Jumping for joy! What does it even take to pull off this kind of joy? For this group it was merely pancakes at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, but generally speaking “jumping for joy” eludes us more often than not! Now granted, the “jump” of joy might be a bit of a lofty goal….. I mean, who gets (or even SHOULD get) pancakes on a regular basis. But I do believe we can (and should) be having a steady diet of “JOY”! It’s totally doable! And if ya don’t believe me, let’s just check in with Paul…. he’s not only doing it, but in his letter to the Philippians, he’s a proponent of it! He starts his letter telling them…..
Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy……..
Making my prayer with JOY…. How’s that even possible?
To me, “Prayer” denotes need. And “Joy”? Well, doesn’t that mean life’s working for ya! So is that Paul’s deal? Is life “kinda working for him”? Or maybe he knows it’s working for the Philippians?
Well actually, here’s the situation: Paul’s writing this letter from prison (likely in Rome). Not much joy in all that!! And the Philippians? What’s life like for them? Maybe it’s soooo wonderful that even though Paul’s in prison, he’s encouraged by how good things are for them…… Nadda…. Because as he continues on in his letter, we discover that they’re in this together….. they, too, are dealing with persecution and there’s false teaching going on all around them.
And yet….. Paul’s making his prayer with JOY! Interesting. Joy, in spite of.
Carl recently had shoulder surgery. We have been a relatively healthy bunch in our household, especially given that we’re both now on Medicare! Carl has had NO hospitalizations, nor had he ever had any surgeries. I have delivered 2 babies (albeit one was 11.3 lbs. so I would kinda like credit, thank ya very much)!! But beyond this…. we have had little interaction with the medical community. And this is a good thing.
But enter the scene….. Carl’s upcoming shoulder surgery. Well, the week of said surgery, I asked Carl (innocently enough)….. “Are you looking forward to having your surgery on Friday?” He looked at me like I was crazy and said something to the effect “WHO would EVER look FORWARD to surgery?” Well, I thought it was a viable question….. I thought he might be happy about it…. kinda looking forward to the prospect of it fixing whatever ailed him….. the pain, fixing the damage and the like. Suffice it to say, he thought my question was ridiculous. Matter-of-fact, I heard it referenced MANY TIMES during said week. The doctor’s office called to check in, get info, give instructions, etc., and he quickly told me “Well, I told them I was really looking forward to this surgery!” Anybody and everybody who would call to check on him during that week-of…..”well, I’m REALLY LOOKING FORWARD to this upcoming surgery”.
Did you ever just wish you’d kept your mouth shut! I really was not implying that his surgery was no big deal or that I didn’t have a healthy respect and sympathy for what he was going to be going through…..
And I wonder…. could Paul have gotten some of the same flack? Here he says, “I’m making my prayer with JOY…” Could they have responded: “Do you have any idea, Paul, what we’re going through down here in Philippi? Here we are trying to proclaim Jesus and yet these false teachers are countering everything we say! And then there’s the persecution! JOY? You pray for us with joy?? Paul, do you even have a clue?!!”
And that’s just it…. Paul DID have a clue! He knew exactly what was going on and what they were going through! We see that from the following portion of his letter:
Philippians 1:27-30 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
What a dichotomy to us: to use the phrase “worthy of” in the same sentence with the words standing firm, striving, not frightened! When I hear words like stand firm, I imagine that there’s something lurking that’s wanting to take me down! Worthy of THAT? And what about “striving for the faith”? That implies it ain’t coming easy…. ya gotta put forth effort! Worthy of THAT? And how about “not frightened”? The fact that somebody comments on my “not being frightened” implies to me that there was good reason for me TO be frightened! So worthy of THAT?
A dichotomy is a contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different, yet Paul connects them, like they AREN’T different at all! Worthy of all this? And what about that phrase he used…..“for it has been granted to you….”? When I think of something being “granted to me”, words like “bestowed” come to mind…. I think of it as something that I have been allowed to have…. it rings of honor and privilege. And I would never link “granted” in the same sentence with the words suffering and conflict! But Paul does! He tells the Philippians that it has been granted to them that for the sake of Christ they should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that they saw that he had and now hear that he STILL has!
