AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/6/1997
TEXT: Philip. 1:1-11
INTRO: The entire epistle of Philippians has for its theme "JOY". This by itself
would not be so strange except that it was written by Paul while in prison! We
do not usually associate prison with "joy"! Paul realized that it is not circumstances in our life that bring us joy, rather, it is perspective that allows us
joy! As one man put it, "Some pursue happiness--others create it." Paul did not
wait for circumstances to dictate to him his happiness, he found it in everything
that God had for him, both pleasurable times and times of prison!
It was in this city of Philippi that years earlier Paul and Silas had been thrown in
prison and yet sang songs of joy at midnight...this resulted in a jailer and his
family getting saved, no doubt they were still a part of this Church. In this way
Paul had modeled for this Church joy in difficult circumstances.
For Paul, every situation was an opportunity to share joy with others...he realized
that joy is not a destination, it is a process. "The road to happiness is always under construction." Too often Christians are always searching for something to
bring them into a state of joy, but since we share Christ and our lives with other
Christians we already have the state of joy....we just need to learn to
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that there is joy in sharing, sharing the grace
of God in our lives with others no matter what circumstances we find ourselves
in on any one day in our life!
I. SHARING IN PRIVILEGE 1:1-2
A. Saints! 1:1
1. Paul's address to this Church says it all...he addresses them "ALL" as "saints"
a. Though Paul also singles out the leaders in this address, he first starts
with "all the saints in Christ Jesus".
b. The very fact that the leaders are mentioned here indicates that this
was a developed Church that had reached some level of maturity.
c. Paul recognizes the importance of all the saints in the Church...this
is the first part of sharing, knowing that we are all equal!
ILLUS: A first grader went on her first day to a newly integrated school at the height of the segregation storm. An anxious mother met her at the door to inquire, "How did everything go, honey?"
"Oh, Mother! You know what? A little black girl sat next to me!" In fear and trepidation, the mother expected trauma, but tried to ask calmly:
"And what happened?"
"We were both so scared that we held hands all
day." --James S. Hewett,
Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p.
2. Joy comes from sharing our lives together in Christ!
a. Thus it is based on relationship and not on circumstances!
b. This is also true with our relationship to Christ!
B. Security 1:2
1. Where does this "JOY" come from?
a. it comes from God's grace
b. it comes from God's peace!
c. through our Lord Jesus Christ!
2. We are at joy when we feel secure, and we are secure in Christ, not in the
situations of this world!
3. Paul's point to those in Philippi is simple: He has joy in prison, they
should also have joy in freedom, their joy comes from security in Christ!
4. All Christians share this in common, we are in Christ, therefore, we can
know joy no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in today!
5. This is a privilege!
II. SHARING IN PRAYER 1:3-4
A. Satisfaction 1:3
1. As Paul begins to reflect about them, he finds himself filled with thanksgiving.
a. Not only did he share the privilege of being united with Christ with
them, he also shares fond memories about them in his mind!
b. Just thinking about them makes him want to give thanks to God!
2. Joy is built on love!
3. They were so much a part of Paul's life, ministering to them had been an
act of pure joy so that when he thinks about them he breaks out with
thanksgiving to God....do we see ministry to others this way?
ILLUS: Here's another gem from Howard Hendricks:
Years ago in a church in Dallas we were having trouble finding a teacher for a junior high
boys class. The list of prospects had only one name -- and when they told me who it was I said, "You've got to be kidding." But I couldn't have been more wrong about that young man. He took the class and revolutionized it.
I was so impressed I invited him to my home for lunch and asked him the secret of his success. He pulled out a little black book. On each page he had a small picture of one of the boys, and under the boy's name were comments like "having trouble in arithmetic," or "comes to church against parents' wishes," or "would like to be a missionary some day, but doesn't think he has what it takes."
"I pray over those pages every day," he said,
"and I can hardly wait to come to church each Sunday to see what God has been
doing in their lives."
