Philippians -- The Book of Joy
(Welcome back! We took some time off for the holidays, but we are back in the swing of things again.)
Philippians chapter one was titled "The Single Mind" or "Circumstances Can Rob Your Joy." When we began this study we talked quite a bit about who this man Paul was and who this church at Philippi was. Paul was an apostle . . . converted and then taken aside and taught by Christ Himself before being sent out to minister. He had a frightening reputation before his conversion. He was the poster child for being the perfect zealous Jewish soldier fighting against this new system of worship called Christianity. But once he gave his life to God, he completely changed! His new life in Christ was so opposite of his life before that he had to choose one or the other. He could not ride the fence and go back and forth between the two. He had to pick one. None of us has control over our circumstances and that makes circumstances the biggest distractor in our lives. We can have everything in order and be toodling right along serving God and POW!!!! something out of our control jumps up and lands right in the path of our good intentions. Paul began this letter to his beloved church by encouraging them to keep their eyes on Christ and on the prize so that circumstances don't get us off track.
He taught them that discernment . . . being able to see through things for what they really are . . . is a mark of maturity. When something out of our control plops itself in our path we have to look at it and decide how important it is, how much energy is deserves, and how long we're going to stand there before walking around it. Keep your eyes on the prize. Paul told the church that every hard and bad thing that had happened to him had happened for the furtherance of the gospel. Prison? Losing friends? Losing his job? Losing his status? Yes. If he focused on any one of these circumstances he would surely have lost his motivation and his zeal for spreading the gospel. Our circumstances can rob out joy if we do not keep a Single Mind about what our life is really all about.
Chapter two was titled "The Submissive Mind" or "People Can Rob Your Joy." If we substitute the word humility for submissive we get a really clear picture of what Paul was teaching here. He had status and reputation and power and fame and all that goes along with it before. Now he had taken on the spread of the gospel as his one ambition in life. Paul no longer sought attention based on his status. He no longer took credit for what his accomplishments. He no longer worked at being the biggest personality in the room. He had humility and a different focus. He had submitted his life to Christ and taken on the purpose of spreading the gospel. Christ was all that mattered to him. He didn't need recognition or praise. He had changed his outlook from being "it's all about me" to "it's all about Christ." If Christ, the Prince of Heaven, loved us so much to give up His throne and power and position in order to become a servant of lowly fishermen turned evangelists, then who was Paul . . . or ANY of us . . . that he should seek any glory for himself? People probably threw his past up into his face all the time. Others probably lauded him and tried to make him a celebrity. He did not let people rob his joy. He had pure joy from keeping Christ in the place of honor and considering himself the lowliest servant.
Chapter three teaches us to have a Spiritual Mind. The opposite of spiritual is earthly. It is not hard to understand that shifting your focus away from the spiritual things will settle them on earthly things. Earthly things break and crumble and disappear. The Jewish people were learning to shift their focus away from the Law and the tedious manner of life they were used to and shift it to Grace where there is freedom. They were so used to being conscious of every little thing in their day to day lives . . . how far they walked on certain days, who they spoke to, which food they ate on certain days. There were over 800 laws that they had to be conscientious of or be GUILTY of the whole Law. The penalties in those days could be as severe as stoning for some offenses! Talk about pressure! Some of these people were old and had lived their entire lives being that tedious in their every action. That must have been hard for them to let go of. But if they did not change their focus and concentrate on the spiritual things, all kinds of earthly things could get them frustrated and discouraged. Just like them we need to keep in the very front of our minds exactly what we are striving for in Christ.
So, we are done with the holidays. We are back on track with our Bible study. It brings joy to my heart to be doing this study and I pray that it encourages you as well!