Summary: The Christian life is a life filled with joy no matter what the circumstances or "happenings" around us. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an encouragement to us as to what that life looks like or could look like.
PURE AND SIMPLE JOY
In the midst of our hectic schedules and frantic efforts to finish our tasks, do you ever stop and wonder if something is missing in your life? When you take stock of what you are doing does it ever occur to you that you are not happy?
You may feel unfulfilled in your job; it’s just a job. Your marriage lacks the spark of when you first married. You students may wonder what the purpose of all this education is and where it’s leading. Circumstances like these can get you down and you begin to wonder, “What’s missing?”
Where is the joy? Do you have joy in your life? I am not talking about “happiness.” The word “happiness” actually comes from the word “happenings.” Our happiness is then connected to our happenings, what is happening around us. If our happenings are miserable we are not going to be happy. When an acquaintance you haven’t seen for a while walks up and asks “What’s happening? What’s new?” normally they don’t want to hear the bad stuff; they want to know what’s making you happy so they can walk away with a smile. Often I don’t know what to say when people ask me this.
Joy is so different from happiness. Where happiness depends on what is happening, with joy it doesn’t matter what’s happening. While happiness is greatly affected by circumstance, joy is rooted deep within. I read this definition the other day: joy is a deep, enduring confidence in God. It doesn’t matter what’s happening when I have the joy of the Lord. Isn’t that something? Do you want this joy?
I am very excited about this series we are starting today. Philippians is a letter Paul wrote that largely speaks of the joy we Christians are supposed to have. I sense from others here too that you are looking forward to an upbeat series from this letter. Paul really spent a lot of time correcting the churches under his care. With Philippi he shared a really significant element of our faith: JOY. As we begin these lessons together we are going to discover the life of joy.
1. Foundations for Spiritual Joy
a) Paul and Timothy – To understand the irony of Paul’s joy in this letter we need to understand where he was. If it isn’t ironic it certainly is paradoxical since he really needn’t have felt joy where he was. Where was Paul?
It is clear that he was in chains when he wrote to the church at Philippi (1:13-14). Worse yet, we gain the impression that he is nearing the end of his life. It may be that he was facing execution at this point as he said in 2:17 that he was being poured out like a drink offering, a reference to sacrifice and thus to death. Tradition tells us that he was imprisoned for two years without trial when he wrote.
Where were Paul and Timothy? Paul was imprisoned four times in his lifetime: once each in Philippi, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Rome. Obviously he was writing to Philippi so he wasn’t there, and without boring you about the details, scholars tells us that he was most likely in Rome. That means that Paul’s premonition was correct: his life was coming to an end.