In light of current events and the news that has hit my ears or eyes over the past week. It can be very hard to rejoice and find joy at times like this? TAKE FOR EXAMPLE:
• A close friend sister in-law lost her baby to a miscarriage this past week.
• I visited a brother from this church at the hospital as we discussed funeral arrangements.
• A good friend who I grew up with and love dearly has left the church.
• A close Bible school mate who is faced with the decision to stay at his church or leave because of the terrible fighting that is going on among certain individuals with his pastor.
• Watching my Leafs loose there chance of a playoff spot.
• The struggles that are happening in Libya and throughout the Middle East.
• The aftermath in Japan and the resent earthquake.
• My brothers and sisters around the globe who are murdered and tortured everyday for the sake of the Gospel.
• The terrible story of the young girl who was murdered in British Columbia by two teens.
• The Serial attacker who is on the loose around Toronto where my family lives.
• And to top it off! A screaming baby who is teething (which is probably worse than shoving bamboo needles up your finger nails.)
How can we as Christian’s find joy when this is what we are faced with in a day to day basis? The simple answer is the one we overlook all the time!..................THE CROSS! We forget to look back to what Jesus endured for every single one of us...... the greatest sacrifice He made on the Cross for sinful man and woman. We forget our sinned grieved the Godhead as it once did back in Noah’s day when They said........... “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” Gen 6:6. Remember what the Hebrew writer wrote? “.......for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 12:2. Despite what is happening to His created children.....despite the sin! Jesus found it to be a joy as He sacrificed His life for us. Can you imagine for a minute how Jesus felt when He could see in the hearts of every single person that walked past Him? How could Jesus rejoice when He looked into the eyes of the people who would? Curse His name....Spit in His face.....Assault Him and pin Him to a tree! See Jesus knew that this life wasn’t the end, but a beginning to those who would put their trust in Him. That’s why we should always be looking towards the Cross!! There is joy in the Cross.....There is fellowship in the Cross.....There is healing in the Cross.....There is peace in the Cross.....There is fellowship and unity in the Cross. Remember what D.A. Carson said “What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake.” We can find joy in the midst of struggles and life challenges! We can find joy when we see and hear the things around us! But this all depends on what you invest your joy in; and what it takes to lose it. Joy is a major factor and encourager in the life of a child of God and I’m not talking about entertainment or I centered joy. I MEAN A GENUINE HEART OF WORSHIP THAT ADORES THE GOD WHO CREATED US. I MEAN A HEART OF REJOICING IN THE RISEN LORD. I MEAN IN THE GOD WHO ALLOWS US TO BREATH SO THAT WE GIVE HIM PRAISES FOR OUR EXISTENCE! THE ONE THAT SAVED OUR SOULS FROM ETERNAL HELL AND TORMENT! David said in his Psalm “Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” Ps 145:2. What was David saying?..........Despite what You’ve allowed in my life I will always praise your name. The same goes for us today! We will always find joy in the Saviour.....we can always find joy in the Cross and Paul says the same thing here to the church of Philippi as David said in his psalms many decades before him. Paul says the ultimate joy for the church and what Christ had planned for her is in this portion of Paul’s letter.
1. ULTIMATE JOY IS FOUND WHEN WE ARE ALWAYS REJOICING (V4)
This means “rejoice no matter what the circumstance” This is a continual, habitual practice of each Christian. Paul leaves no room for “excuses” or “Buts” or “what if” Look what he says as he repeats this command! “always” which permits no exceptions regardless how painful or trying you situation must be. Again go back and look at the joy that was set before Jesus Christ as He hung on the tree for sinful man and sinful woman. I know present circumstances can make it very hard to rejoice. I know our depravity, sorrow, misery, and death in the world can choke our reason for rejoicing .......but we are commanded by God to rejoice nonetheless. Why? “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:12
2. ULTIMATE JOY IS FOUND WHEN WE ARE GENTLE TO EVERYONE (V5)
This is what rejoicing provides.........a heart of gentleness....This statement could also be translated “let your softness be known to all men.” This is an outward expression of an inward love that we have towards Christ and his created children. “Gentleness” can also be translated “reasonableness or graciousness” It’s the same kind of behaviour we should be demonstrating when we endure injustice......disgrace........or mistreatment by others. We are to be gentle as doves amongst wolves “to all people” and to the church. We are to be gentle which is a character of Jesus Christ for the church. “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.....” 2 Cor 10:1. Jesus said “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matt 11:29-30. This should be our witness to the world and to one another! Maybe the church would get along a lot better if we started to show signs of gentleness to one another!Think of the witness we could have if the world could see us walking together in unity! Kent Hughes said “within the church this gentleness or softness or sweet reasonableness will prevent and moderate the kind of rift that occurred between Euodia and Syntyche. Even the surrounding world finds this softness and gentleness winsome and inviting. A rejoicing spirit is a gentle spirit and a healing balm to the church and the world.”
