AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/25/97
TEXT: Philip. 2:1-18
INTRO: We live in a world that is
driven to pursue happiness and joy. Everyone wants to be happy. Most people
however find the trip to joy disappointing when they finally come to the
end....for they thought joy would come when they arrived at a place of power or
money. It is tragic that so many people spend a great deal of their life
searching for joy only to find that at the end of that road they have not only
failed to achieve this joy, but that the long process of getting there was
joyless as well!
The secret to knowing real joy comes through SERVANTHOOD, quite the
opposite way the world goes about finding it. We are most joyful when we have
served God and others.
legend is told of a desert wanderer who found a crystal spring of unsurpassed
freshness. The water was so pure he decided to bring some to his king. Barely
satisfying his own thirst, he filled a leather bottle with the clear liquid and
carried it many days beneath the desert sun before he reached the palace. When
he finally laid his offering at the feet of his sovereign, the water had become
stale and rank due to the old container in which it had been stored. But the
king would not let his faithful subject even imagine that it was unfit for use.
He tasted it with expressions of gratitude and delight, and sent away the loyal
heart filled with gladness. After he had gone, others sampled it and expressed
their surprise that the king had even pretended to enjoy it. "Ah!" said he, "it
was not the water he tasted, but the love that prompted the offering." Many
times our service is marked by multiplied imperfections, but the Master looks at
our motives and says "It is good."
Jesus demonstrated an important truth: If we humble ourselves now to serve
others, we will be exalted later; but if we exalt ourselves now, we will later
be humbled! (see Matt. 23:12) The starting point and finish point determine
which direction our joy moves in also, if we start with humble we will
build our joy, but if we start with exaltation our joy will diminish over
Joy is something that needs constant attention or it can be lost.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that there is great joy in serving. The servant is the master of his or her own
emotional well being!
I. SERVANTHOOD'S EXAMPLE 2:1-11
A. Focus 2:1-4
1. Now that Paul is done with the introductory remarks, he focuses on an issue in this Church that has the potential for destroying God's work in Philippi.
a. The Church was undergoing the shift from a pioneer Church to a Church in its second generation...well established.
b. With this shift, there were subtle signs that those within the Church were forgetting the call to serving and instead they were starting to show jealousy toward one another and argue over petty issues.
c. This becomes clearer by chapter 4 when Paul names two women in leadership that were fighting over something.... Paul does not take sides but implores them to get over it!
(1. the issue/s must not have been doctrinally important or Paul would no doubt have mentioned which side was right.
(2. since it was not a critical issue, they were both wrong!
2. Paul's statements at the start of this chapter sets the groundwork for getting them focused again on a proper foundation!
a. It is too easy to lose perspective, they were moving from servants that had built each other up to complainers that tore each other down.
b. This was beginning to take a toll on the life in the Church...and the result: a loss of joy as well as a loss of testimony!
3. The Church that loses its servanthood is a very joyless place, and a
place where nothing significant gets done for God!
ILLUS: Charles L. Allen in The Miracle of Love writes of a
fisherman friend who told him that one never needs a top for his crab basket. If
one of the crabs starts to climb up the sides of the basket, the other crabs
will reach up and pull it back down. Some people are a lot like crabs.
4. Paul asks them to refocus back on 5 qualities in order to make their servanthood come alive again:
a. "encouragement from being united with Christ"
b. "comfort from His love"
c. "fellowship with the Spirit"
5. These will help them become "like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" again (2:2)
a. He asks them to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.." (2:3a)
b. He wants them to "consider others better than yourselves". (2:3b)
c. Paul wants them to look for ways to help each other.. to SERVE again! (2:4)
6. This is a very different focus than the world has...and if the Church
loses it, it loses its power in Christ!
B. Faithful 2:5-11
1. For an example of someone who was faithful to demonstrate the attitude of servant, Paul could think of no better than Christ Himself!
a. Paul asks them to have the same attitude that Christ Himself has!
b. This seems to imply the issues at stake here in the Church: there was some power struggles going on, the issue of serving was being put on the back burner in order for some to lord over others.
c. Paul encourages them to take a fresh look at Christ, who IS Lord of all, but yet, He humbled Himself to the role of servant so that we could be elevated from sinner to saint!
2. Paul's point is simple: For those who humble themselves NOW, they will be exalted later; however, those who exalt themselves now will be humbled later.
a. Jesus shows the way to exaltation, through humble service first!
b. They were going backwards in their life of faith, not forward!
3. The model Christ gives us cannot be improved upon, it was His
servanthood that won our love and our eternal soul....we are to emulate it in
our personal life and the life of the Church!
ILLUS: The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went to visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he "came where he was". One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. Instead, he looked long into his leader's face and with love and wonder in his voice said, "You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!"