So…. the question belies — HOW IS IT that Paul can think like he thinks? How is it that Philippians (the letter in general) can be so JOY CENTERED, in spite of all that’s going on? The word “Joy” is mentioned 4 times; “Rejoice” shows up 8 times; and “Glad” 3 times! All this within 4 small chapters of a mere 104 verses! So, ….. how’s that even possible?!! Let’s dissect it, because I think we need to know. Who amongst us doesn’t have things nibbling at our feet trying to take us down, we have things that frighten us, we’re trying to “stand firm” but the ground is sinking….. we totally get all this. But to be able to live that life yet STILL HAVE JOY?!!! Sign me up for that!
In v.5-6 Paul tells us how it is that he can pray for the Philippians with joy…. he gives us two reasons……
1) They’re in this together (v.5 Because of their partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. )
2) Paul believes God! (v.6 And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ)
My sister and I and our husbands have a trip planned to Texas. We made all our reservations so long ago that the airline has changed them twice, requiring us to adjust some of our hotel reservations. But even at that, my sister commented that she was glad we had made our plans so far out so we could anticipate and look forward to it longer! And we are! We’ve had plenty of time to do the research, check out Austin and San Antonio and Waco! We’ve checked Trip Advisor for the best places to eat. We’ve asked people who’ve been. We watch Chip and Joanna with a new fervor, knowing that surely we’ll be meeting them! Surely we’ll get together for coffee!! Why the other night they featured a house-makeover for the owners of a coffee shop called “Common Grounds”, and of course we made our plans to go there! I mean we already felt like we knew the owners…. we had, after all, followed the remodel of their house from start to finish! We are still in Johnson City….. but we have our mind “set” elsewhere!
I think this is sorta how Paul operates. Yes he’s still earthbound, walking through the “stuff” of life, but he has his mind “set” elsewhere and he’s encouraging the Philippians by telling them that what God starts…. He finishes. You can believe God! He who began a good work in you will finish it… bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ (when Jesus comes again — returns in glory to raise His people from the dead (ref. 3:20, 21)
A mind “set” elsewhere instills HOPE!
No matter what life is like here, believe God…. He who begins — completes. As Paul told them in 3:20-21….our citizenship is in Heaven and we await Jesus who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.
Which leads me to the first of 3 ways to have Joy, in spite of!
1. See beyond the junk (“Junk” is the remains of something that has been destroyed or broken up) Live past it!
My BFF Pam-o and I send pictures of our grand boy “messes” to each other. We joke about it, but we never really make “the mess” our focus. If we did, we would “miss the moment of THEM”! (We’re kinda just into recreational whining!)
And life’s this way….. yes, it’s a mess, but even within the mess, there will be “moments” for us within our “mess”. Don’t miss them! Grab them….. they may be as simple as coffee with a friend, a sweet visit with a neighbor, an afternoon with a grand baby….. grab these moments whenever you can — they’re sweet little gifts. But that said….. the moments come and the moments go, but life can still be a mess all around us! I say that because some things we will have to walk through are just beyond hard…….and they may actually redefine our lives. We may have to learn to live with a “new normal”, if you will. And it might even be at the “day of Jesus Christ” before any of it makes sense. But hard as they might be…. we need to keep reminding ourselves that these earth-bound things are a gazzillionth of a second, as compared with eternity-ever-after! But ALWAYS KNOW….God begins a good work — and God finishes it …. even if that finish doesn’t come till the day of Jesus Christ. We can believe God and that brings me an uncanny sense of peace and comfort and JOY!
2) Prayer with purpose
In v.7-8 we see Paul’s love for the Philippians and we get a glimpse of their “junk”
Love> Paul holds them in his heart; he yearns for them
Junk> We’re in this together — partakers with me of grace — both in imprisonment and in defense and confirmation of the Gospel
And so he prays……. protect them, deliver them, help them avoid thus and so, remove the pain? NO!