3. ULTIMATE JOY IS FOUND WHEN WERE NEVER ANXIOUS FOR ANYTHING (V6a)
Basically what Paul is saying in a nut shell...the Cole’s Notes “don’t worry about anything, so be happy”. Think about this for a moment! Humanly speaking few things were going right for Paul as he sits in a Roman’s cell......waiting possible execution for the proclamation of the Gospel. Danger was always around Paul throughout his missionary life.......what Paul does “stop worrying about anything.”This is a command that echo’s Jesus’ teaching to His disciples and the same goes for us today! "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? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matt 6:25-34. Jesus identifies “worry” as simply pagan “For after all these things the Gentiles seek”..........3 times Jesus forbade His children to worry. Why? Because He is the sovereign......omnipotent God who controls the universe by His mighty right hand...........That’s why! “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?......” Paul also reminded the church this promise in portion of his letter (v5) “the Lord is near” He isn’t distant from you or me.......Nothing is outside of His sovereign control. He knows what you need and what you don’t need. So stop worrying which is sin and turn to Him with praise for His sovereign providence in your life. Worry is unfruitful and anything unfruitful is sin! Matt 13:22 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares (worries) of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”
4. ULTIMATE JOY IS FOUND WHEN WE ARE FELLOWSHIPPING WITH THANKFULNESS WITH GOD (V6b)
This is a vital part that keeps us praising His name. This keeps us to have a gentle spirit to everyone around us. This defiantly keeps us from worry which always steals our victory in Jesus. Be anxious for nothing.....but in everything in PRAYER and making your request known to God! “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Col 3:17. This is where we find spiritual stability when we are faced with life difficulties and trials. Prayer and our request is where we direct our specific attention too....the Lord who sits on the Throne.This is always to be done with thankfulness!
Why? Jesus paved the way for us to come into that personal relationship with the Father through His finishing work on the Cross of Calvary. So instead of worrying which is sin! Were to rejoice with gentleness, by seeking His face with thanksgiving because He is always near! We are to cast all our concerns and anxiety on Him. Remember what 1 Peter 5:7 said “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
5. ULTIMATE JOY IS FOUND WHEN WE HAVE A PEACE THAT CAN NEVER BE SHAKEN (V7)
The end result to these commands leads a child of God into “a peace with God that surpasses all understanding”
Remember that peace you experienced at the point of your conversion? “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom 5:1. This is a peace that world cannot understand because of their blindness and ignorance to the Gospel. This is the peace that God provides and gives to His sanctified children. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. We are His children and we can experience that inner peace and joy that is only found in Christ! Again everything comes back to the Cross and His finishing work!
When we reflect on His love towards sinners like us.....it’s easier to follow these commands.Nothing on this earth should be able to steal our joy!Not financeS........Loss of job..........Bad news from loved ones or back home........Not even death can separate our love that we have for Christ and His finishing work on the cross.So how can a Christian find joy in the midst’s of: Struggles and adversity......Seemingly dead marriage....Heartbreak.....Death and whatever else that steals the joy that was planted in your hearts on the day the Lord came and saved you from Hell? By a life that reflects Christ’s work on the cross which leads to:
• A life that rejoices always for every occasion.
• A life that is gentle to all people no matter what.
• A life that is never anxious or worried about anything.
• A life that is always in fellowship with God through prayer with thanksgiving.
• A life that is filled with peace! Something this world desperately needs.
When we use these practical commands that Paul wrote the world will look at you and me and say “There is something different about those people”And when this happens you can turn and say “It’s all because of Jesus and His precious Gospel.”
AS FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL SAID IN HER HYMN “LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS”
“STAYED UPON JEHOVAH,
HEARTS ARE FULLY BLESSED;
FINDING, AS PROMISED,
PERFECT PEACE AND REST.”