The Recipe for Joy
How Can I Be Joyful?
What will it take to bring true joy to your life?
A big pay raise?
Dropping forty pounds?
Home values finally going up?
Waking up to find you are twenty-three again and your wife is twenty-one?
A clean check-up after the last cancer treatment?
What will it take to bring true joy to your life?
Maybe it will take words written from prison.
That’s right. Prison.
Or don’t you know that some of the world’s most influential literature was written in prison? John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from prison. Martin Luther King wrote “A Letter in a Birmingham Jail.” Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy was written from jail as was Hitler’s Mein Kampf (I didn’t say it was all good influence).
But the letters of the Apostle Paul eclipse them all, and not only because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and are in our Bible. His Captivity Letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians), breathe a spirit of freedom in Christ that persecution and penitentiaries could not crush. He knew of a hope his Roman captors were unaware. Written in the early 60s AD, his words are as relevant and life-giving now as they day he penned them. While awaiting his first trial in Rome, under house arrest, Paul gave his favorite congregation, the Philippians, The Recipe For Joy.
Ingredient #1: 2 cups ________________
Read Philippians 1.1-2
This section is called the address. In our letters, we start the letter with who the letter is addressed to. In the days of Paul, both the sender and the recipient of the letter were mentioned in the opening words of the letter.
So, who is the letter written to?
What is special about them?
The are believers, saints in Christ Jesus
Who is the letter from?
Paul and Timothy
Why don’t we call it “Paul and Timothy’s Letter to the Philippians”?
It was written by Paul
When you were in college or away from home for the first time, who were the letters signed, “Mom and Dad” written by?
Usually Mom, sometimes Dad. Usually one or the other wrote the letter for the both of them. Such is the case here. Timothy is with Paul as a co-worker, but it is Paul who is writing the letter.
What is so special about Paul and Timothy?
They are servants of Christ Jesus, elsewhere called Apostles
If people are going to find joy in this life, there is one pre-requisite. They must be Christians. They must have God’s grace and peace. They must have faith, given by the Holy Spirit in that grace of God.
But what is grace?
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Grace is not something that I can work for.
Grace is a gift .
2 Corinthians 8:8-9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Grace comes to me through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:6-8 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Grace is God forgiving me my sin.
Therefore, Grace is…
God’s undeserved gift of forgiveness of sins
What will each believer show in his life because of God’s grace?
What kind of peace are we talking about?
Peace with God because my sins are forgiven
How might that peace even spill over to peace with man?
John 20:22-23 "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
I will use the peace God has given me and pass it one—I will forgive others
So The Recipe For Joy will only work for believers. Does that mean unbelievers will forever be out of luck?
No! They can become believers and have The Recipe For Joy
But we still don’t know what Ingredient #1 is!
Read Philippians 1.3-11
I am not going to listen to a celebrity who doesn’t know how to cook! I want an expert chef to teach me! From these verses, how do we know Paul has The Recipe For Joy?
He shows joy in his words, saying he prays with joy when he remembers the Philippians
Why does Paul have joy when he prays for the Philippians (v. 5)?
Because of their partnership in the gospel. They have always been helpers of Paul in his efforts to spread the Gospel.
We will get to this when we look for Ingredient #4, but the letter to the Philippians was occasioned by Paul’s reception of a gift (probably financial) which the Philippian congregation had sent to Paul after they heard he was under house arrest in Rome. One of the leaders of the Philippian congregation, Epaphroditus, had brought it to Paul and then fallen grievously sick in Rome and had to extend his stay. Through this gift, Paul says they were partnering with him in the Gospel. They were playing a part in his work.
What part do we play in the spread of the Gospel beyond the property line of our church?
We support the spread of the Gospel in our country and in our world through our national church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
It does not bring joy to know that the Christians who once walked and worked with you have now fallen away and are headed to hell. What is the confidence Paul has when he thanks God for the Philippians?
That God will keep them in the faith, pure and blameless, until Judgment Day
Paul now describes his feelings for the Philippians. Pick out the phrases he uses.
1. have you in my heart
2. long for you
How might we simply say Paul felt about the Philippian believers?
Paul loved the Philippians.