In v.9-11 He prays— that their love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Let’s dissect that out: abounding love, knowledge, discernment, approving the excellent, pure, blameless, righteous
Would this be a good prayer for someone we love? Someone who is in a tough place, dealing with junk? Would this be a good prayer for our children or grandchildren who are embarking on a new school year?
I think about how I might pray for God to “protect my child from kids who would be a bad influence”….. but can’t you just imagine how much more effective to pray:
- that said child would abound in love IN those difficult situations (because we just can’t forever avoid them! We’ve got to learn to maneuver through them!)
- And what if I’m praying that God would give my child knowledge to know HOW to handle the situation,
- and discernment to know what is Truth,
- and that they would approve what is excellent…. not fall into what is “popular”,
- may he or she remain pure and blameless, filled with a righteousness that comes THROUGH Jesus Christ (as opposed to just being a little rule-follower)!
Now THAT’s praying with purpose! That’s a prayer that is empowering, a prayer that can be prayed with JOY, as opposed to just bandaids that cover the wound but don’t bring healing.
Paul’s in prison. Life’s like that. We all have our prisons of sorts…. those things that hold us captive. Not all of life is a Southern Living patio. But….it’s not WHERE we are — it’s WHO we are where we are! PERSPECTIVE — it’s our mental view or outlook. Mind”set”. Let’s see what Paul had his mind “set” on — while considering where we “set” ours.
v.12-18 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.
“What has happened to me”……. how do I view “what has happened to me”?
not fair — I’m trying to live right/do right (pity party)
God’s forgotten me — does He even care? (bitter pill)
But Paul looked at “what has happened to me”….from the perspective of how God was using it!
- If he weren’t in prison, would he have audience with the Imperial Guard?
- Other believers were becoming bolder …. if Paul can BE ALL THIS in prison, surely I can do better!
- Paul doesn’t take it personally…..even within the envy and rivalry situation where these people’s motive was to dig in and discredit him while he’s in prison. Is Paul rattled by this? No. Granted, he does see it for what it is…. he isn’t stupid, ….. but he doesn’t lose his joy over it. Matter-of-fact, he says in v.18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and in that I rejoice.
No matter what we’re dealing with — can it be used to advance the Gospel?
No matter what we’re dealing with — can others be encouraged to be bold, like we are bold?
No matter what we’re dealing with — opposing motives and attitudes? Well, it ain’t about me! And bottom line….. if Christ is proclaimed, then I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice!
How is any of this even possible?
It all comes down to where Paul lives…… he lives at Philippians 1:21 not 2:21
Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 2:21 For all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Where do we live?
In the angst of the present? — “you can’t treat me this way” (defending self/protecting self/promoting self? Sometimes WE become our focus… our life. It’s all about ME!)
In the dread of the future? — The land of “what if” (that place of fear, that place where we drive ourselves crazy)
In the regret of the past? — “I thought this was what I wanted” (stymied & immobilized by past choices/events)
All of these are JOY ROBBERS!
Paul could’ve gone here…..
Angst of present? He’s in prison! And while there, these rivals are trying to pour salt in the wound!
Dread of future? In v.19 Paul says that he knows through their prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for his deliverance. (Even though he’s in prison, he’s trusting God with this!)
Regret of past? Good grief, Paul is the one who PERSECUTED Christians, forevermore! If he had lived in regret of the past, he might’ve had the attitude that he deserved prison! But it was Paul who wrote in Phil.3:13-14 one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
So instead of angst, dread, or regret…. Paul lives in that place called HOPE! If I live, it’s all Christ. If I die? It just means MORE of Christ….. it’s GAIN!
Paul said in Philippians 2:17-18 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Fill in the blank with your “Even if…..” Even if ________________, I am glad and rejoice… and you should, too!