4. Paul has no regrets even in prison, just thanks!
B. Supplication 1:4
1. Because Paul always has joy when thinking about them, he always prays
with joy for them!
a. He shares with them in the privilege of being saints, and he also shares
with them the honor or praying for them and with them
b. Prayer should be more than praying for troubles, here Paul prays with
joy....it does not matter that they are free and he is in prison, they are
sharing joy over God's grace and peace in their lives together.
ILLUS: I was speaking at the Indiana State Prison. Only weeks earlier, Stephen Judy had been electrocuted there. An execution always creates a special tension in a prison, and I could sense it that day. It was in the air, in the voices of the guards, in the faces of the men.
After my talk, the warden walked us through the maze of cell blocks to that most dreaded of places--an isolated wing where five men awaited their final decree and death. Nancy Honeytree, the talented young gospel singer who is part of our team, was with me; several of our volunteers came along as well. Finally, we were ushered through two massive steel gates into the secure area. The inmates were allowed out of their cells, and we joined in a circle in the walkway while Nancy strummed the guitar and sang. It was a beautiful moment for those condemned men--and for us--as we closed by singing together "Amazing Grace."
Two of the men, I knew from their correspondence with me, were believers. One of them, James Brewer, had the most radiant expression during our visit, and he sang at the top of his lungs.
As we were shaking hands and saying good-bye, I noticed that Brewer walked back into his cell with one of our volunteers. The others began filing out, but this volunteer remained in Brewer's cell; the two were standing shoulder to shoulder, together reading the Bible. I was expected in two hours in Indianapolis for a meeting with the governor, so I walked back into the cell. "We've got to go," I called out, beckoning to our volunteer.
"Just a minute, please," he replied. I shook my head and repeated, "Sorry, time's up, the plane is waiting."
"Please, please, this is very important," the volunteer replied. "You see, I am Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But now he is born again. He is my brother and we want a minute to pray together.
I stood in the entrance to that solitary, dimly lit cell, frozen in place. Here were two men-- one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one who had sentenced the other to die. Yet there they stood grasping a Bible together, Brewer smiling so genuinely, the judge so filled with love for the prisoner at his side.
Impossible in human terms! Brewer should
despise this man, I thought. Only in Christ could this happen. The sight of
those men standing together as brothers in that dingy cell will remain vivid in
my mind forever. --James
S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc,
1988) pp. 212-213.
2. Paul's joy is both a privilege and the basis of prayer
a. Paul's prayer life was more than just requests
b. Paul's love expresses itself in joyful prayer
III. SHARING IN PARTNERSHIP 1:5-8
A. Steady 1:5-6
1. Paul has never been alone, and even in prison he is not alone!
a. They have been his partners from the very beginning of his ministry in Philippi until the present
b. Philippi was the first Church in the west.
2. This Church had stood by him in his times of need, twice before they had sent financial help and encouragement to him.
3. He had joy, though in prison and a long ways from Philippi, because he knew they were his partners!
4. Paul had learned that no matter what happened to him he could count on two things:
a. God would be with him
b. The saints in Philippi would be standing with him also!
5. The Roman empire and the Judaizers could all come against him, but
they could not take his joy away.
a. This is an important lesson for us to learn as well.
b. No matter the earthly losses, we can always choose "joy"!
ILLUS: Dr. Viktor Frankl, author of the book Man's Search for Meaning, was imprisoned by the Nazis in World War II because he was a Jew. His wife, his children, and his parents were all killed in the holocaust.
The Gestapo made him strip. He stood there
totally naked. As they cut away his wedding band, Viktor said to himself "You
can take away my wife, you can take away my children, you can strip me of my
clothes and my freedom, but there is one thing no person can ever take away from
me--and that is my freedom to choose how I will react to what happens to me!"
Even under the most difficult of circumstances, happiness is a choice which
transforms our tragedies into triumph. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 278-279.
6. Paul chose to respond in joy rather than focus on his pain and losses.
a. By doing this he was teaching them to do the same
b. Their partnership in the Gospel brought great joy even in the midst
of suffering...an important lesson for all Christians to learn!