What is Paul praying that the Philippians have?
If I love God, what insights will I have into God’s plan for my life?
I will know that everything that comes my way comes from the hands of a loving God. Everything that happens will turn out for my good because of his love for me, no matter how difficult that is to see.
Even if someone close to me dies?
Even if someone dies. My Savior God has taken them to a wonderful heaven, sparing them further suffering and aggravation on earth, removing them from temptations that threaten our salvation. One day I will join them.
How will my life show that I love God?
I will display the fruit of righteousness in my life, good deeds, a Christian life
Can I take the credit for that?
No, it comes to me only through the work of Jesus Christ
Hmmm. So grace is not only God’s undeserved gift of love in bringing me to faith, but grace is also God’s undeserved gift of love in moving and empowering me to live a life of faith. It’s like my whole life as a Christian, from my first breath as a believer to my last moments on this earth, are lived in the grace of God.
So who gets the glory and praise?
God, for making it all possible and happen.
Does that mean I should scold people if they praise and thank me for what I’ve done for them?
No, take it as thanks given to God through you. Paul is thanking God as he thanks the Philippians.
What if they don’t praise and thank me for what I’ve done for them?
I don’t do it for their praise—I do it to show my thanks to God and give him the glory
Take a guess at what Ingredient #1 is. Love
Read Philippians 1.12-18
How do we know Paul is in prison?
He says he is in chains
If you were in jail, what would the devil be tempting you to think about God?
There is no God for this to be happening to me or God doesn’t care about me—why should I care about him?
If you were a believer who the Holy Spirit brought to faith through the work of Paul, what would the devil be tempting you to think about Paul?
Paul is not an apostle of God, for God wouldn’t let him languish in prison. Or the God that Paul preaches is a false god who won’t even help his apostles.
Paul doesn’t succumb to that temptation. He doesn’t blame God. He doesn’t hate God. It is more apparent in the hearts of believers. Paul’s imprisonment meant that others had to pick up the slack in spreading the Gospel—Paul couldn’t physically do it any more.
What emotion moved Paul’s enemies to spread the Gospel even more while Paul was in prison?
Envy and selfish ambition
What were they hoping to do through their efforts to Paul?
Cause trouble for him. He would be yesterday’s news. They would be the new and rising stars in the Church.
What emotion moved the believers to spread the Gospel during Paul’s incarceration?
Sincere goodwill. They love God. They love people. They know Paul can’t do it as much now that he is in prison.
Believers love Paul.
Want to take another crack at what Ingredient #1 is?
But why 2 cups?
Love for God. Love for people.
Instead of hating God for being in jail, what is Paul’s attitude towards God?
Paul loves God.
Who is our love as Christians directed to?
God and God's people.
God and God's people.
God and God’s people
God and God’s people
1 cup love for God 1 cup love for people
Prove that love is Ingredient #1 in The Recipe For Joy.
It is hard to be joyful (or even happy) if we don’t show love. Love recognizes the good things we have and wants to share it with others. With love for God I know that the one who loves me best has everything laid out for my good. I can be joyful, no matter what! Without love, everything is bad.
Read Philippians 1.18-26
Is our guess correct? How will the two objects of Paul’s love help him out?
The prayers of the Philippians and the Holy Spirit will make Paul’s imprisonment work out for his deliverance.
What is Paul awaiting that he needs the courage so that he is not ashamed?
His trial and appearance before a magistrate of Caesar
Judging from verse 13, what is already happening because of Paul’s courage in talking about Jesus?
Even soldiers in Caesar’s palace guard know why Paul is there—they are getting to hear about their Savior too!
In what two ways could Paul be delivered?
He could be released from prison or he could be released from life (executed) and go to heaven.
Which way would be better for him?
Execution—he’d be in heaven.
Which way would be better for the Philippians?
Release—he’d be able to see them and work with them again.
People ooh and aah over sentimental love movies like “Heaven Can Wait” where the hero, faced with a near death situation, either successfully struggles for life or actually comes back from the dead to be with his or her family! How foolish!—Or is it?—Have you ever been in a situation where it crossed your mind, “I’d be better off in heaven?” I sometimes joke that I will only have one question of Jesus when I enter heaven on the day of my death—“What took you?”
