Summary: Part 10 of study of Philippians


Bible-Teaching Ministry of


Thomasville, NC

Dr. Russell Brownworth, Pastor

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Phil 4:23 (NIV)

All throughout this letter to the Philippian church Paul’s theme has been joy. Indeed, rejoicing was his life.

This week as I stood with the family of a 22 year-old boy, looking into the casket, it was hard to imagine joy. His mother and Dad shared with me their son’s great plans for the future -- Master’s degree, advancement, family, and his love for the Lord -- it was hard to imagine joy. They told me how Ricky worked hard every day, never late; how he went to school nights -- and studied. It was hard to conjure-up joy amidst all the stock phrases people nervously utter at such times; words won’t do!

There was lots of hugging and remembering at the funeral home. But I knew that would pass; in the morning there would be a funeral service, and soon we would be at the cemetery, ready to lower a young man into a grave, when he hadn’t even begun to live.

Joy was AWOL! And so I asked the Lord to speak to my heart -- so I could speak to this broken-hearted family. Often I’m a poor listener, so the Lord waited until I walked out on the platform for the service. It was the faces of the young people -- most of whom I’d never seen before. The faces were streaming with tears, disbelief and stunned silence. The faces were grieving "as those with no hope". The Lord then spoke to my heart and the one-sided conversation went thus:

"Russell, among those young

people are those who have

left me out -- a few have never

even heard the gospel. Tell

them I love them."

What a privilege! I not only rediscovered joy -- I was downright happy! This gave meaning to Ricky’s death. His friends were sitting there, wishing for some kind of meaning -- any kind of sense in the madness and chaos of losing their friend. They were facing the reality that if it could happen to Ricky -- 22, strong, bright and alive; well it could happen to anyone! And their attention was focused toward the pulpit -- God’s sacred desk. Awesome responsibility...Incredible joy!

I can imagine more easily now the joy Paul felt, sitting in that Roman jail. He and Ricky had similarities; schooling, energetic and ambitious. In their respective fields they were tops! But Paul had lived his life, accomplishing much for the cause of Christ, and now he was in prison, in danger of being executed as a common criminal --All because of his faithfulness!

And in the middle of all that, Paul would say "joy". I want you to know, beloved, there is only one thing in all of this universe that can make a person joyful in the midst of that kind of circumstance -- It is the grace of Almighty God. Note what grace does:

Grace makes you joyfully grateful.

Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Phil 4:14(NIV)

For others’ participation.

Paul was grateful for the gift brought by Epaphroditus. None of the other churches had shared in the financial needs of his ministry. Paul was joyfully grateful because the Philippian church had a proper sense of why they were giving. It was not just for Paul’s sake -- they knew they were ministering with their gifts. "...we act on behalf of each other, knowing that we are acting for the sake of God." [1]

In the daily arena of life God provides that which we cannot do for ourselves. Margaret Trudeau is the wife of Canada’s Pierre Trudeau. In her autobiography she tells of meeting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth:

"I was wearing a brand-new haute-couture suit and very high-heeled shoes. I was extremely nervous. As I sank into a deep curtsy, it became crystal clear to both of us that I was not going to make it up again. Without altering her expression by as much as a flicker, the queen strengthened her grasp, tensed all the muscles of her right arm, and drew me up to my feet with a grip of iron, smiling steadily all the while." [2]

For God’s purpose.

Paul was working to see the gospel spread -- that was his call from God. The circumstances were not wonderful, but he could see the purpose of God being worked-out, even in his misery. "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." (Php 1.12) Paul could "see". That means he was able to look past the circumstances, and see God’s hand at work.

Often I am "blind" in this area. I sometimes seem to live my life succumbing to the principle that it’s tough to remember you were sent to drain the swamp when you are surrounded by alligators. What I SEE is the circumstance -- great big green, saw-toothed, nasty gators. What I really need to remember is that those circumstances are often what God has to work with, considering the "material" (me) He has to start with.

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