What better way to start 2018 than studying a letter all about joy! Paul is writing from a prison; is being slandered by those outside the prison; is addressing a church struggling with unity with a few of its own hostile enemies; and he writes them a letter which is all about joy!
Joy pervades the whole letter. The noun ‘joy’ or the verb ‘rejoice’ is used 16 times in the letter. Here are a few examples:
1:4-5 – In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel
1:21 – I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith
2:2-3 – [if you have] any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded
2:29 – [Ephraphroditus]…welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour people like him
4:1 – Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
In chapter 4 he makes the outrageous claim that he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. Paul’s life and Paul’s letter fizzes with joy and that joy doesn’t seem to be connected to his circumstances (which are pretty dire!), but to what God is doing in him.
So we want to start the year thinking about finding joy in God throughout 2018, whether it ends up being a year of pleasant circumstances (plenty), or a year of challenging circumstances (want). C:S Lewis said:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Let’s start 2018 by learning Paul’s secret… that of finding all our joy and contentment in God and not our circumstances. Then no matter what the year throws at us, no matter the pressures and trials, no matter the joys and victories, we’d have a joy that surpasses all understanding. That is what Philippians is all about.
Background to the letter
Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia, so it was a little piece of Rome abroad. The language, titles, taxes, administration and way of public life was Roman. The story of the gospel going into Philippi for the first time and the church being planted is told in Acts 16. This is the first time the gospel had reached Europe (around AD50).
In Acts 16 we learn about a house church being formed which included a rich business woman (Lydia) and a Roman Jailor, and possibly a slave girl who had recently been set free from a demon. It was quite a fragile and eclectic group, all meeting in Lydia’s home.
When Paul writes the letter, from prison (most likely in Rome given the reference to Caesar’s household in 4:22), it is the early AD60s. So the church has had 10 years of maturing and growing, and Paul is delighted to see how they are growing and is writing to thank them for their ‘partnership in the gospel’ – they have given him some money and a person (Epaphroditus). So he writes to thank them for that, assure them of his situation, and send Ephaphroditus back to them. He also responds to a few situations that the church is facing; namely persecution (1:26-31), Jewish legalism (3:1-11) and disunity (4:1-3, 2:1-11).
It is a very personal letter – Paul tells us a lot about himself, his companions and love for the church – and also a very practical letter – Paul gives us lots of wisdom about how to navigate ordinary challenges of church life – so there is much we can learn from it.
- 7th January – Praying with joy Joy (Philippians 1:1-11)
- 14 January – Joy in suffering (Philippians 1:12-24)
- 21st January – Identity through success & failure (Philippians 3:1-11)
- 28th January – Pressing On (Philippians 3:12-21)
- 4th February – Messy Church (Philippians 4:1-3 and 1:27-30 & 2:1-11)
- 11th February – Overcoming Anxiety (Philippians 4:4-9)
- 18th February – Contentment & Money (Philippians 4:10-19)
Sunday services start at 4.15pm and are at Synge Street Secondary School.
Other things happening this term…
As well as the preaching series we also have a number of other things that might interest you this term:
- New Musicians Evening (with Craig) – 14th Jan
- Existing and New City Group Leaders Training (with Dustyn) – 21st Jan
- 6.30 Leadership (with Steve) – starting Wed 24th Jan
- Decision Making Seminar (with Steve) – 28th Jan
- A City Group Sunday (with Dustyn) – 4th Feb
- A Games Night (with everyone!) – 11th Feb
- Church AGM (with Justin) – 18th Feb
- Two Connect Nights (with Steve & Leanne) – 25th Feb and 25th March
- A Women’s Seminar (with Leanne & Co) – 4th March
- A Marriage Enrichment Course (with Steve & Leanne) – The first Friday night of the month, for 4 sessions, starting on Friday 2nd February.
- A Money Management Course, CAP (with Justin) – starting in the second week of February for 3 weeks (probably Wed 14th February, venue TBC)