Why does Jesus keep his believers in this world of strife and temptation when we could be safe in his arms in heaven?
Heaven can wait until we finish all the tasks God has for us to do in this world. We have families to raise, people on earth to serve through our jobs, the Gospel to spread to others, encouragement to give those who already believe.
So, no matter how badly I am suffering, if I am in this world, then it is God’s will. What am I supposed to be doing?
The fruitful labor the Lord has laid out for us.
How will this make The Recipe For Joy work for others around me?
They will receive joyful service from me as their lives are made better and they can rejoice with me in doing God’s will.
This section has something to say against the false teaching of purgatory. Purgatory is the false idea that the souls of believers who haven’t completed purification for their sins or temporal satisfaction for sins go to a place of painful punishment until the satisfaction is complete. Then they can go to heaven.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church does not teach this because it does not see it being taught in the Old or New Testaments.
Looking at these verses, does Paul believe he will end up in purgatory?
No. As soon as he departs from this world he will be with Christ, which is far better for him. Suffering for your own supposed satisfactions would not be better than spreading the Gospel.
Paul tips his hand here—what sort of deliverance is he expecting?
Physical release from prison
Read Philippians 1. 27-30
What comfort can Christians find in their suffering for the sake of the Gospel?
We are suffering along with Jesus Christ. As our Master suffered at the hands of this world, so his followers will suffer. It proves we are Children of God.
So, Christians can be joyful even when they are suffering!
Fill in your recipe card!
Ingredient #2: 3/4 cup ________________
We’ve seen from Philippians 1 that the first ingredient to The Recipe For Joy is love, two cups of it. Love for God. Love for God’s people. No matter what happens, we will not be disappointed by their love and support. Even if we are in prison or facing death, this love will work a joy in our lives.
Let’s get to Ingredient #2.
Read Philippians 2.1-4
Paul reviews the first chapter in these opening verses of chapter two. We need two cups of love for The Recipe For Joy. What phrases in verse 1 refer to the first cup of love, directed towards God?
Encouragement from being united with Christ
Comfort from his love
Fellowship with the Spirit
What phrase in verse 1 refer to the second cup of love, directed towards God’s people?
Tenderness and compassion
“Make my joy complete,” Paul tells the Philippians. They are to display ingredient #1, love.
How is Paul’s encouragement to “being like-minded, being one in spirit and purpose” really just another way of saying “have the same love”?
If we love each other we are going to be concerned about each other and look at things the same way. We will have that loving spirit and will be together in pursuing love’s goals.
Now we get to ingredient #2. Remember how enemies of Paul were spreading the Gospel out of envy and rivalry? What phrases does Paul use here to describe that attitude?
Selfish ambition, vain conceit
The Philippians, to whom Paul wants to give The Recipe For Joy, should not have that attitude. What should be their attitude?
How will this attitude help them express their love to others?
They won’t rub each other the wrong way trying to brag about being the best or acting in a way that shows up others. They will be considerate towards each other. They will look after each other’s interests.
Read Philippians 2.5-11
Paul points us to Jesus. Not only is he the Savior who died in our place to win heaven for us, he is the greatest example we could ever have of how to live in this world!
What is Jesus’ attitude that we should imitate if we are going to have The Recipe For Joy?
How did Jesus show that attitude?
He came down to earth to serve his Father’s will, even to the point of death on a cross.
What does Paul mean by saying Jesus “humbled himself”?
He set aside his powers and glory as true God in heaven to live life as true man on earth.
Even in victory Jesus still shows this attitude. We very quickly get tired of people tooting their own horns when they think they’ve done something fantastic. How does Jesus avoid tooting his own horn in his victory.
Although Jesus humbles himself, he does not exalt himself. God exalts, promotes, Jesus after his death on the cross.
This section gives us some insight into what we call creeds. Our church has creeds, short (sometimes), confessional statements of what we believe on the basis of the Bible. Many Protestant churches condemn creeds as man-made—they need nothing but the Bible! But our creeds are, in a way, the Bible. The very phrases and ideas they express are accurately drawn from the Bible.