4. The Church in Phillipi was in danger of losing this model, Paul thus reminds them of Christ's example.
a. With the loss of Christ's example, there was a loss of joy!
b. Joy is the fruit of servanthood!
II. SERVANTHOOD'S EXPECTATIONS 2:12-18
A. Family 2:12-16
1. Paul is about to issue some commands, however, notice how he addresses those he is about to correct: "My dear friends" (2:12)
a. Paul appeals to their love in order to move them to obedience
b. Paul also reminds them of their past willingness to serve, hoping history will repeat itself!
c. Rather than target their abuses, he appeals to their successes.
2. Paul asks them to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" What does this mean?
a. Context is so important here: he is addressing a Church that is losing its way in corporate life, of failing to continue to love and serve each other.
b. In this context the statement should be understood not as an address on the idea of personal salvation, but corporate life and how we live OUT our salvation in relationship to others!
c. The idea here is simple: "Work out among yourselves what God has worked in you!"
d. It was tragic that these who had such love for God did not have such
love for each other like they used to!
ILLUS: Many years ago Michelangelo, the sculptor, and Raphael, the
painter, were commissioned to execute works of art for the beautification of the
Vatican. Although each had a different job to do and both were highly respected,
there arose such a bitter spirit of rivalry between them that at last they would
not even speak when they met. Their jealous attitude toward one another was
obvious to all who knew them. The most amazing part of it all was that both were
supposed to be doing their work "for the glory of God."
3. The phrase, "with fear and trembling" simply means "reverence...and take it seriously!"
a. We are to respect the value of others, even those we don't particularly agree with, they belong to God and are loved by God!
b. Love doesn't just mean tolerate each other, it means to make real efforts at showing that love to one another.
4. God's good work in them (2:13) is intended to work out through them to others.
5. Now Paul hits the nail on the head in 2:14
a. "Do everything without complaining or arguing!"
b. This is the problem at Philippi...it was a loving Church that had a long enough history to it now to have developed factions in it, and instead of serving each other they were bickering with one another and complaining!
c. the joy was gone....or at least going!
d. while the culture of Philippi was like this, the Church must not be! This is true for us today too, our culture is based on competition and arguing to prove who is better or right, but in God's house we are equals that are in need of love and support!
6. Paul asks them to return to a more innocent state of existence, when passion for Christ meant passion for each other, a passion that moved them to serve one another out of love for Christ....a state of purity the Church once had that it needed to rediscover again! (2:15)
7. The generation they lived in was like today, crooked and depraved....they must not be like it!
a. Paul is hoping they will listen, otherwise he indicates that all his labor will have been in vain among them! (2:16)
b. It is useless labor if we win people to Christ only to treat them just like the rest of the world!
c. The expectation of servanthood is a selfless love for others.
B. Fulfillment 2:17-18
1. Paul now addresses the fact that he may well be executed.. "poured out like a drink offering" (2:17) yet he is not unhappy...having served well he has found great joy....and this is his call to the brothers and sisters in Philippi!
a. if they too will remember the joy of servanthood, they too will experience the joy they once had and can continue to have...otherwise it will soon be lost!
b. It is a very basic thing to hang onto in our corporate life as a Church, but it can slip away so easily if we are not paying attention!
c. we would have fewer unhappy Christians in our churches if we had more
servants in them!
ILLUS: A man came to the pastor one time and said, "I don't know
what's wrong with my life, but that first Christian joy I knew has passed by. I
still live a moral life. I go to church. But how can I recover the lost radiance
of my faith?" His pastor said, "this is what you should do: go to the store and
buy a big basketful of groceries and go to an address of a poor family I will
give you. Then when you have given your gift, you sit down with them to find out
what they need. Let them know that you are interested in them and that you are
their friend. Then lead them in the Lord's Prayer before you leave, and the
radiance will come back."
2. Since Paul is being poured out like a sacrifice...and this brings him great joy knowing the fruit of his service has resulted in their salvation, he invites them now to join him in the journey of servanthood so that they too can be glad and rejoice with him! (2:18)
a. Paul understood the joy of servanthood, those at Philippi used to, now they are being called to discover it again.
b. Jesus "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Heb. 12:2) became a servant so that we might know God's love and forgiveness, He too knew the joy of servanthood.
3. There is great joy in servanthood....discover it!
CONCLUSION: The road to joy is paved by "serving"! Christ's joy was made complete when He became a servant and redeemed us through His obedience even unto death. Joy is not the product of "getting stuff" as much as it is "giving up self". The greatest joys in life are in serving God and others. The measure of your joy can be defined by the measure of your servant's heart. How joyful are you?