Devotional # 129. 3/24/15. Philippians 3:1.
Intro. Last week we read how Paul cared for the Christians in Philippi by sending Epaphroditus to them. Remember how Epaphroditus had almost died but once he got better he continued to fight the good fight? He had the honor of bringing the very letter that we’re reading (now the book of “Philippians”) to the people in Philippi. But we were also reminded to give “honor” to people like Epaphroditus who represented the Lord well. When we fight the good fight, give honor and receive honor we are humbled and filled with joy. “Rejoicing” and “joy” are the themes of today’s devotional. We’re only tackling one verse today but sometimes there is a wealth of spiritual food in a little package! Be thinking about the joy you have, or feel like you are lacking. Why are you lacking that joy? Is it because you are looking for fulfillment from areas that were never meant to quench or because you’re not fighting the good fight as Jesus has asked you specifically to fight?
v. 1. Paul starts chapter 3 with “finally” but he still has another entire chapter beyond this one, so why does he say “finally”? Well, by now we’ve learned that words like “finally” and “therefore” are important. Here “finally” is used because Paul is finishing a thought. If we read from chapter 2, verse 18 then continue into chapter 3, we see Paul’s intended flow of thought. He interrupted himself to commend Timothy and Epaphroditus, granted something needed, but then continues on with the thought on rejoicing.
I love the simplicity and pointedness of the first sentence: ‘finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in Jesus’ [my translation]. The word Paul uses for “rejoice” is chairo (G5463) in the Greek, meaning “to be glad” (Source 1). It’s the same word as in Matthew 5:12 which says, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” I think this fits really well because amidst his encouragement in this letter to the Philippians Paul is being real with them, telling them they will be persecuted.
Paul rejoiced in Philippians 2:16 knowing that he and other Christians would shine like lights among a perverse generation, which would mean he had run life’s race well and as he was called to do. Later we’ll see Paul say it again: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV). And Paul’s not the only one, Deuteronomy 12:7 tells us that we should “rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.” And “…let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You” (Psalm 5:11). Of course the list goes on and on of Bible verses speaking of the joy Christians have, but…
The point of all this is not that we’re entitled to this joy. It’s not that we did our part by signing up for heaven and now God needs to bless us and fill us with joy. Much like what I was reading in my personal devotions today, Jesus asks why we worry and then tells us not to. Why are we concerned about what we eat or where we sleep or what we wear? If we put the kingdom of God first then all of that stuff we were worried about will be added to us! (Luke 12:29-31). In the same way Paul is saying if we put Christ first then we will recognize the joy that we have comes from Him! This verse says to “rejoice”, but in what or who? “Rejoice in the Lord”! We gather our strength by having Jesus sit on the throne of our heart. If that happens than we will be doing His will in our lives and all of our material needs will be taken care of – for that we rejoice!
Paul continues on by explaining for him ‘to write the same things to them is not tedious, but for them it is safe.’ What does Paul mean that it’s not “tedious” for him to write this? He means don’t just gloss over what he’s saying because you’ve heard it before. He’s saying he’s not tired of saying it so we shouldn’t be tired of hearing it. We learn through repetition, so it’s better to heed the words and apply them to our life. What does Paul mean by “it is safe”? Well, because humans forget (hence Paul’s repetition) it is “safe” for us because of the following warning in verse 2 (Source 2). If we remember to “rejoice in the Lord” we will be safe from the “dogs” and “evil workers” (v. 2). We’ll look more into what verse 2 is talking about next week but suffice it to say if we “rejoice in the Lord” then we’ll be protected from evil men that can kill us but can’t do more after that (Luke 12:4-5).
Conclusion. There is a joy only found in the Lord, helping us not to fear but reassuring us that our salvation is safe. Psalm 28:7 says, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him” (NIV).
Source 2: Troy VanderWende sermon on 5/30/10.