Let’s take the Apostles’ Creed for example and what it says about Jesus.
We call this two-fold division of Jesus’ life his Humiliation and his Exaltation and it comes from Philippians 2. So, rather than being the mere words of men, creeds are a great way to summarize the truths of the Bible as a way to express what we believe and teach others!
Give some examples of people humbling themselves because of the love they have for others.
A mom getting her dress bloody because her young son has gotten a bloody nose at the wedding. A dad bailing his son out of a small town jail. A wife keeping her mouth shut when her head-strong husband insists on having his way. A husband going to the ballet with his wife. A son showing his aging mother again how to send e-mail attachments.
Give some examples of people humbling themselves because of the love they have for God.
Every time we repent of our sins we humble ourselves before God. Every time we bear suffering and shame for being Christians, we humble ourselves. Acknowledging our mortality and accepting our deaths, we humble ourselves before God’s mighty hand.
A scoffer will say, “How can this be The Recipe For Joy? If I humble myself, I’m not always going to be happy. Are you saying Jesus was always happy when he was when humbling himself? How can you have joy if you don’t have happiness?” Got some answers for him?
Happiness is not the same as joy. Joy is being satisfied with the way our life is going with a view towards God’s eternity. Happiness is whether we are feeling good at the moment.
What’s Ingredient #2? Humility
Read Philippians 2.12-18
Are we right about Ingredient #2? What kind of attitude does it take to obey someone, even when they are not around?
Humility, trusting that they know more than you do
What kind of obedience is Paul looking for from the Philippians?
That they obey him even when he is not with them
Paul’s words are striking. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What might people falsely think Paul means here?
We can earn our way to heaven and it is so hard to do you better be trembling with fear that you don’t end up in hell!
Compare it to other words Paul has written in the Bible. Can that interpretation be correct?
Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
No! We are saved by God’s grace, not by anything we have done. It must mean something else.
What is God’s will in keeping us in the world after he has saved us?
That we lead pure and decent lives, Christian lives.
Where does the fear and trembling Paul mentions to the Philippians come in—consider this:
Some people can’t imagine a worship service around the Fourth of July without singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The citizens and soldiers of the Union believed God was working through their efforts, being present in the fires of their camps, himself sounding forth the trumpet. It is a thrilling sentiment that still stirs our blood.
Paul is telling the Philippians God is behind their best wills and actions as they are carrying out his good purposes on earth.
How should that inspire fear and trembling in God’s children?
We know it is God who is working in us and through us. That is an awesome fact and makes us respect him and get chills down our spine.
How should that also aid in their humility?
It is not us doing these things, but God working in us.
What is always the attitude of a complainer?
I know better than the idiots who are in charge.
How is this another sign we’ve got Ingredient #2 right?
Those who have humility will do everything without complaining.
Are we going to be perfect, blameless and holy immediately? What is it going to take?
No, we will never be perfect while we are on this earth—it will take the transformation of our lowly body like unto Christ’s glorious body on the Last Day (when our sinful human nature is destroyed) to make us perfectly sinless.
What day is Paul looking forward to when he will not need Ingredient #2 any more?
The day of Christ, the Last Day.
Explain how Ingredient #2 already is making Paul’s life joyful.
Paul has joy when he thinks of the Philippians living a Christian life as they are, like he is, headed towards heaven.
Read Philippians 2.19-29
Paul gives the Philippians two more examples of people who have The Recipe For Joy—Timothy and their own Epaphroditus!
The Philippians are going to see Timothy, because as soon as Paul knows what is going to happen to his case, Timothy will be taking this very letter to them and coming back to Paul to let him know how things are going in Philippi.
If a person is filled with selfish ambition he is only in it for himself. How does Paul show that Timothy is not that type of person?
Timothy does not look out for himself, but is concerned about them and the spread of Jesus’ forgiveness.
A wise pastor once told me to look for people to serve in the church “who don’t need to, but want to.” What do you think he meant by that?
People should go into church work not because they need the prestige or influence it gives (big fish in a little pond), but because they love their Lord enough that they want to serve him by preaching and teaching the Gospel and they love people enough to want to help them.
