Summary: This is the final lesson in this series. It shows the opportunity we have to express joy, gratitude and God's glory through prayer.
Champion golfer, Bobby Jones once said, "Have you ever noticed how much golfers practice? Smart businessmen have been quick to take advantage of that, developing public driving ranges where we can practice driving the ball, & putting greens where we can practice our putting."
"But why hasn't someone developed public sand traps? Sand traps are an inevitable part of the game of golf, & every golfer ought to practice ahead of time how to get out of trouble."
That's good advice for all of us. Even as we talk about being thankful for the blessings that come our way, we must admit that problems & troubles also come our way.
It was Norman Vincent Peale who said, "Problems are a part of life. All of us are going to have problems right up to the moment we die. And some of you are going to have problems after you die."
So it only makes sense, if we're going to find ourselves in sand traps, that we learn how to get out of them. The letter to the Philippians, written by the apostle Paul, can help us do just that.
2. Paul wanted to be like Jesus in every possible way. That included going before Roman officials and even giving his life for the gospel.
3. Paul writes this letter while imprisoned in Rome under what we would call "house arrest." Today, courts enforce "house arrest" by attaching electronic monitors on the wrist or ankle of prisoners. But back then, they simply chained the prisoner to Roman soldiers 24 hours a day. Now that was usually better than being in a dungeon, but "house arrest" was not something to desire. Yet, Paul's letter is filled with thanksgiving.
4. Notice Opportunities in prayer from Philippians 1:3-11
I. Prayer is an Opportunity to Express Joy -- vv. 3; 4.6
A famous motivational speaker was once asked about his most difficult speech. He answered, "Well, it was when I was asked to speak at a national convention of undertakers. My topic was to explain to them how to look sad during a $10,000 funeral." You see, when there is joy inside, it's awfully hard to keep it from showing.
A. Joy is a Hallmark Quality of Disciples of Jesus
1. The Make Up of the Kingdom -- Romans 14.17-19
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.
2. The Kingdom is within you (Luke 17.21)
B. Joy is a Matter of Perspective -- James 1.2-4
1. Joy in Samaria with the signs and preaching of the gospel -- Acts 8.8 there was much joy in that city. (Good times)
2. Persecution in Jerusalem (Gamaliel's Advice) -- Acts 5.41-42 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Not so good times)
C. Our Joy is Expected by God
1. Rejoice always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Have you heard about the man who smelled good no matter where he was or what he was doing? His skin and clothing and very being seemed to exude a pleasant fragrance. He worked in a perfume factory and breathed its aromas every day. They filtered into his clothing, penetrated his skin, and even filled his lungs. He became a walking perfumery.
That's the way we should be as Christians. The Bible says, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15). We exude the aroma of joy, for in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.).
2. You might have heard that "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) is the shortest verse in the Bible, but that's only true in the English translation. In the original New Testament Greek, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is shorter--"Rejoice always." The two verses are related. Because Jesus wept, we can rejoice. He doesn't want us to live in perpetual discouragement, sadness, or doubt. The joy of the Lord is the strength of our days (Nehemiah 8:10). This is a season to rejoice.
II. Prayer is an Opportunity to Express Gratitude -- v.3; 7-8
The story is told of 2 old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, "What has the world done to you, my old friend?" The sad fellow said, "Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me $40,000.