Summary: A saint is not determined by what they are, but by where they are. If they are in Christ, that is the bottom line. The degree of holiness varies tremendously, but all who are in Christ are equally saints.

Roger Fredricksen, a well-known pastor in my hometown of

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, wrote a book titled God Loves The

Dandelions. In it he tells of how he and his wife Ruth were at a

small cabin on the lake in Minnesota. They had just finished

reading the book of Philippians with all its powerful statements on

being able to do all things through Christ, and to have the peace of

God which passes understanding. Roger cracked opened his boiled

egg to enjoy his breakfast, and it came out watery and raw. He was

irritated, for he has a built in prejudice against half-boiled eggs. He

could not, for the life of him, understand why Ruth could not watch

the time when it comes to boiling eggs.

He had just thanked God for the food, and so he tried to be

consistent and not gripe. He scooped away the uncooked part, and

tried to make the best of it. But he was peeved, and then he was

angered at himself for being so peeved over a bit of egg. He left the

table in silence, and he went off to write about new life in the

church. It was so hypocritical, for here he was all bent out of shape

over an egg. It was so petty it was pathetic. He got up and went

back to the kitchen where he blurted out, "Ruth, the egg got to me.

I don't understand myself. It's a beautiful glorious day, and I'm

hung up on an egg. Will you forgive me?" Together they had a

good laugh, and they went on to have a good day.

A saint is not a person who never gets disturbed over trifles, but

one who, when disturbed, confesses, and seeks for a Christ honoring

solution to his or her weakness. The Christian does not differ from

the world so much in what life brings to them. They differ in what

they bring to life. The Christian faces the same trials and

temptations, and frustrations as anyone else, but they are to deal

with them with a transformed mind, that looks for a way of escape

from evil, and a way to overcome evil with good. The saint is not a

figure with a halo, as portrayed in stained glass windows, but just an

ordinary human being who recognizes he or she is chosen by God to

be different and how they respond to life's pressures. Not all saints

are equal, of course, and some do a much better job than others.

The Philippians, for example, were superior in many ways to

other Christians in the New Testament. Even the bad Christians are

called saints, for all who trust in Jesus as Savior are saints. That is,

they are separated unto God for His purpose. Anything, or anyone,

who is separated unto God's service is called holy. Pots and pans in

the temple were holy because they were separated unto the service of

God. People are holy, not just when they are morally pure, and

without sin, but when they are called to be servants of God. The

saints are servants, and all servants of God are saints. It is not a

state of perfection that makes a saint. It is a position. If a person is

in Christ, that is, they are a part of the body of Christ, they are, by

their very position, automatically saints. They are people separated

from the world to be servants in the kingdom of God.

If you are born in the U.S. you are an American. If you are born in

Mexico, you are a Mexican. If you are born again, you are a saint.

There are only saints in Christ, and all the world is divided into

those who are saints and those who are not. Christians will often say

they are not saints, and they mean by this that they are far from

perfect, but the fact is, if you are in Christ, you are a saint. You

might be a weak saint, or fallen saint, or a baby saint, but you are a

saint. If you are not a saint, you are not a Christian, for all

Christians are saints. A saint is not determined by what they are,

but by where they are. If they are in Christ, that is the bottom line.

The degree of holiness varies tremendously, but all who are in

Christ are equally saints. They may not be equally saintly, but they

are all saints. There is no term for half-saints, or quarter saints, or

any other percentage. A saint is a saint, just as an American is an

American. An American can be one who loves his country, or one

indifferent to his country, and even one who is hostile to his country,

but all are equally Americans. Likewise, all saints are equally saints,

but they may not be equally like Christ at all.

Paul thought of the Philippian saints as the cream of the crop,

and so we can learn much about being a saint by examining what

kind of Christians these Philippians were. The outstanding

characteristic of these people was their joyful spirit. The idea that a

saint is one who is sad and somber has no basis in the New

Testament. The best saints are those who are delighted with life and

the chance to enjoy all that God has made possible. Paul is so full of

joy over these Christians because they add joy to his life and joy to

the world. They are fun people to love and serve because they show

their appreciation with a joyful response.