Where does this need to show off come from?
The sinful human nature, the devil and the world. They all highly value bragging rights at the expense of others and power used to push people around.
Some might think the first two ingredients to The Recipe For Joy are so high and lofty that only apostles and their holy circles of fellow workers can attain to them. That’s the beauty of Paul’s words about Epaphroditus.
Who was he?
A member of the Philippian congregation
Even though he was a member of the Philippian congregation, what did Paul call him?
A fellow worker and soldier
What does that say about who can have The Recipe For Joy?
Every Christian can have The Recipe For Joy because we all can be fellow workers with Paul in our living the Christian life and spreading the Gospel as we have opportunity.
What will the Philippians have when they welcome their own Epaphroditus home?
love plus humility equals joy .
Sometimes Pastor comes around and has a special job for you to do. Maybe it’s serve on one of the various committees. Maybe it’s to teach a Bible class, either for Sunday School or for adults. Maybe he comes around and tells you he thinks you should serve the Lord full-time as a preaching or teaching minister. What role should and shouldn’t humility play at a time like this?
A false sense of humility shouldn’t make us say, “No, there’s no way I can do that.” He has seen something in us he thinks will make us good at what he is asking us to do. A true sense of humility will allow us to think he has a better judgment of our abilities than we do and that the Lord will bless us as we carry out these new tasks for him and his people.
What’s the only reason anyone can serve the Lord and serve the Lord’s people?
They love God and his people and they are humble enough to put the needs of others ahead of their own as they submit to God’s direction of their lives.
Fill in your recipe card!
Ingredient #3: 1/3 cup ________________
We’ve seen from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that the first two ingredients to The Recipe For Joy, are two cups of love (for God and for God’s people) and 3/4 cup humility. We’re halfway there to having a joy in our life that no disappointments in life and no temptations from our sinful human nature can mar.
Here comes Ingredient #3.
Read Philippians 3.1-11
Nothing in the Christian life is ever easy. Whenever we’re trying to build a life for God, our sinful human nature, the world and the devil are trying to tear it down. It’s like building sandcastles at the beach! The task is not impossible, but Paul does not want us to be naïve. It won’t come easy.
What is the temptation when we are faced with obstacles?
How will The Recipe For Joy be a safeguard for us when opposition arises?
If we have joy in living the Christian life, we won’t give up in the face of opposition. We keep doing things we enjoy.
Paul suddenly has some very harsh words for these teachers. Compare his words to that in chapter 1.15-18. What is the difference between the two groups?
The first group is misdirected Christians motivated by the wrong things (envy) who still preach the truth. The latter group is false teachers who do not preach the truth.
What were these false teachers teaching?
Galatians 5:2-4 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
You had to do something besides believe in Jesus Christ to be saved—he hadn’t done everything. You had to keep the Jewish laws, most notably, be circumcised.
As long as Paul has preached the Gospel he has been brutally fighting these people whom we call “Judaizers.” By now the battle lines have hardened to such a point that Paul uses the same arguments and encouragements in Philippians as he does in Galatians.
mutilators of the flesh
advancing in Judaism beyond the others
I have more
you were running the good race
I press on toward the goal
I think we can excuse Paul for his vehemence. Can you think of people who might dog a Christian’s steps, trying to tear down everything they are trying to accomplish in their life with Christ?
Non-Christian relatives! Neighborhood pagans who hate your lifestyle that makes them look like creeps. Zealots whose cause is making your life miserable.
Is vehemence called for at times? When? And how do you know when?
Yes, even Jesus was vehement when he pronounced woes upon his enemies during Holy Week. When they stop listening to instruction and correction, finally we must shake the dust off in testimony to their unbelief and the hell where it is going to land them.
Paul would have been the poster child for these false teachers—before he became a Christian! What had been his motivating force in those days?
He wanted to save himself by acquiring a righteousness through the law
People facing a difficult decision sometimes draw up lists, pros and cons. If the pros outweigh the cons, go for it. If the cons outweigh the pros, stand pat. Paul goes through a similar process in this section. What’s his list look like?
