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Rejoice Series Sermon #1
~Rejoice in the Lord~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
August 7, 2011
Philippians 1:1-11

Grab a Bible and turn with me to the book of Philippians.  Today we beginning the new series, “Rejoice in the Lord.”  I believe I have been drawn to this book through the Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen each of you in some way. 

Rejoicing in the Lord and having joy in Christ, no matter what life throws at you, is a major theme of the book of Philippians and something we need to be reminded of often as Christians.  The pure and true joy that comes from the Lord cannot be duplicated from any other source, and I hope to lead many of you back to that joy and peace through God’s Word during this series. 

One thing that I am going to ask that I have not mentioned for some time now is that, if you don’t usually bring your own Bible to church please begin to do so.  And if you don’t have one please take one of the Bibles around you and make it your own.  Write your name in it; claim it as your own.  Read it and begin to cherish it.  There is something extremely special about having, carrying, reading, and studying your Bible.  Spend time in it, write in it, get to know it. 

The Bible was written by Godly men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is literally God breathed.  The book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament.  It is a small book with only 4 chapters, and it can be hard to find because it spans only 3 pages in most Bibles.

Even though it is small, Philippians is one of my favorite books of the entire Bible, and I know it is for many of you also.  One of the most amazing things about this letter from Paul has to be its extremely positive and encouraging nature.  Some of you may be thinking, ‘that’s no big deal for Paul because Paul was being used by God.  It would have been easy to be full of joy for him, but its really hard for me to rejoice and be happy because my life is so difficult right now.’  But did you realize that while writing this letter to the church in Philippi, Paul is in a Roman prison undergoing extreme hardship.  His life by, human standards, is a mess ...,  but still his heart is full of joy.

You can see Paul’s joy as he writes in this letter.  Just look at how he greets his reader. 

Today, when we sit down to write a letter we often write something like, “Dear (so and so)” or, “To Whom it may concern.” Or even worse,  in an email or text we sometimes don’t even say hello anymore ..., we just start writing.  Not here, no, you can see Paul’s joy and excitement in Christ even in his greeting.

READ Philippians 1:1-2

What a grand greeting.  Sometimes in his letters Paul would introduce himself as Paul the Apostle, especially when he needed to lay down a foundation of authority.  But here he says, ‘I am just one of you.  I am a fellow servant of Jesus Christ, we are family, we are on the same team.

Then he declares them as saints in Christ Jesus.  I like that!  To all the saints.

Do you know any saints?  For you football fans, please think past the Saints you know from New Orleans.  Do you know any real saints?

In the Catholic tradition, it is a huge deal to be declared a saint.  First, there is the investigation into the life of the saint to prove they had performed at least one miracle.  Next, there is what they call beatification - a time where he or she is declared to for certain be in heaven and the final step is canonization - where the candidate for sainthood is instituted into full sainthood.  And all of the long process is set up to take no less than 100 years after the person dies. 

I believe I know why it always takes that long after the person dies.  Its so that everyone that knew that person while they lived is by that time also dead and no one can any long say, “I knew that guy when he was 5 and 25, and let me tell you, he was no saint!!!”

Some of you may be thinking, ‘If that is the case, no one could ever really be a saint.  There must be an easier way to become a saint.’

In fact there is.  Just go to www.sainthood.com and for the low, low price of $9.95 in the basic package, to the ultra high quality limited package for $54.95, you or someone you love can become a cyber saint.  And you will be sent an official parchment like certificate that you can display to share your sainthood with others.  It will look something like this.
[Show PP of ‘Sainthood Certificate of DAVID TRENT’]

Do you know any real saints?  You should, you’re sitting in a room full of them this morning. 

Everybody here who has accepted Jesus Christ as there Lord and savior is a saint.  In recent history churches have turned the word Saint into something that is almost divine, beyond any human reach, but its never used that way in the scriptures.  In the Bible, a saint is always a believer and follower of Christ.  We could and do refer to one another as saints if we want to.

