Where is the Joy? Part 2


I’ve been examining Philippians searching for the source of Paul’s joy.  Joy doesn’t come easily to my personality.  I wanted to know where Paul found joy in the midst of his difficult travels.  In the first part, we looked at what Paul had found in Jesus that caused him to “rejoice in the Lord.”  Part 2 is a second source of joy that I discovered Paul had.

Rejoicing in Fellowship

Paul makes many references in his letter to the Philippians that they themselves cause him to rejoice.  Paul shares a special bond with these believers because they’ve accepted the gospel of Jesus that Paul himself taught them, and now they have their own faith in Jesus.  The opening of his letter is so heartwarming:

One of the greatest sources of joy is found in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the greatest sources of joy is found in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now ….Philippians 1:3-4

But the Philippians are more than converts and partners; Paul considers them his friends and brothers in Christ:

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! Philippians 4:1

Paul cares for them and rejoices not just in their salvation but in every step of growth they make in unity.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.Philippians 2:1-2

He is so concerned about disharmony that he even mentions a personal disagreement between two women:

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Philippians 4:2

About their growth in Christ likeness, he gives many instructions of the joy, gentleness, peace, renewed thinking and many other qualities that should characterize their new lives in Christ.  An especially loved section of this letter is the teachings in Philippians 4:4-9.  Again, Paul encourages unity with God and among believers in striving toward a Christ-like lifestyle.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.Philippians 3:15-16

Paul mentions how deeply we should care for others, and his joy when the Philippians show this concern, in these verses:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

I have no one else like [Paul’s co-worker, Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:20-21

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.Philippians 4:10a

That depth of caring comes from considering the attitude of Christ:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!Philippians 2:6-8

Paul is building on the “joy in the Lord” that we looked at in Part 1.  The sacrifice of Christ brings ever deeper joy the better we understand it.  Now that joy is teaching us to have love and concern for others as we do for ourselves – and experience even more joy in the process.

Paul encourages the Philippians in their giving and in the  help it has brought him. He also makes them aware of God’s response to their generosity.  This passage does not specifically have the word “joy” in it, but if you have ever been privileged to give to someone in need, you know the joy that comes with giving.

I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.  They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.Philippians 4:18

Before looking into Philippians in these last weeks, I had never noticed how the Bible mentions the joy that God gives us in each other.  Many of my friends, I notice, have found this source of joy.  But I am thinking I could do more to take joy in all the brothers and sisters around me (not just my close friends), their faith, their prayers, their sharing of time and talents, and how they fill a role in the local church, whether they worship where I do or elsewhere.  The joy of appreciating my fellow Christians and encouraging them in their walk is out there for the taking.

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