Life as a Jew
Life as a Christian
1.circumcised on 8th day
2.Israelite by birth
3.righteousness by faith
4.know power of Christ’s resurrection
5.faultless in legalism
5.share his sufferings
What might this chart look like if it applied to us?
Life as a damned
Life as a saved Christian
1.proud of my family
1.proud of my Savior
2.wicked from youth
2.called by him from youth in baptism
3.get what I want
3.try to please God
4.forget about others
5.this life all there is
5.look forward to world to come in heaven
What light does this shed on Paul’s previous encouragement to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”?
We work on our lives as Christians, fearing to lose our faith and spot in heaven if we fall away.
Prove from this section of Paul’s letter we are saved by grace and not by works.
Our righteousness comes by faith, not from the law.
We’re halfway through the chapter and haven’t even come across Ingredient #3! Or have we?
Here’s words that described Paul’s life as a Jew.
And he had always been these things, from his eighth day on earth!
Can you think of a morally neutral adjective that would sum these all up?
Read Philippians 3.12-16
Paul had earlier described his life as a Jew as “faultless.” What claim does he make about his life as a Christian?
He is not faultless. He hasn’t yet reached his goal.
Why the difference?
We cannot live the perfect life. As Christians we know that. As a legalistic Pharisee Paul fooled himself into thinking he could live the perfect life.
How did Jesus Christ take hold of us?
When he sent his Holy Spirit to create faith in our hearts.
How did we take hold of Jesus Christ?
When by faith we received and held onto the forgiveness he gave us.
What picture comes to mind when you hear the words, “press on”?
Walking off into the distance through a desert
If our Christian life is compared to a race, and Paul is doing just that here, what distance is that race and why?
It is a marathon, the longest race there is, because this race will take our whole life to complete.
What is an essential quality to run that kind of race?
Perseverance. You’ve got to keep at it.
Do you want to take a crack at Ingredient #3?
Before I was called here, I had a call to Louisville. I turned it down. Shortly thereafter, my wife asked me, “What do you think life would have been like in Kentucky?” “That way lies madness,” I told her. How does Paul say the same thing?
Forget what is behind—don’t dwell on the past.
What often happens to a runner who looks back in a close race?
He breaks his stride, slows down and loses the race
What have you and I already (together the Philippians) attained?
Heaven because we are believers. We already have eternal life.
How should we live up to that?
By living a Christian life, showing we are citizens of heaven. No American wants to make America look bad on a vacation overseas. Likewise we want to keep God’s name holy by how we live.
Read Philippians 3.17-21
In the previous chapter who was to be the example of humility for the Philippians?
Now who is to be an example for them? Why?
Paul. He follows Jesus’ example, so his example is worth following, too.
What are the false teachers working for?
Their stomachs, Paul says.
What motivates God’s teachers?—The Greeks (and the Hebrews) felt that the source of our being and emotions were our stomach. We “feel it in our guts.” Bad news makes us “sick to our stomach.” Paul’s words don’t say these false teachers are gluttons, but that they are serving their own desires and emotions.
What does the cross of Christ teach us about ourselves?
We are sinners
How does this line up with what those who serve their stomach teach?
They do not think they are sinners. It doesn’t line up.
What does the cross of Christ teach us about our God?
He punishes sin and forgives us.
Why would people prefer short-term gain to eternal happiness?
They do not believe eternal happiness will be there for them. Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush.
What is the final “pay-out” for Christians?
When Jesus returns he will take us to heaven.
If an eternal, glorious body is awaiting us at the end of the marathon of our life, Ingredient #3 must be
How does perseverance add to our joy even before we get to the end of the race?
We know where we are headed and are determined to keep going. We also do not get frustrated by being lost, trying to start something new and find our way. There is a joy in getting better and better at what you are doing and often that comes with repetition over time.
We like to think that everything in our life is forever. Not only does nothing last forever, if you give it enough time, you don’t even have to give it that much time anymore! The average marriage in America now lasts 24 years (used to be 37). An American family on average lives in a home only six years (used to be seven) and a person stays on a job an average of three to five years! We don’t show much perseverance.
How does a society becoming more temporary affect our happiness?
It takes away happiness. Instead of building on happy times we have to lay the foundations, yet again, for future happiness and many people run out of time, while still more are envious of others who have stuck with it.
