
But past that it seems Jesus sets out to break the "me" attitude in us and focus our selves outward - to the lost, and to those around us in need of encouragement. That’s what Philippians is about - especially here in Chapter 1 but throughout the book as well.
You’ve heard that Philippians is a book of joy - and it is - the word "joy" appears many times in this book and in fact the last chapter is devoted to a practical guide to joyful living. But what might surprise you is how much joy can be had by looking outward instead of focusing inward.
Before we get into chapter 1 - a little bit of background:
Philippi is in Macedonia (modern Greece), on the northern shore of the Aegean Sea.
Written from prison in Rome in AD 61
Philippians is one of the "prison epistles" (Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon)
Paul had visited Philippi about 10 years earlier
The church Paul founded here was the first in Europe
Acts 16:9-40 tells us how the church started (the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from going elsewhere)
Paul went after a vision of a man - but found no synagogue, only a group of women (signifying that there were few Jews in the city) so right from the start this was a gentile church.
The first two converts: Lydia, a businesswoman, and a Roman jailer
Philippi isn’t a church in crisis - but there are seeds of problems that need to be addressed (divisive rivalry, legalists, extremists who live without law or personal discipline)
Message in Philippians: joy, humility, self-sacrifice, unity, and Christian living.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
(vs 3) I thank God when I remember all the good things He’s done in your lives - that should be our concentration - not the things we don’t have, or aren’t doing, but the fellowship we do have!
(vs 4) The work God is doing in you is good and it should bring us joy to see others doing well in the Lord
(vs 5) We are partners in the gospel - joining together with those who have gone before us and led us to the Lord and helped us grow in Him.
(vs 6) That good work will continue - no matter what happens on the outside.
The Greek word "carry it on to completion" has the sense both of continuance and consummation - in other words - God started working with you - but He doesn’t just let go and see where you end up (like a top spinning across a table) - He is constantly working in and for you and will not stop until He has finished and you are like Him. We’ll see that emphasized in chapter 2:
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
(vs 7) You can just feel the mutual admiration going on here - what a wonderful thing to be able to say "I have you in my heart." Actually you could translate it that "you have me in your heart" referring to the Philippians.
(vs 7) Partnering means more than just good feelings - in fact the word "feel" here Paul uses 23 times in this book. It is a word that means to have a special concern about the well being of the other person. Partnering means you have a stake in the outcome - we throw our lot in with each other - that’s why it is so wonderful to see believers growing, changing, stretching - undergoing struggle and seeing the Lord be victorious - not in circumstances but in a joyful heart!