Focus verses: Philippians 1:1-2 (NKJV): Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2022, we will probably encounter many thieves that will try to rob us of our joy if we let them. How do I know, because more than likely, these were the same thieves that we have encountered in previous years. I call these thieves the 4 (four) P’s:
- The thief named problems. Many times, we allow the circumstances in our lives rob us of our joy. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his letters to the churches from a cold prison cell, but that did not rob him of his joy.
- People can rob us of our joy. Paul said that there were some that preached Christ hoping to add to his misery. Not even that discouraged Paul. All that mattered to Paul was that Christ was being preached.
- Possessions can rob us of our joy. It could be the things that we don’t have that we are struggling so hard to get. It could be the things that we do have that we fight so hard to keep.
- Pressure (worry) can rob us of our joy. We spend most of our time worrying about things that will never happen, or things that we have no control over.
As Christian our lives are to be filled with joy. How do I know that? Because Jesus said that our lives should be full of joy.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
The word “joy” is found in one form or another fifteen (15) times in the 104 verses that make up Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When Paul writes about joy, he is writing from experience. He is not writing from a wood-paneled office, he writes from a prison cell. When Paul and Silas visited Philippi, they were thrown in jail because they were considered to be troublemakers. While they were in jail, they prayed and sang praises to God. Joy was a companion of Paul in every circumstance.
I believe that throughout the book of Philippians, starting in the first chapter, Paul gives us some of the criteria for joy.
I want to examine the two criteria that are revealed in Philippians 1:1-2.
Philippians 1:1-2 (NKJV): Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. WE MUST HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Our attitude determines our altitude or how high we fly. Our attitude determines our outcome in life. In order to have a continuous and consistent flow of joy in our lives, we must have the proper attitude toward Christ and others. We must have a submissive attitude to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ if we are to be full of joy. Let’s examine the two characteristics of a submissive attitude.
1. The Servant Heart
Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “servants” of Christ. The word in the Greek is really the word “bond slave or love slave”. Paul saw himself as a person who was a prisoner of Christ. Paul was a prisoner voluntarily not out of oppression. In other words, Paul chose to be a slave of Christ because of his love for Christ. Paul was not interested in serving Himself but serving his Lord. He was not living by His rules but by the rules of the Master. Paul had become a voluntary slave of Christ.
To some people this would be an offensive image. They resist the idea of being anyone’s slave. The reason for this is simple: our images of slavery are all negative. We envision abusive taskmasters. And I am sure that some of the slave owners in Paul’s day were like this. But many others were not. Some were honest people giving folks a chance to work off a debt.
Later in this same chapter Paul says that dying would be gain and living on would mean “fruitful labor”. He saw his life as existing for one purpose and one purpose only: to glorify God and to serve Him fully.
Do you see how different this attitude is from the attitude we often live with? We tend to view Christ as OUR servant rather than vice versa. We ask Him to do our bidding. If things don’t go our way, we want an explanation. We demand more than we submit; we direct more than we follow. It is only when we submit to Christ with a willingness to follow His leading and accept His wise providence that we will find joy. Joy in our lives is produced by the Lord Jesus and not by us.
2. A Sanctified Heart and Mind
Paul writes to the “Saints in Christ” in Philippi. The title “saint” is a title we don’t use very often. When we think of a “saint” we generally think of a person who is:
1) Extraordinary in their commitment, or
2) One who has died in their service to the Lord.
But a saint is literally, a “set-apart one”. If you are a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a saint! You are a person specially set-apart for His purpose and to accomplish His will.
What I want you to see is that this is a position of honor. We are “set-apart” for a special task . . . we are specially chosen to serve the Lord. We need to realize that we have been extended a tremendous privilege in being called His children.
1) Notice also that we are “saints in Jesus Christ”. Twice in two verses we have seen this phrase “in Christ”. In fact, references to Christ occurs nineteen (19) times in this first chapter alone! Paul saw Himself as a servant of Christ who lived “in Christ” for the purpose of glorifying Christ.
2) If we want to know joy, we must have this attitude of submission and must never forget our honored calling. Joy comes from having a lifestyle where we are always conscious of our position and our privilege in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look in the mirror…
The task then is to remind ourselves every moment that we are children of the King. How do we do this?
Every once in a while, look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a “saint”!
Wherever you are, remind yourself that you serve a higher purpose. When you are screaming at a game or upset at a checkout lane or frustrated on the phone . . . remind yourself that you represent Jesus.
When life gets hectic, make it a point to find a quiet corner periodically to stop and make contact with the Master.
Ask God to give you His perspective on other people, circumstances, things we crave, our time, our money, and our hopes.
When you feel discouraged and depressed and insignificant, remind yourself that you are specially chosen . . . you belong to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords . . . you are a saint, given the privilege of serving God.
II. WE MUST BELIEVE THE RIGHT MESSAGE
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
Paul uses two words that are words of greeting but also words, which carry great weight: “grace” and “peace”. Both of these words together contain the essence of the gospel message. Paul always chooses his words carefully; I think that is certainly the case here as well.