How does sticking with it affect our joy?
We don’t have to experience the pain of starting over and reinventing ourselves.
How do you know that you’re not sticking with the wrong thing in being a Christian?
Our God is not a liar. He has proven it in the Bible. He keeps his Word.
So, what’s Ingredient #3? perseverance
Fill in your recipe card!
Ingredient #4: 1 TBS _________________
We’ve got love (for God and for God’s people). We’ve got humility in our lives and we are determined to persevere. We’ve got one more ingredient to complete The Recipe For Joy, but like all recipes, it seems the farther you go down on the list, the smaller the quantities get and the easier it is to overlook them. Don’t! The entire dish will be a flop.
Here’s Ingredient #4.
Read Philippians 4.1-9
Paul is summarizing the letter. If we persevere, we will be standing firm. We pick up the love Paul has for the Philippians. His humility shows through in that they are his crown, not his own accomplishments. All of this brings Paul The Recipe For Joy.
But it is not for him alone.
It seems Euodia and Syntyche have been so quarrelling among themselves that news of it has reached Paul himself! Which of the three ingredients we have already discovered might they be missing?
How can humility help end our quarrels with brothers and sisters in Christ?
We consider the other person better than we are
These women have shown perseverance! Yet they are quarrelling. What does that show us about ourselves, even though we are mature Christians?
We will never be perfect and we can slide back into stupid and immature sins of our past.
How do I know Paul wants to give us The Recipe For Joy?
He commands the Philippians (and us) to rejoice.
The Christian life can seem to be a long grind at times. How long do we have to wait for the Lord’s return?
Not much longer. The end is near.
Does this perception change during our life time?
As we get older we can see the passage of time is fleeting and that we are getting very close to the day we enter heaven. For many of the young, the days drag by and twenty, not to mention Judgment Day, seems a long way off.
How can we get this through to the young?
Teach them the Bible and don’t keep harping on our own experiences and insight. Human wisdom is foolishness compared to God’s wisdom.
I was taught by my mother to say “thank you” only after I had received something from someone. What are we saying about God when we give him thanks right as we are asking him for something in prayer?
We are so confident he is going to answer our prayer that we already are saying “thank you” to him.
How would a vibrant prayer life contribute to a life of joy?
We would be seeing all the people we love as we pray for them, counting our blessings as we give God thanks and facing troubles and obstacles with confidence, knowing God will deliver us. That should be enough to contribute to a life of joy.
James will later write to the Christian Church, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1.17).” How is Paul saying the same thing here?
Everything noble, right, true, pure, lovely and admirable is good and a gift from God.
Yet, in the history of religion, supposedly spiritual men have condemned music, dance, the theater, statuary, all representational painting, novels, poetry, colored clothing, an exposed female face and hair, men going without shirts, marriage, certain foods, possessions, marriage and family. I don’t think I’ve hit nearly everything. What is the image of “godliness” false teachers such as these want to project into the world?
A false sense of godliness that is harsh on our bodies and spirits by refusing to enjoy the blessings God has built into his creation for his children to enjoy with thanksgiving.
Why would they want to make the godly into Sad Sacks?
By this they would be earning their way to heaven and obviously be better than those around them. Such is always the way of the Pharisee. Also, it would be difficult to do, so they would be an elite group, proud of their accomplishments.
What is the image of godliness you see projecting into the world on the basis of Paul’s words?
Using all God’s good gifts with thanks and joy.
Why can the godly be joyful?
The God of peace is with us—what can man do to me?
Note again the final encourage for the Philippians to imitate Paul.
What is one reason for a parent to lead a Christian life?
To encourage their children to come.
What if he or she isn’t a very good Christian example?
It’s never too late to start and its never too late to repent of the rotten examples we’ve been. Don’t think you can’t rebuke your children for their sins, just because you committed the same sins when you were young. The commandments speak to all with no exceptions.
How do you get that across to your children (or grandchildren)?
Teach them the word and constantly go back to it. Make it the conversation at the dinner table. Especially when moral issues or problems come up, go to the Bible for instruction and guidance for all in the family.
