The Joy Stealers
INTRODUCTION: Even though our Lord Jesus was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" He possessed a deep JOY that was beyond anything this world could offer. As He drew near to the cruel death on Calvary, Jesus said to His disciples:
In John 15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you that my Joy might remain in you, and that your JOY might be full."
In I Thessalonians 5:16, we find two very powerful words, "REJOICE EVERMORE."
In Psalms 85:6 we read, "Wilt thou not REVIVE us again, that thy people may REJOICE in thee?"
According to this verse, REVIVAL brings REJOICING.
You know, there appears to be something missing in our Christian lives and our fundamental churches today. What is missing is our REJOICING in the Lord. God's people feel so INHIBITED. Yet in Psalms 118:24 we read "This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will REJOICE and be GLAD in it."
The Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that do weep."
There is a time to be SERIOUS, and a time to WEEP.
There is also a time to LAUGH and a time to REJOICE.
There is a time to say AMEN and PRAISE THE LORD.
There is a time to be serious in church, but there is also a time to smile and laugh.
Those of us who have trusted Christ as Saviour have the privilege of what David said in Psalm 16:11, "Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of JOY; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Yet few of us, as believers, take advantage of this privilege.
Therefore I ask, "WHAT HAS ROBBED US OF OUR JOY?" The answer to that question is found in Paul's missionary letter to the Philippian Church, a letter we are now beginning to study.
This letter was written by Paul, not as he sat in the executive suite of a Hilton Hotel, but rather in the dark damp Roman maritime prison.
In spite of Paul's circumstances, he shared with this church "THE SECRET OF CHRISTIAN REJOICING." As you read this letter, you will see that EIGHTEEN times Paul uses the words JOY, REJOICE, GLADNESS. Philippians is an epistle of JOY! These seem to be strange words coming from a man who appeared to have no reason to be rejoicing, however, let me explain.
In Acts 16:22-25 we read,
“And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. (23) And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: (24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. (25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
On Paul's first trip to this city he and his co- workers were arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison for sharing their faith. Yet in spite of that, they were singing in jail, and after the earthquake they led the jailer to Christ.
In Philippians 1:13 we read, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places…” Here we find Paul sitting in a Roman jail, awaiting his up-coming trial, facing the possibility he might be beheaded for the cause of the Gospel.
In Philippians 1:15-18 to add insult to injury, there were those in opposition to him,
“Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: (16) The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: (17) But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. (18) What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
Yet, in spite of his DANGERS and in spite of his DISCOMFORTS, Paul overflowed with joy. He was at PEACE with God.
To Paul, Philippi meant suffering, and yet it also meant JOY UNSPEAKABLE. He had an internal gladness that all the persecution and trials, which he and the church passed through, could not take away from him.
QUESTION: "What was the secret of this joy?" Two things are evident, that Paul wrote about in this letter, to bring us face to face with the JOY of Christian experience.
Number 1: It was Christ living in Paul. As you read through Philippians you will discover that CHRIST is referred to by NAME or by PRONOUN TWENTY times. Obviously, CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF PAUL'S JOY.
Someone said, "Believers should rejoice in Jesus, NOT in vain and empty things of the world such as riches or the applause of men. Our happiness rests in the Lord Jesus Christ. Just to know that He is our Friend as well as our Saviour and to know that He has chosen US to be His servants and bear fruit to His Glory should bring the highest joy possible to the human heart."
Number 2: Two other words found some FIFTEEN times in Philippians are "THINK or MIND."
While Christ is the SOURCE of the believer’s JOY, the MIND is the channel through which that JOY comes. The secret of Christian JOY is found in the way the believer THINKS. Remember, "OUR OUTLOOK DETERMINES OUR OUTCOME."
In Proverbs 23:7 we read, "For as he thinketh in his heart so is he." Paul’s outlook was on Christ, He could REJOICE because his MIND was on CHRIST.
QUESTION: "What robs us of our Joy?" Perhaps the best way to get the total picture of the Book of Philippians is to discover the FOUR THIEVES that rob us of our joy, and therefore being able to shout out the PRAISES of GOD.
Thief 1. Circumstances: Most of us must confess that when things are "going our way," we feel a lot happier, and we are much easier to live with.
"Dad must have had an easy day at the office," little Peggy said to her visiting girlfriend. "He didn't squeal the tires when he pulled into the driveway, and he didn't slam the door when he came into the house, and he even gave Mother a kiss!"
However, have you considered how few of the circumstances of life are really under our control?
We have no control over the weather or over the traffic.
We have no control over what people do and say to us or about us.
Here is my point. If your HAPPINESS depends upon IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCES, you are going to be miserable much of the time! Yet here is the Apostle Paul, in the worst of circumstances, writing a letter saturated with JOY.
