Summary: Sermon #1 in a 4 sermon series on Philippians. This message from chapter 1 deals with the joy we can have "no matter what".
JOY No Matter What
CHCC: November 2, 2008
This week we’re starting a new series in our sermons and Pueblo groups. I’m pretty enthused about it --- because we’re going to study a book of the Bible that is often called the LETTER OF JOY. Paul uses the word JOY 20 times in the short little book of Philippians.
What makes that really impressive is that Paul wrote the letter from a prison cell. He was not only in prison; he was literally chained to a guard at all times. Not only that. Paul lived under the rule of the infamous Nero --- who was Emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68.
If you’ve ever heard of Nero, you’ve probably heard that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” In AD64, a raging fire consumed 10 of the 14 regions of the city of Rome. Rumors that the fire was purposefully set raged as quickly as the fire spread. When the city saw Nero’s plans for rebuilding they really got suspicious --- because a BIG part of the burned center of Rome was going to become his new … and greatly expanded … Palace.
With his popularity plummeting, Nero realized he needed to blame someone for the disaster … and he had a group ready at hand. Christians were already under scrutiny because they refused to worship the emperor. Besides that, Nero had several leaders … including the apostle Paul … already under arrest. Here’s what one historian wrote about the events that followed:
"The punishment of the Christians was planned with the utmost precision and cruelty, for the entertainment of the populace. The venue was Nero’s circus near the Mons Vaticanus. Christians were exposed to wild animals and were set ablaze, smeared with pitch, to illuminate the night. The executions were so grisly that even the populace displayed sympathy for the victims. Separately, Peter was crucified upside down on the Vatican hill and Paul was beheaded along the Via Ostiensis." (Herbert W. Benario Emory University)
Most Bible commentators believe that Paul’s letter to the Philippians was one of the last letters he wrote before he was beheaded by Nero. You wouldn’t expect such a letter to be full of JOY. But Paul had learned the secret of having JOY no matter what.
Paul sets the tone of the letter early on by saying: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." Philippians 1:3-4
Toward the end of the chapter, Paul explains one reason he is full of JOY when he says: "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel." Philippians 1:27
Again and again in this letter, Paul talks about the JOY that comes from knowing that we never have to stand alone. We are contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
1. You never stand alone
Isn’t that why we’re here today? It gives us encouragement just to get together. We are a family of faith, and that familial tie is as strong as any blood ties we may have with natural relatives. We don’t just call each other “brother or sister” … we actually ARE sisters and brothers in Christ. And we are connected with family all over the world because we are together in Christ.
In verse 7 Paul said: "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." Philippians 1:7
In verse 14 he says, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Philippians 1:14 Paul knew how to look at the up-side, even from a Prison cell.
Off and on through the years, I’ve had some correspondence with guys who were in Prison. I didn’t always know how they learned about me, but it was interesting to hear from them and to hear their stories. Some had special needs, some wrote complaining letters, some were more up-beat. Most of those had found Christ while in Prison … and some of them are dedicated Christians now.
It makes me think of a quote I heard:
The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour. —Unknown (or, in Paul’s case, even when in Prison.)
Most of us have never literally been in a Prison, but EVERYONE has times when we feel trapped. Our circumstances can FEEL just like being in “chains.” It may be a sickness … or a stressful job … or a time of job-less-ness … or caring for an invalid. No matter what circumstances come up in your life, you can take JOY in knowing that you never have to go through it ALONE. Other Believers will come along side.