Splashes of Joy
“Joy in the Journey”
The apostle Paul suffered unspeakable cruelty in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote of his many imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:23-28).
The more influence Paul exerted for the Lord, the harder the journey became. Finally, he was arrested and placed under house arrest. He was allowed to remain in his own rented quarters (Acts 28:30) for the space of two years. Paul was able to have visitors and he continued to preach and teach to all who visited, but he was kept in custody and chained to a Roman guard twenty-four hours a day.
From his captivity, Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi. Amazingly, we discover the apostle’s reaction to his unfortunate circumstances was joy. He did not complain about his difficult circumstances or ask his friends to procure his release. He wrote a rather upbeat message, urging his readers to celebrate the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ with him. And he spoke often of his joy. Nineteen times over the course of this short letter, Paul mentioned joy. Unbridled. Outlandish. Unspeakable joy.
Most Bible commentators place the writing of the Book of Philippians about A.D. 62. Paul had founded the church at Philippi and he had special feelings for this beloved congregation. When the church body discovered Paul’s incarceration, a love offering was collected. A trusted church member, Epaphroditus, was dispatched with their financial aid for the beloved apostle. The letter of Philippians is a thank-you letter of sorts, back to the church.
I. Christ Centered Confidence-Philippians 1:1-11
According to the custom of the day, Paul opens the letter with his signature. Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus. Paul included Timothy in his greeting, because the Philippian congregation knew him.
Paul identified himself and Timothy, his co-laborer, as bond-servants. In the Greek language the term bond-servant means “one bound to another by the bands of constraining love.” Paul wrote to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi. Philippians is a letter written by servants and addressed to saints. In the original Greek the term saints means“set apart and consecrated for the purpose of God’s service.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we receive God’s grace, His unmerited favor. Additionally we have peace with God and we experience the peace of God regardless of our circumstances. The word peace in its earliest form meant “to bind together.” It carried the idea of being bound so closely together with someone or something that the end result was harmony.
God has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Pet. 1:3). As believers, we have received untold riches in Christ Jesus. Here Paul mentioned only two: grace and peace. The benefits of the grace of God and the peace of God give us reason to rejoice.
The letter to the Philippians resounds with joy. Rather than wallowing in self-pity or rehearsing his misfortune, Paul pens a joyous letter of encouragement to the flock at Philippi and urges them to share his joy!
Outrageous joy is the birthright of every child of God. It is a byproduct of our salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
· John 15:11 says, These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in your, and that you joy may be made full.
· John 16:24 says, Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
· In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, He said to the Father, But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves(John 17:13).
Joy is not something we muster up; it springs forth from an endless Source. It spills and it splashes from a fountain of the overflow of our devotional life and love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the study of the Book of Philippians Paul will repeatedly urge us to appropriate the joy of the Lord. Perhaps nothing makes the Christian life more appealing than outrageous joy regardless of the circumstances of life.
II. Father Filtered Faith-Philippians 1:12-20
Paul’s confidence in the sovereignty of God allowed him to view his circumstances through the Father’s eyes. Paul was convinced nothing came into his life, or the life of any born-again believer, that had not passed through the hand and sovereign will of God the Father. Father-filtered faith. It rests in the divine wisdom of God to orchestrate all things for our good and His glory.
Instead of viewing his imprisonment as a roadblock to the spread of the gospel, he considered his guards to be a captive audience. The soldiers, serving in 12-hour shifts, were regularly indoctrinated by a rousing presentation of the gospel message. They became eyewitnesses to the transforming power of God in the humanity of their captive. They heard him pray, teach his visitors, disciple his companions, expound the Scriptures, repeat from rout memory volumes of the Pentateuch, and embody Christ in the man, the hope of glory. They regularly returned to their barracks, stunned by the enigma that was the apostle Paul.
Caesar had arrested Paul with the intention of stopping his ministry and the spread of the gospel. Strangely, God has used Caser to bring the good news into the inner working of Caesar prestigious praetorian guard. Furthermore, Paul’s imprisonment had actually had the reverse affect. Rather than intimidating any who might be of a mind to share Christ into silence, it had actually emboldened many to speak forth the Word of truth with passion and power. The divine irony of the situation produced joy in the heart of the chained apostle. Paul was chained; the gospel was not. No wonder he had joy in the journey! We can too.
