Philippians 3:17-21 & 4:1-7.
Phil.3:17-21 (NKJV) - 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Phil.4:1-7 (NKJV) 1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. Be United, Joyful, and in Prayer. 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
History of Philippians:
Paul is writing to the same church as we read in the book of Acts. Philippi is the city that Paul visited on one of his missionary journeys and we read about how the church in Philippi started, in Acts 16 we read about the conversion of Lydia and her family as well as the jailer and his family while Paul was a prisoner Philippi. The book is filled with joy and thanksgiving. The word Joy is found 16 times in this letter from Chapter 1-4. Paul wrote the letter while he was imprisoned in Rome. Considering the Apostle Pauls circumstances while he wrote this letter we can so much more listen to what he has to say about joy.
That is why I gave the sermon the heading “Finding True Joy”. We will look at five points when it comes to true joy.
- Real joy. V1-3
- The rival of joy. V4
- The recovery of joy. V4
- Remaining in joy. V4
- The revelation of joy. V5-7
People today are consumed by the passion of happiness. They look at books, motivational speakers and articles, but for most people this door of happiness stays locked. Unable to control their circumstances, their circumstances controls them. When their job, family, life partner fails to make them happy they drop them or it and find a replacement. Have you ever noticed that when you enjoy the pleasures of the world or try and find happiness in the world you normally look down? You look down to your wallet and it costs you more than you budgeted for financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Where should we look to for real joy. Paul writes this letter not saying that a Christian can rejoice sometimes, but all the time. In saying this it does not mean that we cannot have a time of mourning or sadness or even have some pleasures. We need to look up to Christ and find our real joy in Him. As we do this we will find our joy in one day being transformed and be conformed to His presence and we will have glorious bodies.
v Real joy.
V1: He writes a very enduring part to people he shared his ministry with. Even though he was a great apostle he calls them his brethren. He sees them as brothers and that he is not more important than they are. Paul realized that we are being made holy by the same Spirit and it points to Paul’s humility. He loved them dearly, he wanted welfare for them and he rejoiced in them and saw them as his crown. The word crown here in Greek is “Stephanos” which refers to a festive garland which was worn as a sign of gladness or a wreath awarded to the winner of a race. Paul saw them as his reward for his hard work in sweating for the gospel and that his work was not in vain. Because of this he exhorts them to stand fast in the Lord. He wants them to stand in Him who gives you grace, safety and endurance. To stand fast in the Lord is to put your trust in Him and not to trust in yourself for the power and endurance. He exhorts two specific people that might be in a struggle with each other or going through a difficult time putting their trust in the Lord.
V2-3: He says that they should have the same mind in Christ. In the ESV it says “to agree in the Lord” Saying, please do not look to each other and the other ones mistakes, but look to the Lord for the solution and help. It’s not about us. He then mentions a true companion. Most commentators believe it was Epaphroditus who at some stage was the pastor of the Philippian church. He calls this person his joke fellow someone closes to Paul. Paul is asking him to help these two ladies think the same thoughts so that they can stop arguing. He is asking him to help Euodia and Syntyche to have their focus on the Lord. We need to think in the same way. Paul is asking his joke fellow to help these two ladies think the same way. You might say that it’s impossible to think the same way and I would agree to some degree. But he is saying that if we think Christ like thoughts it would be difficult to disagree so much that there will be a broken chain in fellowship. He mentions his companion to help them to keep striving for this mind set. Why? It’s because your thinking determines your life style. The mind set of Christ. What is this mind set? This mind set is to humble yourself and to put all your trust in the Lord to look to Him for solutions and through that find your joy in Him.
You may ask what does this have to do with joy.
The opposite of joy is sorrow or sadness and these feelings are feelings or an awareness of loss. True joy is when you are aware of gain or a sense of possession. We as Christians have this possession in Christ. We can then think in the same way because we are all in Christ and we have the mind of Christ through His word.
Now why would Paul ask his companion to help these people keep this mind set? It’s about finding the true joy in your walk with Christ. Focussing with the right mind set to find your safety and joy in Christ. Finding joy in Christ needs the right mind set. You need to set your mind on Christ to find true joy in Him.
The joy that Paul writes about is not an emotional state because emotions will leave you after a while. The joy that Paul is talking about is the joy that makes you look up not down it’s a consistent state of joy. As I mentioned earlier Paul writes with humility not putting himself above these Christians. True joy is being humble. Submitting our minds and humbling ourselves to the revelation God has given us in His teaching.
Why do I say this? Listen to what Jesus told His disciples in John 15:11”These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. It says if you love one another as I have loved you, you will have my joy in you. It’s to have the same mind as Christ to see others more important than you. As Paul saw the Philippian church as his crown we find true joy in the things that Christ find joy in. Well that’s what Paul wants us to see, it is to give up your preferences and your selfish demands and practice humility in your relationships and you will find true joy in those relationships which ultimately is the relationship with Christ. To be humble in your relationship to Christ means that you will trust and obey Him and that you will submit to what He has planned for you. You will find joy in this because you know He is in control. This is way he wrote to the church asking his joke fellow to help specifically the two ladies get to this point. You will gain more true joy being humble than being selfish.