Saint Alice Brown, Saint Dan Morrissette, Saint Emily Rosenboom, Saint Paul Brown.

We could do that, but it would not make much sense to the world around us.  Here is the deal. I want you to know that if you are a saved, believer, and follower of Jesus Christ, you are a saint.

The word saint at its core simply means ‘separated’.  When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior you are separated out of the world and become a reflection of Him. 

A saint is a living believer that is reflecting the loving and caring nature of God.

So how is a saint to live?

Paul gives us some explanations in the opening verses of Philippians.  Lets look...

Philippians 1:3-4
1.  Live out a joyful gratitude in Christ  

Paul shows us this blessed attitude of gratefulness.  Even though Paul’s life seems to be ruined as he sits in his prison cell, he can’t help but speak of his joy as he thinks of his friends and fellow saints.

Even though Paul is locked up, can’t you just see him smiling as he reflects on their great friendship and unity in Christ? Can’t you just see Paul getting excited as he thinks about the eternal promise of being reunited with his friends in heaven?  That’s what Paul is holding onto here.

I believe his relationship with Christ and all the other saints is what pulled him through all the dark and difficult hours of his life.  What are you going to hold onto when trouble hits? 

I don’t think anybody would have blamed Paul had he written this letter and started it out by saying,

“I am miserable here!  You should see this place, its terrible!  It looks like I am going to die here!  Please pray that my pain will stop.  Its not fair this is happening to me!  This place stinks, its nothing but a deep pit in the ground, and there is nothing to hope for here.  My joints hurt and my body is bruised from sleeping on the floor.  Its miserable here!!!” 

But Paul didn’t write anything like that.

Paul writes, “I thank God every time I remember you.”  I believe what got Paul through some of those toughest times was his memory of the blessings with the saints.  I think one of God’s greatest gifts to us is our gift of memory.

Learn to reflect like Paul on those joyous moments in life.

Don’t waste your memories on the bad times, the wrongs, the hurts, the let downs and the failures because life is too short to get stuck in the sad stuff.  Life is not about all of the events, what really matters is the relationships.  That is where the joy is.  The joy is really always in the relationships.

Think about it. 

Relationships with family, friends, and other Christian saints is what really makes life on this side of heaven worth living.  Cherish those relationships that you have been blessed with.
Start with your relationship with the Lord,  and then your spouse, your children, your parents, your family, your friends.  You make the list, but focus on those relationships.  Invest in those and you will find joy that can’t be taken away by anything of this world, not prison, nor disease, nor financial failure. 

Looking for Happiness

In February of 2010,  Karl Rabeder, a self-made Austrian millionaire decided to give away everything he had.  Millions and millions of dollars ..., he gave it all away to charities around the world in hopes that freedom from all of his financial responsibility and stress would allow him to finally be happy and have the joy he had been looking for, for so long.  He sold everything; his homes, cars, planes, land, businesses... everything had to go to try and find happiness.

He came to this conclusion after a three week trip with his wife to Hawaii where they spent all the money they could, doing all the things they could do and realizing that after it was all over they had not felt like they had met one real person. 

He said it seemed like everyone was just  acting on the trip.  The staff at the resort were playing the part of being ‘friendly’,  the guests all played the part of being ‘extremely important’ ..., but no one was being ‘real.’

Karl had some of it right, the greatest joys in life do not come from money.  But I’ve got news for Karl.   Getting rid of the money won’t solve the problem!j  This isn’t a money problem.  It’s a relational problem.  Think about it.  Rich and poor alike, healthy and sick alike, beautiful and homely alike, all can struggle with finding joy.  You can change all different factors in your life, but you will still struggle with finding true joy until you find a relationship with Jesus.

Real joy is not found in money, appearance,  or even health; it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some of you are like Karl, probably not in that you have more money than you know what to do with, but in the fact you are trying to find happiness in something apart from the Lord.  You have not yet learned to rejoice in the Lord.

