Philippians was written by Paul, and he wrote it while he was under house arrest. Based on verse 1, we see that Timothy was with him and contributed to writing this letter as well. It was written to the church in Philippi. Paul specifically points out that he wrote this letter to those who belong to Christ, including church leaders and deacons. If there was one word to sum up the book of Philippians, it would be “JOY”! In fact, while studying and preparing this chapter I got the song… “I got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!....Where?”…stuck in my head on repeat. But wait, if it was written while Paul was under house arrest why would the theme be joy and not doom, gloom, despair and with a “poor me” mentality? Well, the reason is that despite any and all circumstances, Paul is encouraging believers that we can have joy. Tony Evans noted, “Paul wants God’s saints to live in the joy of the Lord and His kingdom instead of just reacting to their circumstances.” I often feel that all too many times I have found myself in the camp of just reacting to whatever life has thrown at me. I haven’t really thought about being joyful in and in all circumstances. Dr. Evans also shared this quote on joy, “Joy consists of internal stability in spite of external circumstances.” I want this to be true in my life. I feel like sometimes my life has modeled the complete opposite. I am full of Joy and then… Wham! Life happens and then I can find that joy, joy, joy joy, down in my heart.
Now I want to start by looking at Verse 6 where Paul states, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns.” What great assurance that the work that Christ has begun in your life and, in my life, will continue until it’s complete. God doesn’t start something in us only to leave us hanging. One commentator wrote, “People often start projects with great enthusiasm. However, when their zeal fades, the work fizzles out. But God is not like us. He never undertakes anything that he doesn’t finish. When He begins a good work in a believer’s heart, it’s as good as done.” That’s a great encouragement to us today!
Next, we see in Verses 9-11 a powerful prayer that Paul prays for the church in Philippi. I want to encourage you to take this prayer and insert either your own name or the name of a family member in it. There is power in praying Scripture when praying to the Father. In fact, here’s a shameless plug for our Moms in Prayer group that meets Monday mornings at 8am in the lobby here at Heritage. This is something that the moms do every week when praying for our kids and grandkids. We take a Scripture like verses 9-11 and we would pray it like this, “I pray that Silas’ heart will overflow more and more, and that he will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. I pray he understands what really matters, so that he may live a pure and blameless life until the day of Christ’s return. I pray Silas will be filled with the fruit of Your Salvation – that righteous character produced in his life by you, Christ Jesus. I pray Silas’ life will bring much glory and praise to you, Lord.”
The next section of verses really spoke to me in a way I almost missed. Verses 12-19 is Paul basically saying that his imprisonment is bringing him so much joy because God is using it to encourage and strengthen other believers around him, and they are growing in boldness to share the Good News. He is so full of joy though that despite his circumstances that quite honestly would have me questioning, “Where is God?” He is genuinely happy that the Good News is spreading. This reminded me of the famous verse in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes for them.” So be encouraged if you are going through a trial or struggle, that God is working, and he has not forsaken or abandoned us. His Will shall be accomplished. And we don’t know who we may be encouraging just by living for the Lord during hard times.
The next six verses (20-26) are a back and forth struggle by Paul about whether it would be best for him to live or die, so he could be with Christ sooner. He concludes that although he desires to be with Christ, he wants to remain alive longer to finish the work Christ had for him to accomplish. I want to say to you today, as long as you have breath in your lungs, there is still work you have to do on this Earth. Never question or doubt your purpose or trade the truth of God for a lie that you are better off gone. I am sure many of us have struggled with those thoughts but know and believe today that despite what you are going through, there is still work for you to do.
Finally, Paul finishes out this chapter reminding us to live as citizens of Heaven. For us as believers, I believe it’s this push and pull back and forth of being in the world, but remaining as aliens and not getting too comfortable. This life is all about preparing for the next one. Then in verse 27, Paul was talking about the Philippians when he said, “Whether I come see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit, one purpose, fighting together for the faith…” I couldn’t help but think of this Dwell series and the vision Pastor Tim and our church staff had for us all in it. The sheer unity of us all reading the New Testament together each day and listening to a devotional thought and how we also hear a sermon that also goes over what we are all reading together. This is helping us be a part of that mission of one spirit and one purpose and creating a spirit of unity within our church and beyond.
I want to wrap up all the many points I covered with this last question, do you have that joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart?