This Preaching in Shorts sermon series is called “Developing a Disciples Heart”.
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We are now going to move from Getting Focused to Getting Thankful. By spending time everyday thinking about what we are thankful for, rather than spending our time thinking about on what we don’t have, we are able to experience more of the joy of the Lord. In this section we will be using Philippians 4:4-8 which will help us to be thankful.
Philippians 4:4-8 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Today we will be looking at Philippians 4:4
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
As the people of God we are to be joyful. I don’t mean that we are supposed to run around pretending that we are happy all the time, but once we are focused on the love God has for us, that Jesus is coming back for us, that we have access to the Most Holy Place, that we are His pearl and treasure, we should experience a measure of joy, regardless of the circumstances in our lives. And yet, many Christians are not experiencing a lot of joy. The reality of living in a fallen world on a broken planet can really cause us to lose our focus and keep us from being a joyful people.
In the book of Philippians, joy is a recurring theme for the Apostle Paul, which is interesting since he is writing from prison, where he is being held on bogus charges. As we talk about being joyful we are going to be looking at what Paul had to say about hanging on to your joy in the Lord even in the midst of difficult circumstances in the first ten verses of Philippians 3.
1. Rejoice in the Lord
Philippians 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–
In verses 2 through 6, Paul talks about one of the biggest problems we face as Christians that attempts to steal away our joy. The problem is legalism. Instead of focusing on all that God has done for you, your focus shifts on to what you have to do for God. You get trapped into trying to live by rules and regulations, instead of living by doing the next right thing. This has been a problem for people for thousands of years. It would be easy to write the Pharisees off as evil, and yet they started out with good intent. They wanted to keep Judaism from being morphed by the Greek culture. And yet, over time in their attempts to do that, they started adding more and more rules and regulations. What they lost, was the idea of grace. Without grace there can be no joy.
How do we know when we are moving into legalism? We get very self-righteous. Rather than loving people, we start judging them. As we have discussed before, true righteousness (right living) sees the beauty of people’s potential, is full of grace, and is displayed in love.
2. What do you really value?
Philippians 3:7 (NIV)
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Another big reason you may not be experiencing joy is that your priorities are upside down. Are you more focused on the temporary or the eternal? Have you considered what is really going to last? What lasts forever? Your relationship with God and your relationship with other believers. Since these are the things that last forever, doesn’t it make sense that these are the areas in our lives that should be a priority? Too many people are spending all their time and energy chasing after things that really don’t matter.
3. Keep your eyes on Jesus
Philippians 3:10 (NIV)
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
To maintain your joy, to be joy full, your number one goal in life needs to be to know Christ. To know Him more. To know Him better. How do you do that? Fix your eyes on Him. Spend time with Him. Get connected in prayer. Read, study and memorize His word. Be thankful. Encourage others. It is only in Him that we ever experience the type of joy filled life that we were created for.
There is something else in that last verse that I wanted to talk about briefly as we close. It is the little phrase “for the joy set before Him”.
What was the joy set before Him? What motivated Jesus to endure the pain and shame of the cross? Was it sitting at the right hand of God? Was it being restored to glory? Since He already had those things before He became a human, it is probably not what motivated Him. The reason that He came and lived among us, the reason that He went to the cross, His mission, was that He would end up with something more than He had when He came. And that something is you. You are the joy set before Him. Since He takes such great joy in you, youe are to rejoice in Him always.
Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!
Watch out for the trap of legalism, keep a close eye on your priorities, and above all get to know Christ better. That is where we experience a joyful life.