B. Spirituality 1:7-8
1. They were not only in his mind as he mentioned in verse 3, they were also
in his heart! 1:7
a. It is one thing to have the head knowledge about joy, and another thing
to actually experience it in your heart!
b. Paul's joy was more than just intellectual, it was internal!
2. Paul expresses here how unimportant the circumstances of life are when
it came to bringing the Gospel to them or others, the mere fact that there
was a need to bring the Gospel gave him all the joy he needed to do what
ever was needed to be done....all this work was a labor of joy!
3. No matter the conditions, taking the Gospel was a labor of love whether to
them or others...he will accept whatever the conditions for the sake of
God's love and the opportunity to be partners with them in the
ILLUS: The South Korean church is preparing to evangelize North Korea when the communist country opens up. More than 20,000 missionaries and Christian workers are prepared to relocate to North Korea and begin church planting and personal evangelism, Isaac Lee of Seattle-based Cornerstone Ministries told NIRR. "There will be a mass movement from South to North once it opens up," he said (NIRR 6/28/93).
Two denominations plan to plant churches
nationwide. North Korea is on the brink of famine and will have to open soon,
Lee said. The cumulative effects of 47 years of communism, coupled with last
summer's floods that devastated crops and left 50,000 families homeless, will
cause a hard winter. "I am afraid that for the first time there will be many
deaths because of the famine." -- National & International Religion Report, December 1995, Vol.
10:1, p. 3.
4. Love will compel us to do many hard things out of joy....it is so much easier to serve when our perspective is out of joy! This is the kind of
spirituality God intended for us to have!
IV. SHARING IN PURITY 1:9-11
A. Striving! 1:9
1. Paul's prayer for them is simple: "that your love may abound more and
more in knowledge and depth of insight"
a. Paul wanted their love to grow....and grow up!
b. Too often Christian love stays on the level of emotions only, love is
meant to grow and for us to grow up!
2. Paul is not thinking of himself though he is the one in prison, he is
thinking of their needs, this is mature love!
ILLUS: Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in V formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. (Christians who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.)
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it
suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly
gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird
immediately in front. (If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in
formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.) When the lead
goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. (It
pays to take turns doing hard jobs-- with people at church or with geese flying
south.) The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their
speed. (What do we say when we honk from behind?) Finally, when a goose gets
sick, or is wounded by a shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and
follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either
able to fly, or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with
another formation to catch up with their original group. (If people knew we
would stand by them like that in church, they would push down these walls to get
in.) You see, all we have to do in order to attract those who are missing back
to church is to demonstrate to the world that we have as much sense as geese
here at church. --James S.
Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)
3. There is nothing purer than God's love!
a. For the Church there can be no substitute for love!
b. Programs cannot produce a healthy Church, and neither will just emotions, love is far more than just emotions, Paul says that he
wants their love to abound more and more in KNOWLEDGE AND
DEPTH OF INSIGHT!
c. The world needs to experience this kind of love today, so does the
B. Separated! 1:10-11
1. Mature love will reveal the will of God to both the Church and the world.
a. Jesus said as much when he said that the whole world would know
that we are His disciples when we "love one another"!
b. Love brings out the best in others, not the worst!
2. The Church is a separated people, not that we don't mix with the world,
but that we love different from the world!
a. Our love is to be pure, proving what is best!
b. It is a blameless love we share....filled with the fruit of righteousness
3. All of this sharing in pure love is to "the glory and praise of God" !
4. Paul is simply wrapped up in JOY, the joy of sharing:
a. sharing the privilege of being a saint
b. sharing in prayer for others
c. sharing in partnership with them in the Gospel
d. sharing in purity so the world will witness the power of God
5. Have you experienced the JOY OF SHARING?
CONCLUSION: As Paul writes to his Church family in Philippi it becomes very clear that he is full of joy....as a prisoner! Paul was in prison facing possible death, yet his heart explodes with "JOY", "THANKS", and "GRACE". The joy of the Lord is not found in the absence of troubles, it is a state of being, not a state of mind! We are united with Christ and each other, this is enough for joy!