Joy is not inward, downward look it’s an outward and an upward look. It’s looking to Christ changing your mind in how you think of life through the lenses of Christ. AW Towzer said: “What comes into your mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Knowledge of God is the key to rejoicing in Him”.
Paul was able to write this letter even in a rotten prison cell because he knew where his true joy came from. It was not in his surroundings, his status or his possessions no it was in Christ. Our true joy should also be in what we have in Christ. Our knowledge of Christ should give us joy in life. This refers back to our minds and what we fill it with. Why does God delight in His Son? It’s because He knows who He is. Do we know who Christ is?
What do we have in Christ? We have a perfect advocate; we have everlasting life because our biggest problem has been taken care of. God works everything together for our good Rom 8:28. Paul then says that they should rejoice in the Lord always. All our joy should terminate in God. All our thoughts of God should be delightful thoughts. Listen to what the Psalmist say (Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart”, Psalm 94:19 “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul”. Our joy should come from the Lord.
He repeats himself meaning it is an important thing to rejoice in the Lord. It’s important because without Him and the work He did for us through His Son we will not have any true joy if we do not find our joy in the Lord. Our joy comes from Him through His grace. He comforts us, He helps us in need, He saved us from eternal suffering, and He gives us life every day. We need to change our minds by knowing more about Christ and humbling ourselves in Him that we can have true joy.
Now that we have seen what real joy is let us look at the Rival of joy.
v Rival of joy.
You might think that sorrow or grief is the biggest enemy to joy, but it’s not, its anxiety. After Paul says be joyful he says in v6: “do not be anxious about anything”. Paul says that if you want to find joy you should not be anxious, but rather give the things that makes you anxious to God through prayer and let Him look after you and then you will have true joy in your heart through Christ Jesus. A puritan wrote and said: “There can be no greater spiritual stability that the confidence that the Lord is near. Joy is not a feeling it’s a deep down confidence that God is in control of everything” that’s why you do not have to be anxious and can have joy in your life. This we see in Matthew 6:25 Jesus tells His disciples “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
Its anxiety that robs us from joy and what is anxiety other than fear. The prohibition/ proscription that Jesus gave more than any other in all His teachings was “Fear not”. We should draw back to the Father and have fellowship with Him, we should stay close to Him and thus to the source of joy. We should remind ourselves what the Father and Christ had done for us and so remind ourselves where our strength lies and where the source of joy is. We should fight this rival of joy with spending time with God, His word and the people of God. We should spend time in prayer and have faith in God to be our ambassador of joy.
Now that we know what the rival of joy is, how can we recover it when the rival robbed us from joy? This brings us to our third point.
v Recovery of joy.
The word rejoices that Paul uses here is to have confidence in Christ Jesus, His overcoming or His triumph over death. Paul writes this saying that he expects Christians to be joyful. As we have seen in the previous point he wants his readers and us to fight for joy. When we lose it we should fight back and find triumph over the rival of joy to get it back. The most basic method is to focus our attention on the source of our joy. The source of our joy as we have seen is in Christ because He is the victor of death. We should compare what we have in Christ to the rival of joy which is anxiety so that we can recover our joy. What do we have in Christ? Everlasting life. This should give us even more reason to be joyful. I am not saying that God is not happy if we are not happy, no, He wants us to find our joy in Him and thus we will glorify Him and that will make Him satisfied and we will be filled with joy.
When we get your joy back by focusing on the source how do we stay joyful point four?
v Remaining in joy.
How do we remain joyful? As I mentioned the church in Philippi is the same church as in Acts 16. What happens in chapter 16 specifically from verse 16-25? Paul and Silas help a slave girl that was demon possessed to be cleansed. Her masters were angry because now she was freed from these spirits and could not make money for them, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and through them in prison. In verse 25 it says they sang and prayed to God. What happened next was an earth quake and their bonds fell off, but through all of this the keeper of the prison and his whole family got saved. This prison guard was the part of Paul’s crown. The key to this true joy is in the source in what you find joy in. Can you see what Paul and Silas did? They kept their joy in the Lord not in their circumstances. They took up their cross they prayed and sang to God while they were in prison. The Lord Jesus Christ is this joy and it’s not a sometimes experience, it’s an everlasting experience. Why? Because if Christ is within us and we are in Him it’s a permanent relationship and permanent joy in Him. “Even if a Christian cannot rejoice in his circumstances or pain or grief they can always rejoice in Christ and what He has done for them”. It’s not that you will find joy in the illness you get or the broken relationship you experience or the death of a loved one. It’s the thought of who you are in Christ that is the joy. It’s why Paul told the church to have the same mind in Christ. We should have a different mind-set. Since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice in Him always. It’s to have a different mindset and to look through the eternal lenses.
