Summary: A book sermon to introduce a series through Philippians - looking at it from the perspective of our stewardship. Genuine joy involves a personal decision to have godly priorities.
It had been a hard winter in the Appalachian area. The snow had piled up deeper and deeper, the mercury dropped, rivers froze, people suffered. The Red Cross was using helicopters to fly in supplies to residents. One crew had been working day after day--long hours. They were on their way home late in the afternoon when they saw a little cabin submerged in the snow. There was a thin whisper of smoke coming from the chimney. The team figured the people in the cabin were probably about out of food, fuel, perhaps medicine. Because of the trees they had to put the helicopter down a mile away. They put on heavy packs with emergency supplies, trudged through heavy snow, waist deep, reached the cabin exhausted, panting, perspiring. They pounded on the door. A thin, gaunt mountain woman opened the door and the lead man gasped, "We're from the Red Cross." She was silent for a moment and then she said, "It's been a hard winter, Sonny. I just don't think we can give anything this year!
Now, if I tell you we’re going to introduce a series from Philippians on giving today, that may be exactly what you’re saying – “Sonny, I just don’t think we can give any more!” Don’t close the door yet. Talking about giving in the church isn’t just a drive to get more and more. It’s really an effort to help us all realign our priorities to match God’s priorities – not just with our money, but with all of our resources.
How’s that working for you? Someone once said, “Unsure of our direction, we double our speed.” Wow, what could better describe the current direction and speed of our culture? – unsure of the direction, and getting there faster and faster. Until once in a while, someone finally collapses under the weight and says, “Something’s gotta give!”
We all have just so many chips to play. We can’t do everything. That’s true of every one of us as individuals, and it’s true of us as a church body. We have to decide what we’ll do with our personal resources. My list is like your list. It doesn’t all get finished. No, there’s not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough emotion to do everything on the list. Something has to give. And we show what has priority in our lives by what gets our emotion, energy, money, and time, don’t we?
Philippians is one of 4 letters that Paul writes from a Roman prison. He’s waiting to go on trial, and could easily be executed as a result. Instead of sulking and whining about it, Paul writes this letter to the Christians of Philippi to encourage them. It’s so full of commands and comments about joy, that we call it “The epistle of joy.”
Philippians is also a thank-you letter about offerings they had taken up to help Paul. I find it interesting that the letter that has the most to say about being full of joy also has a lot to say about giving. In fact, over these next 4 weeks, we’re going to keep looking into Philippians and we’re going to call it “Giving ‘Till We Laugh.”
You heard right. There’s just nothing about the pain of giving in Philippians. There’s plenty about the need to be unselfish and to have a mindset that’s focused on giving, but there just isn’t much about how miserable we’re supposed to be as we do that!
One of the first ways to secure the joy of giving is to be sure that we have priorities worked through. In fact, that’s one message I’d like us to see in the book of Philippians this morning: Genuine joy involves a personal decision to have godly priorities.
Some things have to receive priority over others, and Paul helps highlight what those are either by command or by his example in this letter. I find 5 of them. As we highlight each one, do some self-inventory and ask yourself if these are the priorities that mark your world. We show our priorities by what we do with our time, money, energy, emotions, and thoughts. When it comes to choices, something has to give. What is it?
The first priority is that of…
1. Evangelism over Ego
Philippians 1:12-19 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.