Paul wanted to go to heaven, but he also wanted to stay and serve

these saints, and he was convinced God would let him stay and he

writes in 1:25-26, "I know that I will remain, and I will continue

with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through

my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on

account me." God left Paul on earth because there was a colony of

heaven already here in the saints of Philippi, and Paul could get a

good taste of the essence of heaven right here by serving and

growing with this joyful body of believers.

The essence of heaven is joy, and the best small group; the best

Sunday School class, and the best church is one where the saints

enjoy one another. This is what makes the Philippian church the

best in the New Testament. Paul urges them on to perfection,

however, so as not to loose what they have, which is a taste of heaven

on earth. He writes in 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or

vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to

the interests of others." The essence of the ideal church is the same

as the essence of the ideal marriage, or any other ideal relationship.

It is, love one another, and give each other the attention and support

they need to be joyful. Where joy reigns, Jesus is Lord, and you

have the very best atmosphere for the growing of saints.

If you pay no attention to the joy of people in your group, church,

or family, you cease to be the servant of Christ in that context.

Where Christ is served there will be joy, and the saints will be at

their best level of sainthood. There is an ancient story about St.

Anthony who lived in the desert alone, and he felt superior to the

rest of Christians. God told him to go to Jerusalem, and he would

find a better saint. When he got there he was told to look up

Cobbler Conrad, and when he did he found him pounding on a pair

of shoes. Anthony asked, "What do you do that so pleases the

Lord?" "I have done very little," he replied. "I just mend shoes,

but I mend each pair as though they belonged to Jesus Himself. I

mend them as I would for Him my Savior. That is all I do."

St. Anthony left Conrad the Cobbler, and he went back to his

desert tent, and there with a more humble spirit he prayed, "Now, I

see, Lord God. I have set up myself as a saint. But Conrad sees

something of Christ in every man, woman, and child. That is true

sainthood. That is true perfection in thy work. I shall leave this

desert place where I have isolated myself from human kind, and I

shall go down into the city slums and serve my fellow man. There

shall I be a saint, indeed, worthy of Thy fellowship." The best saints

are not those in isolation, but those, like the Philippians, who serve

one another, and add joy to the lives of those about them.

Are you a saint who brings joy wherever you go, or one who

brings joy whenever you go? Christians tend toward one or the

other category. Those that others enjoy having around do so

because they add to the joy of being a Christian. Paul could not wait

to get back with the saints of Philippi, for it was pleasant; it was fun,

and it was a joy to be with them. They were saints who knew how to

flavor this fallen world with a taste of heaven's joy. That is why

Paul could write, "I thank God every time I remember you." Paul

had nothing but pleasant memories of being with them. He showers

them with compliments, for he is doing for them what they did for

him. They were such a source of encouragement, and he wants to

be that to them as well. It makes you feel good to know that you

make others feel good, and so Paul tells them forcefully, you make

me feel good.

We all leave an impression in the minds of others. Will people

remember us as one who added joy and pleasure to their lives? Will

they be grateful to God when they remember us? Or will they

remember how hard we were to get along with, and how seldom we

added to their joy? Do we have Pauls in our in our lives who say

thanks to God when they remember us? That is what being a saint

is all about. It is about being a channel through which God can

pour into this world some of the joy of heaven.