1. The Message of Grace
The word grace is a word that means an “undeserved gift”. When we say that we are people who have received grace it means we have received a gift we did not deserve. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward undeserving sinners. Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. What was that gift? It was new life through the sacrifice of the Lord Christ Jesus on our behalf. Basically, God’s grace means two things to us.
1) It means we have received an undeserved forgiveness. Suppose your family suffered a horrible tragedy. Now suppose also that the person who was responsible for the tragedy was unmoved and seemed like they didn’t care. Would you be upset? You bet you would!
Now suppose you extended forgiveness to that person . . . if you had the charges dropped, would they deserve that forgiveness? What about if you took the punishment for them? They would deserve it even less. But this is what God has done for us. We sinned against Him time and time again. We weren’t sorry; instead we cursed God and sought to justify our actions and sometimes still do. Jesus took our punishment and gave us forgiveness. Do we deserve forgiveness? Not even a little bit. Yet, God extends forgiveness to us by virtue of what Christ has done for us.
2) Grace means that we are also recipients of an unmerited love. Think about it . . . God reached out to you and me in our rebellious state. He not only offers us forgiveness . . . He welcomes us as a part of His own family! God declares us Holy (pure), He gives us access to His presence, He promises us an eternal inheritance. Not because of our nature but because of His love.
Being saved by Grace means:
- Our hope of salvation is not based on what we do or have done but on what God has done for us through the Lord Jesus Christ. No one will stand around in Heaven and talk about the great things they did to deserve salvation. We will all point to the Lord Jesus Christ and say He alone is worthy of the praise.
- Grace means the guilt of the past is gone. Everything! All the rebellious, stupid, foolish, hurtful, and arrogant things we have done are forgiven. Every sin has been forgiven. God relates to us as those who have never sinned at all. Rather than being God’s enemy we are His friends.
- Grace means when I mess up and sin there is forgiveness when I confess it and repent of it.
- Grace means that I should extend to other what God has extended to me through his Love. That is forgiveness and acceptance.
When we experience the grace of God we can and should experience joy. We must stop trusting our own efforts and start resting in what He has done FOR us. Once we realize that we don’t have to stay on the treadmill of life, once we realize that bad things don’t happen to us because God is mad at us, once we understand that God’s promise is sure and His grace is dependable . . . we begin to experience a deep joy. The burden is lifted; we can begin to enjoy the journey.
2. The Message of God’s Peace
The word peace (“shalom”) was a common greeting among the Jews. This peace did not refer to an absence of war. It refers to the total wellbeing of a person and everything that makes for a man’s highest good. It is related to a word that means to join, to weave together. When we say we “have it all together” or “everything is coming together” we are getting close to the idea of Shalom.
In Romans 5:1 Paul tells us, “Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
We are made right with God through the grace of God and then we have peace with God. We can’t know peace until the problem of sin has been dealt with. We must receive God’s grace FIRST . . . then we will know peace. Paul tells us that “having been justified” we have peace. We must get the order right.
This peace encompasses several dimensions.
First, there is peace with God. This means as a result of God’s grace we are no longer fighting God but instead are being loved by and guided by God. As a result of grace we are no longer afraid of God. We don’t have to hide like Adam and Eve did. We are friends of God. The peace we have with God is not like the peace that so often exists in the world. It is not a peace that is fragile.
Second, we have peace with our circumstances. If you read on in Romans 5 you will see that Paul says that we are people who can rejoice in our sufferings. We have peace in the time of turmoil because we know that God is in charge. We know that He is using the circumstances of life to train us and mold us. No matter what happens we know that nothing will separate us from the love of God. The peace we have with God transcends our circumstances.
Third, we have peace with ourselves. Have you ever had someone tell you, “I need to find myself”? As goofy as it sounds, you and I know that this is a figure of speech, which means a person is trying to understand their purpose, their personality, their deepest aspirations. They feel confused, disoriented. When we know God’s peace, all the pieces come together. People who need to find “themselves” are not really looking for themselves they are looking for Jesus. He is alone is the source of peace.
The peace of the gospel leads us to confidence and joy. This is the truth that distinguishes us as Children of God, and it is the seed of joy. This is the message our Lord has entrusted to us for the world. We have what the world is looking for. And there are few things that bring greater joy than to share with someone else what it means to be a believer.
If we are going to experience joy in our lives, we must be right with God. We must see ourselves as those who have been given grace beyond measure and as a result experience a peace without equal. We must consider ourselves servants of God even as we consider ourselves set-apart for His service. We must take our eyes off of ourselves, off our circumstances, and off of each other and, we must focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. We must see Him as our life and our joy. Joy comes from Christ and Christ alone.
To have joy, you must have a:
Single mind that is devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ;
Submissive mind that is surrendered to the will of God;
Spiritual Mind that is focused on the things of God; and a
Secure Mind that is resting (secure) in the relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this new year, do you long for joy in your life? Do you want an anchor for the storms of life? If you do, then Jesus is who you are looking for.
To learn more about how you can establish a personal relationship with Him, please complete the Virtual Connection Card on our website.