As we come to the close of Philippians, Paul gives this final encouragement.
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
As 21st century Americans, most of us have not struggled with not finding food for our next meal or not knowing where we’ll stay tomorrow night. We think it’s difficult when we open up the refrigerator and have to put various kinds of food together to make something “edible.” We grumble when the microwave goes out, and we have to eat our food cold, or when the beautiful homes we live in are cold on those frosty mornings. However, many don’t have the luxuries we enjoy. Around the world, people are struggling just to survive. And this was also true in 1st century Rome.
Have you ever seen a dance execute an unimaginably difficult maneuver or seen a musician perform a difficult piece of music perfectly? Or maybe you watch sports and are always amazed how the professional players are able to get the ball across the field. No matter what you’re into—art, music, sports, or dance—there are people in those fields who can do everything perfectly. Why? Because they have practiced their craft for hours and pursued excellence and perfection in their chosen vocation.
These individuals garner our awe, and rightly so for they have devoted their lives to being the best. They become our heroes and we look up to them. But why do we lift these people up as heroes when their pursuits have been of things that are fleeting and temporary? Why do we strive for excellence and perfection in things like art, music, dance, and sports when at the end of the day these things have no eternal value?
Do you remember our key theme for Philippians? Joy. More specifically, joy that is irrepressible. While we have not done too much studying of joy specifically, we have looked at a lot of things that help us grow in joy, and also things that can suppress it. For example, strife suppresses joy. It’s hard to be joyful when we’re fighting with someone. On the other hand, having our minds set on eternity and our citizenship in heaven fills our hearts with abundant joy.
Joy cannot coexist in our lives if we’re harboring anger or bitterness. Therefore, throughout our day, we must choose joy over anger, joy over discouragement, joy over bitterness, joy over hurt, joy over depression, and the list goes on. But the one thing that we’re going to study today is that joy cannot exist with anxiety.
Have you ever said something and then regretted it? Or maybe you said a whole string of words and had an ongoing argument with someone that should never have happened. At some point or other, we’ll stick our foot in our mouth and say something we regret or get in an argument with someone over something unimportant.
Sound like something you can relate to?
Remember back to a couple of weeks ago when we talked about “Citizen Behavior?” We discovered that for the Philippians, citizenship was a prized possession and something they were gifted with. However, they were not only citizens of the prestigious Roman Empire, but were also citizens of heaven.
As Paul writes:
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him
even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for,
my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”
Have you heard this saying? “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” While it may be true in most cases, imitation in the Christian life is not mere flattery. It’s necessary for survival.
God never intended us to live alone. We were created for community and fellowship with other people. Therefore, our spiritual walk also needs the fellowship and community of other believers. We can’t do it alone.