Read Philippians 4.10-20
Now we get to back to the gift the Philippians had sent Paul, which Paul touched upon in chapter 1 and was the occasion for this letter!
Where is Paul now, at the time he is writing this letter?
Why did the Philippians have no concrete way to show their concern for Paul earlier?
He had not needed their help—he was free and moving around, spreading the Gospel
What has the Philippian congregation done to visibly show their concern for Paul (look at verse 15)?
They had sent Paul a gift of money
Have you ever donated to a charity and gotten a thank-you letter back? What else do they usually include in the envelope? Why?
Another envelope for you to send them another gift. Studies have found that people who donate to a charity once are more likely to donate again, especially after you’ve just praised them. It’s like the charity is trying to condition their behavior through rewards of praise.
That’s not what Paul is doing with this letter, even though we would expect a person in prison to be needing everything! Paul says he is thanking the Philippians for the gift, not because he is needy and is looking for another gift! How can he do that? What is his secret?
He is content
Prove that giving is a habit of the Philippian congregation—let’s find out more about this congregation. It may surprise us.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
What was the financial condition of the believers in Philippi?
They were poverty-stricken
Tellingly, at the time of Paul’s writing his second letter to the rich congregation in Corinth they had not even started to gather donations for the starving believers in Jerusalem.
Guess who gives the most to charities in America (in terms of percentage of their income)? Rank them, 1-4, 1 being the highest givers in terms of their percentage.
4 Non-working poor
1 Working poor
2 Middle class
Why do you suppose that is?
The working poor are closer to needing charity than the others, so it is a starker reality in their life. They give today, because they may need to receive tomorrow.
Let’s try it one more time.
Why do you suppose that is?
The religious are moved by their faith to give.
What might prevent people from being charitable?
Proverbs 21:26 All day long [the sluggard] craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.
Luke 12:15-31 Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Want to guess what Ingredient #4 is?
Who were the Philippians really giving that gift to when they sent it to Paul?
Paul says he wants this gift to be credited to their account. I don’t think the Roman IRS was giving tax deductions back then. What is he talking about?
Matthew 25:31-40 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
What does our giving say about our faith?
We have faith because our faith is moving us to give that money to the Lord.
What does our current congregational giving (at present $0) to the Lord’s work beyond our property line say about our faith?
It might say we are either poverty stricken and doing all we can to keep our church’s head above water or we are not real content/humble/loving as we live our Christian faith in starts and spurts.
Paul’s was concerned that people believe the Gospel and were saved. From the Philippians’ actions, he could plainly see they were believers with a living faith. That was reward enough for him—his work had not been in vain!
If I trust God will meet all my needs, what will my attitude towards my life be?
I will be content with what I have, knowing God will give me enough to meet all my needs.
If I do not trust God to meet all my needs, what will my attitude towards my life be?
I have to look out for myself, skimp and scrape and cut corners (sometimes unethically), because no one else is going to look out for me.
Which attitude is Ingredient #4 for The Recipe For Joy?
Why does God get the glory for what his believers do?
He is the one who moved and empowered them to do what they have done.
Read Philippians 4.21-23
Looking at the ending of Paul’s letter, we know we are reading the words of a man who has The Recipe For Joy! Optimism, love and concern are everywhere.
Prove from Paul’s closing words that the Christians may not has as much to worry about from Caesar as Caesar has to worry about the Christians!
People from Caesar’s own household (maybe servants, maybe administrators, maybe bodyguards) are included in the saints who send greetings to the Philippian believers!
The matters of this life so occupy us. There’s a shortage of this, a scarcity of that. We need this and want that. We look to governments to provide for our physical safety and, it seems, provide for our physical needs which become rights. When Paul substitutes “your spirit” for the expected “you,” what comes to mind?
Man does not live by bread alone. Our bodies are worth more than just being a clothes rack, our stomachs made for more than food. We live spiritually by the gracious word of God.
How does that add to our joy?
No matter what happens, my faith cannot be taken from me. The best things in life, the spiritual things in life, are free gifts from God. The beggar and the banker can both attend worship or Bible class. God answers the prayers of the meek and the mighty believers.
Fill in your recipe card!