Most people don’t enjoy life; they just endure it.
• They think that life must be perfect for them to be happy.
• So they are always looking for a change for the better. If I could just change my situation life would be great. If I could just get rid of all my problems, life would be fine.
• But there’s no such thing as a problem free life.
If you’re going to learn to be happy, joyful, you must learn to be joyful in the situation, in the problems, in the very experiences of life.
• “Happiness” comes from the root word that we get “happening”, from the circumstances.
• Joy is internal. Happiness is external. You have a happy time at Disneyland, you leave and you lose your happiness. Joy can be constant.
• How do you have joy in spite of what is going on in your life?
We are going to learn from Paul. From this passage (that he wrote to believers in Philippi), he seemed positive and happy with his lot, despite being locked up in prison and facing an uncertain future.
• The last 4 years of Paul’s life were miserable. He spent 2 years in prison in Caesarea, and then he was put on a ship to go to Rome to appear before Nero (known for his cruelty against Christians).
• On the way he’s shipwrecked, stranded on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, survived the winter there, continued on to Rome and spent another 2 years in prison awaiting trial to be executed.
• During this 2 year period in Rome he is chained to a guard for 24 hours a day. He has absolutely no privacy. Every four hours he gets a new guard.
Yet in spite of all of these situations, Paul says in Phil. 1:18b “…I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
• What’s Paul’s secret? How does he stay so positive in prison, riding above his troubles, and being joyful in spite of the fact that everything has not turned out the way he planned it.
• His words here reveal FOUR ESSENTIALS for a joyful life:
(1) I NEED A PERSPECTIVE TO LIVE FROM
Every one has problems. When you step in today, you just brought them in here with you.
• Your problems are not so important as how you are looking at those problems.
• The way you look at that problem is much more important than the problem.
• Your perspective makes the difference.
1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
• I can see the best even in the worst. I can see God at work in the problems even when they don’t go my way. If you really believe God is sovereign, you’ve got to believe this.
• This is almost an identical echo of Joseph’s words to his brothers, who sold him to Egypt.
• Gen 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
1:13 “As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”
• Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. He meant to have a crusade.
• Instead, God put him in prison where he would write the New Testament. He was chained to the palace guard – the elite troops of the Roman Empire. He was able to influence lives from within the palace.
• And outside, things were moving. 1:14 “Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
Amazing, everything that is considered bad (from the human perspective) and turned out to be good (in God’s perspective)!
• This is the attitude we must adopt. This is the perspective you need to live from, if you are going to have joy in your life.
• Roman 8:28 sums up this principle: “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him…”
• LESSON: God has a purpose behind every one of my problems. Get this and let joy fills your heart.
A mother was doing embroidering and her little boy comes by her side. He looked up from the floor and asked what she was doing. She informed him that she was making a beautiful flower. “It looked like a mess to me,” he said. Looking from the underside, that what you’d see. Everything looked so jumbled up with loose thread here and there.
The mom says, “Son, go a play for a while, and when I’m finished, I will let you see it from my side.”
Finally the boy saw it – from the right side – and he saw a beautiful flower by a sunset. He could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.
God has a design. We cannot fully see everything in its beauty from this side of heaven. But one day we will, when we see it from His perspective.
(2) I NEED A PRIORITY TO LIVE BY
When things get tough, I need to be clear what is really important and what is not.
I want to distinguish the trivial from the significant.
• It’s like the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who said after he was robbed, “Thank God, though they took my money, they did not take my life!”
• You can live your life bored down by trivial matters (usually the problems), or be driven by the significant things of life (the matters of great priority).
• Either you decide what’s important in your life or you let other people decide what’s important.
• If you don’t choose your priorities, you’ll go around putting out one fire after another, living your life simply from problem to problem, to problem and not choosing what’s important.
Look at 1:15-17. Paul says there are “competitors” outside criticizing him and attacking his ministry.
• They are doing it out of envy and rivalry, out of selfish ambition, wanting to stir up trouble for me.
• If you want something to steal your joy quicker than anything else, just listen to all the criticism people are throwing up against you.
1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
Paul says he is not going to let anyone steal his joy; not circumstances nor critics.
• He said their motives may be wrong, their style may be wrong, but if the message is getting out, so what?
• 1:18 “But what does it matter?” This is the only question in this whole book. It is a question of priority. We do not want to major on the minor. Some things are just not worth quarrelling about or losing sleep over. There’ll be differences but so let them be.
