Summary: True joy does not come from pleasing ourselves, but from pleasing God and from serving others.
Sunday, February 3, 2002
There are times when we make Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome seem like it was a rather comfortable situation. He lived in his own home. He could have visitors whenever he chose. We even seem to take his eventual release as a foregone conclusion.
This morning I want you to get a feel for just how dicey Paul’s circumstances actually were. We know that Paul was in prison in Rome around 60 AD. We also know that it took some two years before Paul got his hearing before the emperor. Why did it take so long?
Nero had come to the throne at the age of 17 in 54 AD. He reached the throne when his mother Agrippina poisoned fed his stepfather Claudius some poisoned mushrooms. Having paved the way for her son to reach the throne Agrippina felt she had a right to a little more status than just mother of the emperor. She kind of liked the idea of co-emperor with her son. Not at first, Nero was too busy with his chariot races to be worried about mom’s ambitions, but eventually he began to realize that something had to be done about mom. So following her own example Nero decided to get rid of mummy dearest. First, he tried the old collapsible ceiling trick. He arranged for heavy concrete slabs to be placed over the ceiling of her bedchamber. However, mom got wind of the plot and spent the night in the closet. Nero then had mom invited to a special dinner of reconciliation at his villa across the bay. On the way home, Nero sends her home on his own special yacht, the one with the special trapdoor built into the bottom. Ah but that plot fails because the door hinges on the wrong side. When the conspirators realize the failure they try to capsize it by running back and forth. Mom jumps overboard and swims the four miles home. Finally, Nero tells his underlings to finish the job, so they break down her door and murder her.
Why is this significant? This is the exact time Paul is sitting waiting to be tried before this lunatic.
What kind of perspective does the apostle have at such a moment? This morning I think it will be valuable to look into the heart of the apostle and see what we can see there as he faces uncertain circumstances.
1. The first thing we see revealed is a whole-hearted commitment to please God. 1:18b-21
An eye opening perspective on the answer to their prayer - we immediately think that they were praying that Paul would be delivered from prison - therefore the deliverance he speaks of must reflect his confidence in his soon release
but -- verse 20
Paul knows that whether he lives or dies he will be delivered.
Wow! Either I will be released from prison or delivered by death into the presence of God.
What is his one goal in the middle of all of this trouble - that Jesus be exalted through him either by his life or by his death.
He lived to please God! He was ready to accept anything in his life as long is accomplished the purpose of bringing glory to God.
2. The second thing we see is a wholehearted commitment to serve the Philippians. 1:22-26
Here are my two choices - to die and be with Christ - or to live and be with you.
Guess what - there is no choice - to die is better by far.
However, Paul is willing to set aside his personal best for the advantage of the Philippians.
I remember Phil Piruzza mentioning to me after we looked at the first passage in Philippians how important he felt Paul’s description of himself in verse one was. Servants of Christ Jesus.
What a different attitude than our day and age.
An old song "You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself"
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--
We constantly look for ways to be happy. We are told that the root of happiness lies in pleasing ourselves. Yet we have a thoroughly unhappy age.
Paul show us by example how to have true joy. It lies not in pleasing ourselves. It only lies in seeking first and foremost to please God and secondly in serving others.
WWJD What would Jesus Do?
Instead let’s ask "What would make Jesus Happy?"