Summary: Christians are notorious for talking about, reading about and preaching about joy and then not displaying it
Sermon Series: “Help, I Can’t Find My Joy!”
(A Study of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians)
Sermon #1 “You can have Joy in Suffering”
Series Text: Philippians 4:4
OPENING JOKE: “Lack of Joy” Christians are notorious for talking about, reading about and preaching about ‘joy’ and then not displaying it. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” This truth was echoed by a woman in a grocery store who saw a man, who looked very dry, unhappy and uptight. “You’re sick, aren’t you” she asked? “No, I’m a minister” he answered.
INTRODUCTION: The word “happiness” evokes visions of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, being surprised on your birthday, responding with unbridled laughter to a comedian, or vacationing in an exotic locale.
Everyone wants to be happy; we make chasing this elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: Spending money, collecting things and searching for new experiences.
But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved one die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, and the party’s over? Often happiness flees and despair sets in.
In contrast to happiness stands joy.
Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives – that will be there no matter what!
Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ. (Above taken from the ‘Life Application Study Bible)
***We are beginning today with a new series in which we are going to study Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
This book has been called by many “The Epistle of Christian Joy”
The concept of rejoicing and joy can be found sixteen (16) times in its four (4) chapters.
It culminates with the climax in the fourth chapter “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4)
One of the most profound thoughts when reading this “epistle of joy” is studying the history of where and when it was written.
Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison
Certain points in the writing cause scholars to believe he wrote this during his two year Roman imprisonment, about A.D. 61
Most prisons of the ancient world were both crude and dehumanizing –being not much more than pits and cave-like dungeons.
Bound in chains, cold, damp, uncomfortable and dirty…this was Paul’s circumstance when writing this letter
In fact, Paul was imprisoned on so many occasions for his faith that he called himself a “prisoner of the Lord” (Eph 4:1)
Even the Church at Philippi (the church he is writing to), was founded because of one of Paul’s times in jail
DO YOU REMEMBER: The story of Paul and Silas singing in the jail, God bringing an earthquake and opening the doors and the jailer being converted? (Acts 16)
That event happened the very first time Paul visited Philippi. He was thrown in prison for preaching Jesus, and out of that circumstance the converted jailer, among others, began the Philippian church.
Now we see Paul, many years after that event, rejoicing over the continued faithfulness of the Philippians.
The one place we would expect to find absolutely no joy is in a prison
And that is the first question I want us to study in this series: How is it possible to have joy in suffering?
I. Remembering our lives are still under construction
Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
a. Illustration: “Building this church” Those of us who were around when this church was being built remember how long the process seemed to take. At times I am sure it felt like it would never be completed.
i. I don’t remember that as much as I do getting our new annex, which came relatively quickly
ii. But even then it was tough being patient through all of the permits and construction and the waiting
b. The Christian life is much this same way
i. The day we meet Christ in salvation, he begins to change us into what He wants us to become
ii. We make progress, but sometimes the process seems very slow
iii. We often grow impatient when we see ourselves not being all we should
iv. QUOTE: “We need to remember that God desires to produce within us ‘Oaks’ of righteousness that endure (Isaiah 61:3), not ‘weeds’ that sprout overnight and then wither away”
c. So how does this affect how I find joy in suffering?
i. Realizing God isn’t finished with you yet
ii. The phrase ‘under construction’ always means ‘there is still more to come’
iii. Whatever God may be using or allowing in your life in the present is part of His construction process that will ultimately consummate for your good