• Paul had set his priorities clear, and will not let criticisms or rivalry steal his joy.
Learn this, don’t let petty things ruin your day and rob you of joy. It’s not worth it. Don’t have to lose sleep over them.
• Differences will always exist. LESSON: Don’t major on the minor things of life. Let them go.
• Focus on what really counts. Know what is important.
(3) I NEED A POWER TO LIVE ON
I need strength to make it and to keep on going.
• Problems can wear you out, and drain you completely. One crisis after another can really cripple you, if you have no outside help.
• You need a fresh power supply.
1:19-20 “I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body…”
Paul says I have two things that give me strength and kept me going in this harsh environment: (1) The prayers of the people; and (2) the help of the Holy Spirit.
He says he eagerly expect and hope that he will have sufficient courage to face the challenges.
• Circle the words “expect and hope”. That’s where he has placed his expectation and hope – in God!
• You can’t live without hope. But you can pin your hope in people or circumstances. Both will change. We need God’s help.
During the American Revolution, when the Army had experienced several setbacks, a farmer who lived near the battlefield approached General Washington’s camp unheard. Suddenly his ears caught an earnest voice raised in agonizing prayer. On coming nearer he saw it was the great General, down on his knees in the snow, his cheeks wet with tears. He was asking God for assistance and guidance.
The farmer crept away and returned home. He said to his family, “It’s going to be all right. We are going to win!”
“What makes you think so?” his wife asked.
“Well,” said the farmer, “I heard General Washington pray such passionate prayer I have never heard before. And God will surely hear and answer that kind of praying.”
The farmer was right! It happened because man is willing to put his hope in God.
• Paul says later in Phil 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
• LESSON: Pray and pin your hope in God!
To sum up so far, we need (1) to see things from God’s perspective, (2) major on the important things in life, and not let the trivial things rob us of joy and focus, and (3) lean on God’s strength through prayers. And finally:
(4) I NEED A PURPOSE TO LIVE FOR
1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. He lives to preach the Gospel. This goal provides him the fulfillment of life. He is a happy man because he is fully satisfied with what he is doing.
• You may be able to take away his freedom, his privacy, his comfort, his fellowship with Christians, or everything else, but you cannot take away the joy of doing God’s will.
• Not even the joy of ‘leaving this world and my number one partner and returning home to be with the Lord.
To die is a gain. It’s a blessing. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (v.23). That’s the ultimate fulfillment for every Christian.
Phil 1:22-26 “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.”
Even if he stays, it would be for the sake of the believers – for your progress and joy.
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. It is for the sake of others.
• The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it. How? Invest in His church, the Body of Christ. The things you do for one another, for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will be remembered.
The director of the Institute of Child Behavior Research, Bernard Rimland, did a study about happiness.
Each person involved in the study was asked to list 10 people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness – a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare – an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.
In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness… are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.” The research concludes, “The happiest people are those who help others.”
This is the secret of joy – J O Y – Jesus first, Others second and Yourself third.
• The reason why there is so much unhappiness and discouragement in our society is because we’ve reversed that order to me first, others second and God last (or not even recognized).
• It is a preoccupation with self. What’s best for me? What will make me happy? The ME generation.
• No wonder there is little joy in our society today, but many heartaches and pain.
When you learn to have a greater purpose in your life than just yourself, you will experience joy more than you ever imagine.
There is no such thing as problem-free living.
• When you live by these biblical principles, then problems just aren’t as significant. So what if things haven’t worked out as I’ve planned, God has a purpose that is bigger than my problems.
• God wants you to enjoy the rest of your life. But we need to do it His way.
(1) Are you looking at the problem from God’s viewpoint or just your own? God has a purpose behind every problem. You need to pray, “Lord, help me to see this problem from Your viewpoint.”
(2) You need a priority to live by. Have you settled the issue of what is really important in your life? Ask God for the wisdom to distinguish what is significant and what is not. Focus on what is important.
(3) You need a power to live on. Have you been trying to solve your own problems? God says, relax. You are carrying a burden that was never intended for you to carry. Come to God and give it all to Him, and ask Him to recharge you – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(4) You need a purpose to live for. Everybody wants to live a long time, but why? Life is not judged by its duration. We want to invest in things significant and eternal. Whose lives have you invested in and whose lives do you want to invest in, in the coming days?
Can you say, “For me to live is Christ!”
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