walk in the word
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
OK, here’s a pop quiz. Last week we nailed down a definition of “joy.” Do you remember it? I’ll get you started, “joy is a supernatural delight in the_______, _______, and ______ of God.”
Answer: Joy is the supernatural (as in, its God’s thing) delight in the person, purposes, and people of God. For several weeks on the broadcast we’re talking about how to choose joy. Our study is based on a verse-by-verse walk through Philippians, the most concentrated book on joy in the whole Bible.
Today, I want to raise some warning flags about joy-predators. When I delivered this sermon in church I brought this plastic Jaws-shark from behind the pulpit. (Can you hear it? Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum.) It’s a picture of how some joy-predators come out of no where and threaten to take us under. You know, “I was doing so great, but then _____ happened.” If you swim with these sharks, you’re gonna lose your joy for sure. So you have a choice to make. Let’s look at the apostle Paul’s experience in Philippians 1:12,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel . . .”
Here’s the first warning flag: Don’t lose your joy over suffering. Read 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 to get the details about Paul’s suffering. Paul was like, “Yeah, I’m going through hard times. But I’m not losing my joy over some shark in the water because I see that God is using me in this time of suffering.” Paul saw his darkest moments as producing great impact among other believers. “People are watching me and they’re saying, ‘This thing Paul believes is real. We’ve been watching Paul and we’ve seen how Jesus works in his life. Paul can’t be making that joy up.’” Wouldn’t it be thrilling if someone saw Jesus at work in our lives during times of suffering?
Here’s the second warning flag: Don’t lose your joy over other people. My dad wrote me an email this week and said, “You know, it isn’t really circumstances that threaten my joy. More often than not it’s the people.” Can you relate? Sometimes our joy is threatened by other Christians who aren’t living up to their message. Look at Philippians 1:15; Paul knew all about that kind of pressure.
“Some, indeed, preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will;”
In context, Paul was referring to other preachers who were working against him. He said, “I can’t judge their motives—only God can see their heart. No matter what their intent, I’m grateful that Christ is preached.” Here’s the lesson. Sure others might try to hurt you or manipulate circumstances for their benefit, but do they preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do they proclaim the only hope for a fallen humanity is to turn from sin and embrace Jesus Christ by faith as the only basis for forgiveness? If they’re preaching that, then like Paul, I’m not gonna lose my joy over other members of God’s family.
Last thought from Philippians 1. If other people and circumstances aren’t threatening your joy today, then hear this: Don’t lose your joy over an uncertain future. Sometimes the thing that surfaces (da-dum, da-dum, da-dum) is not suffering or problems with other Christians, sometimes what threatens to devour your joy is . . . something. You can’t quite put your finger on it but it smells like fear. It’s the future lurking out there in the dark water.
Paul had some thoughts like that. As he wrote this letter he knew one of two things was certain: life or death—maybe tomorrow. But check out his attitude in verse 20:
“According to my eager expectation and my hope, that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage, now, as always, Christ will be honored in my body . . .”
He says, “Man, this is my chance.” In the words “eager expectation” is the idea of stretching out your neck to see what’s ahead. Paul said, “Here’s what I know for sure: whether by life or death, Christ will be honored.” “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (verse 21). If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then that’s your whole future right there. What will happen to you? Gain. No 900 number is required for this prediction of your future. Paul says, “I’m not going to lose my joy, because up ahead I win.” Living brings honor to Christ. Dying brings gain.
You say, “Well, what is this gain exactly?” It’s heaven!
A few years back I did a series on heaven called “A Glimpse of Glory.” Heaven is a lot more than gold streets and church all the time. Heaven is phenomenal, big, and abundantly fulfilling—so much so that your mind can’t even comprehend what God has in store for those who love Him. In your first five seconds in heaven all sorrow is erased. All human happiness eclipsed. Should somebody ask, “What was the worst thing that happened to you in life?” you won’t remember. Or if they say, “How good is this?” You’re gonna be like, “better than anything I’ve ever experienced.” And that’s in the first five seconds. Just add to that forever!
I guarantee you that ten thousand years from today we’re gonna realize how short this part was. So let’s not lose our joy over anything. This isn’t some pep talk or emotional inoculation intended to last till Thursday. You can build your life on this truth. You can choose joy. You can constantly choose to let the life of Jesus overflow from you. And I tell you, this works in the deepest valleys. God’s supernatural delight sustains people in the darkest, most difficult seasons of life. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve experienced it in my own life.
So all that remains is this: will you choose joy? Don’t let suffering steal it. Keep your perspective on people who threaten it. Remember what’s ahead in your future. God help us in this brief season we have left on earth to rejoice no matter what, that we might bring glory to Him and serve Him with greater effectiveness.
brought to you by change partners