Summary: Humanity has been in search of Joy from time immemmorial. 2000 years ago one declared that he found real joy, sitting and writing from a prison cell. What does Paul’s letter to the Philippians has to teach us
In search of Joy
It was Kin Hubbard who said, "It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed."
Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Therapy (an existential and experiential psychotherapy that focuses on the individual’s experience in the present moment ) offered, "The three basic questions of life are; Who am I, what am I doing here, and who are all these people?"
Modern playwright, Tennessee Williams countered, "My advice to you: Don’t ask, ’Who am I, What am I doing here, Where am I going.’ Just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate”.
One more -- Allan Chalmers also took a stab at happiness, "The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love and something to hope for."
Whatever we do not know about, we surely know that Joy is some thing that everyone looks for. The world has been in search of Joy from time immemorial. Philosophers have tried to define it, Guru’s have tried to give shortcuts to it, and human kind has always been in search of it. We get a bicycle, we want a moped, we get a moped , we want a motor cycle, we get a motor cycle , we want a car etc etc. All our technology and intelligence has failed to quench the thirst for Joy. Owen Hanson contends that we haven’t produced civilization either: "After thousands of years, western civilization has advanced to where we bolt our doors and windows at night while jungle natives sleep in open huts."
Fortunately for us Christians, 2000 years ago, one man declared that he found actual and real joy, and his findings are available to us in the Bible. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of joy and the word joy or rejoice appears repeatedly in this letter. So what , we may ask, the person must have been happy, he must have been blessed by God, and so he wrote about joy and happiness. The truth is he wrote this letter from a jail cell, probably a dungeon, may be chained, not very ideal conditions to write about joy and happiness. But that is what Paul did. He wrote about the Joy of knowing Christ and being with Christ. He wrote to encourage the Christians at Philippi, who were getting discouraged by the news that he is still in prison.
Let’s talk here -- Nobody wants to live like Paul had to live. We all prefer to be pampered. I never had a Christian wedding, but I have heard about the vows that are taken during a Christian marriage? "Do you take her for richer and poorer, in sickness and health, for better, for worse...?" We are supposed to say , "I do." But I am sure there are a number of us there who go by the 50-50 principle , “I will go with the "Richer, health and better” and I am sure that other 50% will be taken care of by my spouse!”
So why do we need to read the letter to the Philippians? The obvious reason is that we are in church, and we profess to be Christians, however that might not be a convincing enough answer to some of us. We need to read this letter to know how we can be joyful despite the uncertainties of this world. Most of us might not be going through the type of struggles that Paul went through, however we need to know how to handle struggles when it comes to us, and it might be a good idea for us to be reminded that struggles will come our way.
So what does the letter to the Philippians tell us about Searching and finding Joy?
Let me pick up just some of the themes today.
1. Our attitudes bring us Joy: Paul had an attitude of contentment. Phil 4:11-12.
You must have heard various sayings about attitude. You would have definitely heard the saying that your attitude determines your altitude. Chuck Swindoll wrote: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past -- we cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude -- I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it."