Summary: Life gets messy. That’s no surprise. What is surprising is how easily we forget that God wants joy to be our regular experience of life. And it’s the stuff a a messy life where we’ll experience God’s joy. We’re called to live in harmony, peace and of cour
Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern in how God works in my life. Whenever I’m going to speak about a particular topic God first allows me to personally experience it. I need to tell you…this is not always fun! But God seems to set things up so I have to live out the principles that I’m teaching before I stand up and talk with you. Unfortunately for her, this usually means that my wife, Pam, also has to live through these experiences.
So a few months before we did the series “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” neither Pam nor I were very happy campers. The same thing happened as we got ready for this current series through Philippians. It’s as if God kept looking down on us saying, “Well, Steve and Pam, got joy?” This, of course, happened while all kinds of crazy things came crashing into our lives.
The question I think God wanted us to face is this: Do we really believe this stuff, or is it just hot air? It’s one thing to admire the Apostle Paul’s joy while he was chained to a Roman soldier, but it’s a whole other story to have joy myself when life is stormy. At one point, Pam looked at me and said, “Steve I don’t like living out this stuff before you preach it—at all! Why don’t you preach on something easy—like what God thinks about gardening?”
Well, this is the eighth week in our “Got Joy?” series and we still haven’t talked about gardening! But we have learned some principles to help us find joy when life gets messy. Today we’ll discover three more joy producing principles. In fact, today’s passage may be the most helpful joy resource in the entire book of Philippians! Our text offers antidotes for three of life’s biggest joy robbers. Do you know what joy robbers are? Joy robbers are things that suck the joy out of us. You get up one morning after a great night’s sleep. You’re ready for a fine day. But as you bounce into the kitchen to get your coffee you notice there’s a huge puddle of water under the refrigerator. It quit working the night before so you have to buy a new one. That can be a joy robber.
You’re late to work so you go a little faster than you should. Suddenly you see a flashing light behind you…and the officer has just had a fight with his wife, so he doesn’t give you a break this time. As you drive away with your $100 citation, it can be a joy robber.
Once you arrive at work your boss informs you the company is suspending all overtime. You’d been using your overtime to help pay for the recent increase in your gas bill to get to and from work. No longer having the extra pay could be a real joy robber.
Joy robbers are the stuff of life. They’re curve balls that make us want to stay in bed and curl up in a fetal position. They can turn smiles into frowns. They can kill the spring in our step and cause us to start popping Advil. So what can we do about them? There was a bumper sticker that used to say “Life Happens.” And it does. We can’t stop the stuff of life from happening. Life happens. There’s nothing we can do about that. Curveballs are going to keep coming until we get to heaven. Your life is not going to be perfect until then. Neither is mine. So instead of talking about what God thinks about gardening, I’d like to explore how to overcome three of life’s biggest joy robbers. (Read 4:2-9)
1. Sour Relationships
In verses 2&3 Paul tells two women in the church to get along with each other. From the text we observe that these women were not outsiders; they were active participants in the church. We also see that the issue dividing the women was not doctrinal. If it had been, Paul would have resolved it by siding with one or the other. Also, Paul knows both their names: Euodia and Syntyche. This suggests they were prominent in the church. Perhaps both women were present as Paul preached on the banks of the river when Lydia first became a Christ-follower.
Paul urges them to “agree with each other.” This was important because their dispute was causing dissension in the rest of the congregation. It always does. When two people are at odds in a church, it doesn’t just affect those two people. There’s a ripple affect. Their disharmony also affects their friends and the friends of their friends.
That’s why God takes so seriously the issue of disharmony. We see this, for example, in 1 Corinthians 1:10. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you may agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Division undermines the spiritual synergy that God intends. Disharmony introduces negativity that makes it difficult for the Holy Spirit to move among us. All this to say, division and disharmony are serious issues to God!