This letter of Paul teaches us clearly that the essence of Christian

joy; the essence of optimism; the essence of tasting heaven on earth,

is one word-relationships. Listen to Paul again in 1:4-5, "I always

pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel." In

1:25-26 we read, "I will continue with you for your joy. Your joy

will overflow on account of me." In 2:29 they are urged to,

"welcome Ephaphroditus in joy." In 4:1 he calls them, "His joy and

crown," and he repeats it, "Rejoice in the Lord." All the joy of this

letter revolves around the relationships of himself and Timothy; he

and Ephaphroditus; he and the Philippians, and them and

Ephaphroditus. A saint is one who stands in a special relationship

to God. A joyful saint is one who stands in a special relationship to

the family of God. Relationships are the foundation for most, if not

all, of the values of life such as, family values; social values; national

values, and you name it. In both the secular and sacred realms of

life relationships are the foundation.

It was the worst weather in the entire world, and yet six men

spent 220 days in it in 1989. They made the first unmechanized trek

across Antartica. Will Steger lead this group which had to brave 2

months of storms with temperatures as low as 43 below zero, and

winds up to 90 miles per hour. With only dog sleds and skies they

traveled 3,741 miles. Just 2 days before they finished their journey

32 year old Keizo Funatsu from Japan, the youngest member of the

expedition, went out to feed the huskies. Even though it was just a

few yards away, a blinding snow storm caused him to loose his sense

of direction. He knew he was in trouble, and he took immediate

measures for survival. Here is what he wrote in his journal.

"Once I was in my snow ditch, blowing snow covered me in

5, 10 seconds....I could breathe through a cavity close to my

body but the snow was blowing inside my clothes, and I was

wet. I knew my teammates would be looking for me. I

believed I would be found; it was just a matter of time. I had to believe that....

Very few people have that kind of experience, lost in the blizzard.

I said to myself, 'Settle down, try and enjoy this.' In my snow

ditch I truly felt Antarctica. With the snow and quiet covering

me, I felt like I was in mother's womb. I could hear my heart

beat-bomb, bomb, bomb-like a small baby's. My life seemed

very small compared to nature, to Antarctica."

Two hours later the others realized the others realized he was

missing, and they began a search. After 4 hours they had to stop

because of darkness and the fierceness of the storm. At 4 in the

morning they were up searching again, and at 6 in the morning

Keizo heard them calling his name. He emerged from his snowy

burial, and cried, "I am alive! I am alive!" The most macho men on

the planet stood there crying. Will Steger reported, "Finding Keizo

alive was the greatest relief I have ever known."

When men faced all the obstacles that these men faced together,

they developed a relationship that is deep, and which unites them as

a unbreakable team. This is what we see with Paul and Timothy.

They are such two different people. Paul is old and Timothy is

young, and yet, they become one of the great pairs of the Bible, like

David and Jonathan. Timothy was like a son to Paul, and he calls

him his son in the faith, for he led him to Christ. He was so precious

to Paul that out of the 13 letters he wrote in the New Testament, ten

of them include Timothy as his partner. We see it here in the first

verse of Philippians. In this letter Paul exalts Timothy as one of a

kind. In 2:19 he says that he hopes to send Timothy to them, and

then in 2:20 he writes, "I have no one else like him who takes a

genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own

interests, not those of Jesus Christ. He goes on to say that Timothy

has proved himself in his service.

The point is, everybody needs somebody who is truly a friend,

and a loyal companion. Paul could not have done what he did

without Timothy. That is true for the Will Steger team, and of every

team in history, including Christian teams. Why does Paul almost

always include Timothy, or in a few cases, other companions in his

letters? A man does not need help writing a letter. A lot of books

have two authors who work together, but a letter can be the work of

just one easily. Yet Paul includes Timothy frequently as if he could

not write a letter alone.

This common characteristic of Paul's letters is itself a valuable

lesson. Paul is saying that he is dependent upon others to

accomplish the will of God. He is no loner, but needs the help of

other members of the body to succeed. Paul is always asking for

prayer. Why? It is because he needs help, and is dependent upon

the aid of other Christians as they back him up with prayer and

support. The reason Paul has a special place in his heart for these

Philippians is because they were the most helpful in supporting him.