Thief 2. People: Listen to this mother as she watched her daughter come home from school one day.
My daughter jumped off the school bus as it stopped in front of our house and slammed her way through the front door. She marched defiantly up the stairs into her room and again slammed the door. All the time she was muttering under her breath, "People, people, people, PEOPLE!" I went to her door and knocked softly. "May I come in?” She replied, "NO!" I tried again, but she said it even more belligerently. "NO!" I asked, "Why can't I come in?" Her answer: "BECAUSE YOU'RE A PEOPLE!"
Now many of us can laugh at that story because we know it to be so true. All of us, at one time or another, have lost our JOY because of PEOPLE:
What they say,
What they are,
What they do.
However, before we begin to smile in agreement, no doubt we ourselves have contributed to making somebody else unhappy. IT WORKS BOTH WAYS. In Matthew 5:13-14, our Lord said that we are to be the "the salt of the earth and the light of the world." But sometimes, the SALT becomes bitter and the LIGHT goes out because of PEOPLE. Someone once asked, "Is there any way to have joy in spite of people?"
Thief 3. Things: There are circumstances and there are people, but there are also THINGS that cause us to lose our joy.
A Quaker watching his wealthy neighbor said to him, "Friend, if thou dost need anything, come to see me, and I will tell thee how to get along without it."
The Lord said in the preamble to the parable of the rich fool, in Luke 12:15 "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus warns against laying up treasure on earth, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Earthly treasures are not safe down here.
Earthly treasures never satisfy nor do they last.
Yet most people think JOY comes from the things they own. In reality, THINGS can rob us of the only kind of JOY that really lasts. That's why Jesus goes on to say, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Thief 4. Worry: Worry is the most insidious thief of all! Oh, how many people have been robbed of peace because of worry? In fact, worry even has physical consequences. While MEDICINE can relieve the symptoms, it cannot remove the CAUSE. Worry is what we call an INSIDE JOB. Remember, you can purchase SLEEP at the drug store, but you cannot purchase REST. If Paul had wanted to WORRY, he had plenty of occasions to do so!
He was a political prisoner facing possible execution.
His friends in Rome were divided in their attitude toward him.
He had no mission board or legal aid society supporting him.
Yet, in spite of this, Paul was rejoicing, not worrying.
There you have the FOUR THIEVES that rob us of joy: CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE, THINGS, and WORRY.
Question: How do we capture these thieves? How do we keep them from taking away the joy that is rightfully ours in Christ? Answer: we must cultivate the right kind of mind. In the four chapters of Philippians, Paul describes FOUR ATTITUDES OF OUR MIND that will produce JOY in spite of CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE, THINGS, and WORRY.
Attitude 1. In Philippians chapter 1 we have the SINGLE MIND. Many believers are upset by circumstances, because they have not cultivated the single mind. If we are going to maintain inward JOY that will rebound with outward REJOICING, we must have a SINGLE MIND.
Paul expresses the key in 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Here we find that "Jesus Christ is the PRINCIPLE of the believers life."
In chapter 1 Paul describes His difficult CIRCUMSTANCES. He is in prison, facing the trial of his life. However, Paul is not living to enjoy circumstances, HE IS LIVING TO SERVE JESUS CHRIST.
Paul is not LOOKING at Christ through his circumstances,
Paul is LOOKING at his circumstances through Christ, and that changes everything.
Attitude 2. In Philippians chapter 2 we have the SUBMISSIVE MIND. This chapter focuses on PEOPLE, and the key is found in verses 3-4, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
In chapter 1 you find that Paul puts Christ FIRST.
In chapter 2 you find that Paul puts others SECOND.
If this be true, then where does that put me? It puts me LAST! By the way, this principle provides a wonderful way of spelling joy – J=Jesus, O=Others, Y=You.
The reason why people AGGRAVATE us is usually because we do not have our own way. If we go through life PUTTING OURSELVES FIRST and others go through life PUTTING THEMSELVES FIRST, at some point in time, there is going to be a COLLISON.
Oh, how tragic that Christians are constantly at one another. Paul emphatically warns us in Galatians 5:13-16,
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”
The Christian with the submissive mind does not expect others to serve him. Rather, the one with a submissive mind has a desire to serve others.
In Chapter 2, we find Christ is the PATTERN of the believer’s life spelled out in verse 5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” That pattern was Christ being SUBMISSIVE to God the Father as He humbled Himself going to the cross.