The apostle Paul was in chains but the gospel was not. The Roman government had seized the apostle and imprisoned him for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, intending to cut off the apostle’s ministry and strike enough fear into the hearts of all who might be tempted to take his place. Despite his confinement, the apostle Paul continued to have a ministry. In a twist of divine irony, the praetorian guards, consisting of some 9000 men, become his mission field. In God’s sovereignty, the guards became Paul’s captives. In 12-hour shifts, Caesar’s elite military warriors were chained to the apostle, forced into his company. Many fell under the spell of God’s servant, captivated by Paul’s unstoppable faith, unruffled peace and his unquenchable joy despite his difficult circumstances.
Paul was well aware that the motives of some who were proclaiming the gospel message of Jesus Christ were less than pure. Paul addressed the self-promotion that some were seeking by writing, Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife. They proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment (Phil. 1:15; 17). Some were jealous of Paul’s successful ministry and resented his influence in the Roman church. They were preaching the gospel of Christ out of hearts infected with envy, promoting rivalry and factions within the church. Others seized on the vacancy left by Paul as an opportunity to step into the public eye for the advancement of self. Some deliberately tried to compound Paul’s difficult circumstances. And what was Paul’s response to this tragic misuse of the gospel message? What then?Paul asked. Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice (Phil. 1:18). The contentious crowd was not preaching error or a false gospel. Paul would not have taken any pleasure in doctrinal inaccuracy. They were preaching the truth, but with impure motives. Paul knew God would deal with each accordingly. Joy was Paul’s response. By an act of his will, Paul chose joy.
Paul’s heart desire was that Christ be exalted in (his) body whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20). Paul lived deliberately. He was consciously engaged in a life devoted to Christ and the spread of the gospel. Because he considered himself dead, crucified with Christ, physical death hardly held any threat to him. No one couldn’t threaten Paul with heaven! Whether by life or by death, Paul intended to glorify Jesus Christ and exalt His holy name.
III. Call to Consecration-Philippians 1:21-30
Paul had narrowed the purpose of his life to one single-minded goal. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil.1:21). Paul’s practice was closely tied to his position in Christ. Paul fully understood who we are in Christ. He knew God had seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). So surrendered was Paul to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, so lost in his passion for proclaiming Christ, so close was his walk of faith with Christ that in his mind he was already home.
Paul was hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary (Phil. 1:23) for the sake of those who remained. Paul was certainly grateful he would not make the final decision. If God allowed his release from the prison sentence, it would mean the continuation of a fruitful life in the service of the King. If God in His sovereignty called him home, he was certainly ready to see Jesus face-to-face. Paul did not fear anything this life tried to threaten him with, nor did he fear anything the veil of death tried to frighten him with. Christ was his life. Living or dying both represented Christ to him. The lure of seeing Jesus pushed him towards the direction of eagerly anticipating stepping into glory but the need for so many young converts to be discipled and for the gospel to be proclaimed drove Paul to desire to stay and be involved in kingdom work. No matter what happened, Paul chose joy.
While we live in this world, we are certainly not of this world. As members of the blood-bought church of the redeemed, we have dual citizenship. We are American citizens (or whatever nationality you were born into) and we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom ruled by God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
Prior to our conversion, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Formerly we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. We pandered to the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (See Ephesians 2:1-3). We lived in Satan’s camp and were held captive under his sway.
We were sinners by birth, by nature and by choice. But God was rich in mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). God did not leave us in our sin. He sent His Son. While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6). God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Christ died for us. Is it too much to ask that we live for Him? Paul wrote, Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). In light of the cross, is this not our reasonable service to God? Is it beyond the reach of reason that, having received the free gift of salvation, we might be responsible to live a holy and righteous life? Paul wrote, Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil. 2:27). We are called to holy living. The call of consecration lifts us above the earthly realm of the downward pull of the world, the flesh and the devil. That is, we are to live a life marked by the aggressive pursuit of personal holiness and practical righteousness. How is it done? By the renewing of the mind. The mind must be renewed before the behavior can be transformed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2). Renew your mind. Live in obedience to God’s Word, dependence on God’s Spirit, and confidence in the Lord Jesus. Do you want joy? It is yours without end in Jesus Christ. Choose to live in the joy of the Lord and Splashes of Joy will water your faith!