Splashes of Joy
The Philippian church held a special place of affection the Paul’s heart. He wrote, It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Phi. 1:7-8). Throughout his letter, Paul affirmed his love for them and the spiritual delight he felt for their forward progress with the Lord.
I. Contention-Philippians 4:1-5
Paul longed to see his Philippian friends and co-laborers in the faith. He was homesick for them. In his mind’s eye, he could picture his dear friends and recall sweet times of shared fellowship. John wrote, You too may have fellowship with us; indeed our fellowship is the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (I John 1:3). Sweet memories of the Philippian flock flood Paul’s soul, bringing joy to his heart and encouragement to his weary soul. Paul wrote, Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved (Phil. 4:1). Like a father proudly considering the godly maturity of his child, Paul reflected on the spiritual growth of the body of Christ in Philippi and it brought great delight to him. Eternal rewards were laid up for Paul because of the Philippian congregation. They would prove to be his crown in glory. A crown that the apostle would gladly cast at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus! So, Philippian church, keep standing firm in the Lord!
However, Paul was aware of a problem in the assembly of believers in Philippi. Sadly, there was contention in the congregation! There was some trouble in paradise! Solomon wrote, Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor (Ecc. 10:1). That is, when dead flies are discovered floating in a vat of perfumed oil, the whole batch is ruined! Dead flies give, even a vat of concentrated perfumer’s oil, a bad smell! And it only takes one or two flies in the ointment to spoil the sweet fragrance of the perfume and most is worthless.
Likewise, in the body of Christ, one or two malcontents can spoil the fellowship and stink up the place! In the midst of the sweet aroma of a united fellowship, striving to fulfill the purposes and plans of God, a fly can spoil the ointment! Division among believers spoils intimacy in fellowship, shakes the faith of new converts, damages the cause of Christ to the unbelieving world, and breaks the heart of God.
At the church of Philippi, Paul was aware of a fly in the ointment. Epaphroditus brought word to Paul of the conflict between two women in the congregation, Euodia and Syntyche. Paul urged the two women to reconcile their differences and live in harmony in the Lord (Phil. 4:2).
Can you imagine what it felt like to be one of these two women? In a letter that contained no rebukes, no correction of doctrinal error, or reprimand for moral failure, in a letter that consists of positive encouragement to press on in the Lord, in a letter intended to be read publicly to the congregation, can you imagine? Can you imagine hearing your name announced as one of the two flies in the ointment that was spoiling the fragrance of Christian harmony? Just how much was holding on to that grudge worth to those two women?
We do not know the details of the disagreement but I don’t think it was worth what it cost them. Mercifully, the reference to Euodia and Syntyche was brief. Much was left unsaid causing me to fear that the details were well known to the congregation. Paul’s gentle plea for unity is immediately tied to joy. These two women had lost the joy of Jesus. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near! (Phil. 4:4-5). The joy of the Lord produces a gentle spirit. That is the testimony the Christian world should be known for, not bickering and in-fighting!
II. Prayerlessness-Philippians 4:6-9
Contention is a sure Joy Robber! So is prayerlessness.
Paul connects prayer and peace. Paul writes, Be anxious for nothing (Phil. 4:6). How do you avoid anxiety in the midst of the world where we live? The answer is through prayer.Prayer is a divine mystery. Why pray when God already knows our needs and requests? What’s the point? We do not know how prayer works but we do know that God designed it to encourage us to come to Him. He longs to hear from us. He delights to meet with us. He wants us to pour out our hearts in prayer and make our requests known to Him. The process of prayer allows us to formulate the cries of our heart into prayer requests, causes us to spend time developing a thankful heart, teaches us to praise the Lord, and invites us to participate in kingdom activity. While we cannot explain prayer it is one of the loveliest of Christian disciplines and it moves us into a closer walk with the Lord.
Prayer produces peace. How? Prayer brings the activity of the Almighty into play. It moves us from our earth-bound living and lifts our eyes to heavenlies places as we change our focus from our situation to our Savior. We begin to bring our circumstances in line with God’s heavenly perspective. Prayer produces confidence in God’s presence and power in our situation. It focuses our eyes on Jesus. Through prayer, we draw the courage to persevere, the ability to know God’s heart, the divine power to do God’s will, and the confidence to live in the audacity of faith based on the Word of God and made operational by the Spirit of God.
Pure thoughts. Think on these things. Think on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. Think on these things. Think on Jesus. When we do, the peace of God distills upon our souls, reminding us the God of peace is with us (Phil. 4:9). To ignore the spiritual discipline and privilege of prayer is to be laid waste by the Joy Robbers!
III. Discontentment-Philippians 4:10-23
In Paul’s day, the care of prisoners fell to families and friends and not the state. It was up to the prisoners to enlist help. Paul had no visible means of support. He was cast wholly on the Lord and the kindness of His people.