He says that he thanks God every time he thinks of them, and he

prays for them with joy because, as he says in verse 5, "...You are

partnership in the Gospel from the first day till now." They hit it

off from day one, and were partners who gave encouragement and

support to one another. That is why this is such a positive letter.

Paul has Timothy, and he has the Philippians, and with this kind

of support he is on top of the world singing songs of joy. Paul is

revealing this basic truth of life, that the essence of happiness is

found in relationships. Paul is in a good mood, and he is an optimist,

and a positive thinker in this letter. God made man in his image,

and he can never feel at his best until he has a positive relationship

with another person. God is a trinity of three Persons, and they are

in perfect unity. There relationship is ideal, with a oneness that has

no weakness. They are wholly one, and man is so made that he can

never be content until he has this oneness in some relationship.

Jesus provides the foundation for Christians to develop this oneness.

Paul and Timothy had it, and Paul had it with the Philippians.

Every Christian needs to develop this kind of relationship with

someone else in the body of Christ in order to be as joyful as they

are capable of being.

I suspect a lot of people do not like Paul because they think of

him as a cold theologian who is more interested in ideas than people.

This is a false image, for he was a people person, and he clearly

admitted his need for people. It was a basic part of his theology. He

scolded the Corinthians for hurting their relationships in the body

by failing to recognize every member is a vital part of the whole. He

said, "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; or

again the head to the feet I have no need of you." Every part of the

body needs every other part to be complete, and Paul related to all

Christians as vital members of the body of Christ. He needed people

with all of the gifts.

Carlisle said, "A great man show his greatness by the way he

treats the little man." Paul wrote one of his New Testament letters,

that of Philemon, to a Christian slave owner. He urged him to take

back his runaway slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Paul went

out of his way for the sake of one in the lowest class of his day. Paul

valued all people, and he had a deep and warm relationship to

people of every class, race, and sex. He was a relationship person,

and he put the value of people above all other things, for that was

the way of Jesus, and Paul's goal in life was to be pleasing to his


Paul had more problems than the average man, and he suffered a

great deal, but he was an optimist, and a happy man because of his

good relationships to others. He had plenty of people who hated the

ground he walked on, and they sought to undermine his work, and

get him executed, but Paul was still happy because of the people in

his life. He devoted much time to maintaining relationships.

In Rom. 16 we see the entire chapter is one of greetings to his dear

friends, and praise for those whom he loved in the Lord. Why

would God preserve such a personal list of Paul's relationships

unless there was a valuable lesson for the whole church. The

message of his many close relationships is that every Christian needs

to work at relationships to have the best Christian life.

You don't serve God alone. You don't bless the church alone.

You don't enjoy life alone. Life at its best is plural. It has friends,

partners, and companions. That is the key to being joyful saints.

Ellen Kreidman in her book Light His Fire writes this about

relationships: "A relationship, like a corporation, consists of a

combination of personalities but has a life of its own. Just as a

corporation requires dedication and concentration if it is to grow, so

too does a relationship between two people. Perhaps I didn't feel

like a walk on the beach, but the marriage required a walk on the

beach. I certainly didn't feel like a weekend alone with my husband,

but the marriage required a weekend alone together."

She gives other examples, but you get the picture. It is the very

thing we see with Paul and Timothy, and with Paul and the

churches. The issue is not just Paul, Timothy, or the Philippians.

The issue is the relationship. The relationship is a value to be

preserved, enhanced, and treasured, for the relationship is a reality

of great worth. Seeing this, and practicing it, will make you a better

mate, a better person, a better friend, and a better saint.

Paul was a joyful saint because of his positive relationship to

other saints, and that is his goal for all saints, for that is God's goal.

Jesus died to save us from all sin, and that includes all the sins that

rob us of the joy of tasting heaven on earth through positive relationships

in the body of Christ.

Let us thank Jesus anew for what He made possible on the cross, and pray for

forgiveness for our role in blocking his joy, and for the wisdom to ever press on to be joyful saints.