This is what Paul means when he says rejoice in the Lord always. He also says in Chapter 1:21 “To live is Christ and to die is gain”. We are who we are because of Him. This is how we remain joyful. We can always have joy because we have the reality that we are one with Christ and with this there are lots of perks and advantages.
Our citizenship in heaven helps us with this mind-set. He starts Chapter 4 with the word “Therefore”. Paul is saying that because we have a heavenly citizenship which we see in the closing verses of Chapter 3 we can stand fast in the Lord. We can stand fast in the Lord and find joy in Him because we have His assurance. The first thing that I was thought when I’m overseas was to find the South-African embassy when I find myself in trouble. Why? Because I would be able to find safety there not because of who I am but because of the papers I hold I’m a South-African citizen. In the same way Paul says that we are citizens of heaven. We also can find refuge in the Lord as we are in a foreign country when we run to Him. He knew that the Philippians church would understand this because they were a province of Rome and had all the privileges that the citizens of Rome had. Graciously we can have more faith in our heavenly embassy than our earthly embassy.
Now that we can remain in joy what should this look like and why should we reveal joy which is our last point?
v Revelation of Joy.
The word “rejoice” that Paul uses here is a verb. A verb describes action or a state of being. This means it describes a person’s character. They can be named by it. We need to look at what this joy should reveal in our lives and why we should be identified as joyful. He answers the church in how they should walk and look like. We need to focus on the heavenly treasures that we have as Paul reminds us in the closing verses of Chapter 3. We should focus on our inheritance in Christ and on our citizenship in heaven. We are permanent residence on earth, but our citizenship is in heaven. This means that we cannot do certain things on earth as we are citizens of heaven (use voting as an example). We cannot have a heavenly passport, but sound like we are citizens of earth.
What we see in v5-6 describes what we should look like to the world because of our citizenship. The character of a Christian should not be marked by being miserable, being stubborn or anxious. We all have bad days, but you will not be characterized by this characteristic of being without joy. Christians should be the most joyful people alive because they have much to be joyful about.
V5: “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand”. A joyless person can never be a gentle person. Our gentleness should be known to all people. Not just the people at the church, all people. The word gentleness means being kind and careful. The ESV says reasonableness. It’s to reason in a gentle way. The same word gets translated in other New Testament texts as forbearance and the definition of forbearance is – tolerance, patience, endurance, and leniency. Forbearance is a form of repayment relief granted by the creditor in lieu of forcing a property in foreclosure. What does this remind us of? It reminds us of the work of Christ. He is kind, He is patient with us, He endured the cross for us and He was lenient to pay our penalty for our sins. Thus we should resemble Christ if we want people to identify us as joyful people. Paul mentioned these two ladies and their lack of thinking in the right way and in doing so hurting the gospel. We must in return be gentle and reasonable in our dealings so that we will not hurt the gospel, but be ambassadors of the gospel.
V6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. “Anxiety and Prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water”.We should not be identified as being anxious worrisome about anything. In the Hebrew expository dictionary anxious is substituted with care and the description that is given is to be drawn in a different direction. Anxiety draws us away from Christ. It’s not too being anxious about something and to hold on to Christ so that He will draw you in a different direction than to be anxious. Again we can rejoice in this fact to know that Christ will turn our attention away from being anxious. To reveal the joy in your life is to trust in God and in have faith in Christ so that your life can reveal what He has done for you. This revelation of joy is necessary for people to see Christ in you and in doing this we are able to share the gospel with them and give them joy as well.
How do we do this? We should do this prayerfully and with thanksgiving. We can find joy in prayer because to bring everything to the Lord in prayer we know that we can trust in Him to help us keep our joy. Someone that takes everything to the Lord in prayer resembles a joyful person because he will rest in the Lord and thus have joy in the Lord. He will also not be anxious because of his trust in the Lord.
Look at V7: Read: ”and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Guard us from what? This peace in God will guard our hearts agents anxiety as we have seen the rival of joy is, it will help us to recover joy when we lose it, it will help us to remain in joy in any circumstance and it will help us to reveal the joy in our hearts so that we can show the world who He is.
He then says all this peace that will help us guard our hearts will be through Christ Jesus. Why? When we find our joy in Christ our joy will be guarded through Christ. It’s because of what He had done for us. We do not have to be anxious, but we can rejoice because we do not have to rely on ourselves to earn our citizenship in heaven and to get our joy. This is only possible through the work Christ did for us. He died on the cross, He was buried and He rose again. We need to make sure our mindset is right and our spirits are humble to His word so that we can have joy in Him.
Let’s look up and find our true joy in Christ. “You only have true joy before death if you are sure to have happiness after death”.
Message by Tommie van der Walt – Vaal Triangle Reformed Baptist Church (Three Rivers) – Sunday 02 November 2014