The Philippians had sent Paul financial support on several occasions. One of the purposes of Paul’s letter was to thank the congregation for their generous and timely gift. Paul’s letter was full of heartfelt gratitude and spiritual instruction. The Philippian church had ministered to his physical needs. In turn, Paul ministered to their spiritual needs.
Paul was grateful for financial gift Epaphroditus delivered and for the love it represented. The sacrificial financial assistance represented the Philippians’ love for the Lord and for His servant, Paul. Because the gift was based on their spiritual relationship in the Lord, their material gift was an occasion for Christian joy.
The believers at Philippi shared a unique bond in the Lord with the apostle Paul. He had personally led many of them to the Lord. He had planted the church there. He had invested in them through preaching, teaching, and disciple making. He considered them his joy and crown, his riches and his reward (Phil. 4:1). The finances gift represented the riches in Christ they all shared. It touched a responsive chord of praise in his soul. Paul praised God for His gracious provision through the Philippian believers. Paul rejoiced in the Lord greatly (Phil. 4:1).
Apparently, some time had elapsed between gifts from the Philippian church. Paul was aware that the passage of time did not represent a lack of interest, but a lack of opportunity. Paul wrote, Now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity (Phil. 4:10). This sentence sounds a bit like a rebuke but Bible commentators do not think it was meant to be. Perhaps a better translation might be, “You have renewed your concern for me because you have been concerned.” Bible commentators believe this is more along the lines of Paul’s intention. The Philippians had been concerned all along and had wanted to respond, but because of Paul’s situation, they had not been able to get aid to him. The church created an opportunity to send financial aid to Paul. Epaphroditus would be the courier of the gift.
Travel in this day was very difficult. No lodging was available. Transporting food was a problem. Safety issues were a constant concern. Robbery was a common occurrence as travelers ventured through isolated areas. With little or no security patrols, muggings often escalated to murder. Epaphroditus would be traveling with a cash gift, making him an especially vulnerable target. Furthermore, contact with a prisoner of Rome was dangerous. Paul was considered a conspirator against Nero. Anyone who provided help to Paul was in danger of falling under suspicion. Association with Paul was risky at best. The sacrificial financial gift represented only a part of the gift; the danger Epaphroditus risked to deliver the gift was equally significant.
Paul was grateful for the gift. It caused him to rejoice in the Lord for His supernatural provision. However, he wanted to make it very clear. His joy was not dependant on financial aid from the Philippians or any other source. Paul had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. Contentment is learned through experience. Paul had learned to live in complete detachment from his circumstances. Paul reckoned the circumstances of his life to have been ordered by the Lord. Consequently, he fared well in and through them because of his own relationship to Christ.
Paul had experienced prosperity and he had known poverty. Because he considered God to be in control of the circumstances of his life, his soul was at rest regardless of the prevailing situations of life. Paul could rise above any set of circumstances and prosper spiritually. Why? Paul wrote, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).Christ strengthened him. As Paul sought to live in the center of God’s will, he could rest in God’s power, provision, and providence. Please notice. This verse, often lifted out of context, is a conditional promise. The promise of God’s power is limited to the sphere of His will.
Paul was content. In poverty or in prosperity, Paul was content. In prison or in the pulpit, Paul was content. Full or famished, Paul was content. Discontentment is a sure Joy Robber!
IV. A Satisfied Soul-Philippians 4:14-23
Paul’s joy rested in his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11). Paul’s soul resounded with the joy of the Lord, regardless of his circumstances.
Paul was grateful for the financial relief that the Philippians had sent. However, he was not seeking a gift. His contentment was in Christ. Still, Paul was very aware of the value of the sacrificial gift - not to his account, but to the balance sheet of eternal rewards laid up in heaven for the Philippians. Paul wrote, I seek for the profit which increases to your account (Phil. 4:17).
The love gift would serve to meet Paul’s needs, but it would accrue heavenly interest and eternal rewards for the Philippian Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Paul knew the members of the Philippian church were not wealthy. The size of the gift represented sacrificial giving. Paul was humbled by their sacrifice but he was well aware it was impossible to out give God. Out of His limitless treasury, God would supply the need of these who had given with liberty.
God’s sufficient supply through the Philippians’ gift caused Paul’s thoughts to linger on God’s glory and grace, prompting a doxology. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greetings were sent to the Philippians from all those with Paul, especially those of Caesar’s household. What divine irony. Paul’s imprisonment for preaching the gospel had lead to the furtherance of the gospel in Caesar’s very own household!
Paul was satisfied, amply supplied, with the Philippians’ gift. Beyond that, his soul was satisfied with Jesus. I cannot help but think that Jesus was satisfied with Paul! I trust your soul is satisfied with Jesus. May you walk with The Lord Jesus Christ as a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. May you enjoy His endless supply ofSplashes of Joy.