Attitude 3. In Philippians chapter 3 we have the SPIRITUAL MIND. Interestingly you will find the word THINGS used ELEVEN times in this chapter. Notice verse 19, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” However a SPIRITUAL MINDED person is concerned with Heavenly things not earthly things for in verses 20-21 we read,
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
The spiritual mind looks at the things of the world from Heaven's point of view and what a difference that makes.
In 1955, five missionaries were killed by the Incas Indians in Ecuador. Newspapers expressed it as a WASTE. Not so for Jim Elliott who had said, "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Oh, how many of us are being fooled. "We want to possess things, and soon we discover those things possess us."
As you read chapter 3, you will discover Paul had it made, but his values were all wrong. In verses 4-6 Paul expressed he was the “King of the Hill” when he said,
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (4) Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: (5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
But then notice how he expresses his feelings about THINGS in verses 7-9,
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” Having “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:”
In verse 10 Paul tells us that Christ is the PASSION of our life, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
Attitude 4: In Philippians chapter 4 we have the SECURE MIND. In this chapter Paul is telling us that WORRY is actually wrong THINKING in the MIND and, wrong FEELING in the HEART about circumstances, people and things.
For in verses 6-7, we read
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Then in verse 13 Paul gives us a picture of Christ as the POWER of our life, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Let me summarize this for you. Here is Paul's formula for being able to REJOICE:
Chapter one: You have the SINGLE MIND where Christ is the PRINCIPLE of life.
Chapter two: You have the SUBMISSIVE MIND where Christ is the PATTERN of life.
Chapter three: You have the SPIRITUAL MIND where Christ is the PASSION of life.
Chapter four: You have the SECURE MIND where Christ is the POWER of life.
As we think on these things, let me give you several handles to hang onto that will help you to put them into practice.
First: Be sure you are a Christian. I remind you that Paul wrote this letter in Philippians 1:1 to "all the saints in Christ Jesus." When you, by faith, receive Christ as your Saviour, you no longer belong to this world. You belong to Him and have been set apart for His glory.
Interestingly each chapter in Philippians begins with either "In Christ" or "In the Lord." You cannot have:
The single mind of chapter 1,
The submissive mind of chapter 2,
The spiritual mind of chapter 3, or
The secure mind of chapter 4, unless you belong to Jesus Christ.
How does one become a child of God? Paul answered that question when he was in the Philippian jail in Acts 16:31 saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
Second: Learn to rejoice.
We spend far too much of our time grumbling and complaining.
We spend far too much of our time complaining about people and moaning over circumstances that are getting us down.
We spend far too much time worrying about the things of life that we should be giving over to the Lord.
Notice with me Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” This is a command to REJOICE ALWAYS. Please listen. This old sin-cursed, heart-sick world, needs a lift from Christians.
It needs an “Amen.”
It needs a “Praise the Lord.”
It needs a smile on the face of the people of God.
Hard, burdened hearts need to hear God's people rejoice. In Christ:
WE can rejoice at the grave site as well as at the crib.
WE can rejoice when the plate is full or when the plate is empty.
WE can rejoice when your steps are quick and when your steps are slow and unsure.
WE can rejoice when with others or when alone.
There is more to life than complaining and griping.
There is more to life than bickering and fighting.
There is more to life than moping and frowning.
There is a joy that can be ours. There is a lift and excitement that can be ours, and there is a blessing that can be ours. That is why Paul said in Philippians 4:4, "REJOICE ALWAYS, and AGAIN I SAY REJOICE." Why? Because there is a lift and a joy and a thrill we can have WHEN WE BELONG TO JESUS. The apostle Paul knew what he was saying. He could say:
I have had it all, and on the other hand, I have had nothing.
I have been on the top, yet I have also been on the bottom.
I have been in the palaces, and I have been in the jails. Regardless, I can always REJOICE in the LORD!
My friends, since this is true:
You can REJOICE in the Lord when you are sick.
You can REJOICE in the Lord when you are at the bottom.
You can REJOICE in the goodness of God the Father.
You can REJOICE in the great, unchanging, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God.
You can REJOICE in the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can REJOICE in the one who is: the LILY of the Valley, the Fairest of ten thousands,
the bright and morning Star, the Rose of Sharon, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
You can REJOICE in His virgin birth.
You can REJOICE in His sinless life.
You can REJOICE in His vicarious death.
You can REJOICE in His bodily resurrection.
You can REJOICE in His intercessory ministry.
You can REJOICE in that He is coming again.
You can REJOICE in that one day He will be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
REJOICE AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE. Why? Because your JOY is not in a WHAT, but in a WHO: JESUS. No wonder David said in Psalm 5:11, "But let all those who put their trust in thee REJOICE; let them ever SHOUT for JOY, because thou defendest them; let those also who love thy name be JOYFUL in thee."
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon "The Joy Stealers" right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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