No trip, no event, no miracle drug, no gadget, nothing makes sense apart from your relationship with Jesus being right.  Let me tell you, when our relationship with God is right it helps each of our other relationships to grow as well.  We become better husbands, wives, workers, students, children, parents, a better brother or sister, better grandparent .., whatever the list is, you will be better at it because your relationship is right with Jesus Christ.  That’s what’s important.

Genuine relationships don’t grow because of things you can add to your life they grow because of Jesus Christ being first in your life.

2.  Live out joyful partnerships in Christ 

Read Philippians 1:4-6

I wonder if any of you have true partnerships in Christ.  Those relationships that bring you joy because of your unity together in Christ.

Many of you are great friends and after this service you will find a friend and start talking, laughing and even planning your week’s events together.  I love to see that happen.  Some of you spend more time at church sharing with your friends than we do in worship, and that is great.  That’s called fellowship and it helps us grow and be strong.  That is one reason we are doing the Pizza with the Pastors time today.  Hopefully, we will get to know some of you that are newer and you will get to know us in a better way.

That’s one of the reasons we invite you back tonight at 6:30 p.m. Sure we are going to have a time of worship and hear from Nathan Pelehowski as he preaches, but we are also going to have a time of fellowship afterwards to encourage one another. 

All of that is good, but it is not really what Paul is speaking of when he says ‘partnership’ here.  The things I just described for you are more of Christian fellowship, and it is very needed.  But Paul takes the concept over Christian Unity to a deeper level, and he speaks of ‘being in partnership with each other in the gospel.’

It means not only being around others, but being committed to others.  You are all committed to the same purpose and that purpose, for the Christian, is the gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ.  That is what unites us into more than just times of fun fellowship.  Our commitment to Christ and His gospel unites us into a passionate partnership.

This partnership that Paul had with the church of Philippi was very unique because it started with a vision of a man in Greece.  This man in the vision was calling out to Paul “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  You can read the story in Acts 16.

So Paul went to this region and to the city of Philippi, a Roman controlled colony, and traveled there to preach about Christ.  Not finding any real church to speak of, he found a group of woman who worshipped God down by the river and shared about Jesus to them.  One of the women there was named Lydia and she responded to the truth about Jesus.  The Bible says her heart was opened and she and her whole household were baptized,  and then she took Paul and his friends into her home and helped them be prepared to tell others.  That was the beginning of the partnership in Philippi.  It was a great partnership, not normal in many ways, but amazing. 

What a strange partnership it would have seemed to be.  A few Jewish men of the highest caliber from a foreign land had partnered up with a group of gentile ladies who dealt in fabric from a Roman city. They became this power band of soldiers for God’s glory who would go on to do everything they could to spread the word about Jesus Christ.  What a partnership!

What binds us together in this room this morning is not the fact that we all are from Herscher, because we are not.  Its not that we are all from the same background,  because we are not.  Its not because we all share the same likes and dislikes,  because we don’t.  It’s not because we are all from the same generation, because we are not.  What pulls us together in this partnership that the world will not understand, it is the fact that we are united in the cause to proclaim that Christ is Lord, and to bring His love and light into this dark world, so that many would be saved.  That’s why we are in partnership, and when we stay united in Christ all the other things that can divide will fade away.

If we can live together in this type of partnership, then God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion.  But if we ever just start hanging out and ‘playing church’ because we think Ryan is cool or Dustin is the best singer in the county ..., then we will begin to fail and never accomplish anything eternal. 

Never forget we are Christians first and we are partners for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we can loose track of really what is most important.  On most Sunday mornings you can find me early in one of two places.  Either here on the stage or in my office trying to put the final touches on what needs to be said in my sermon.  It is one of my struggles because I can’t get away from it on the weekends until I come in here and share it with you on Sunday morning.  The problem is that, often during those hours just before we worship together, that process can get me stressed out a little.  There are times when I am alone in this building preparing and I feel alone in what needs to happen that morning.  I know that is not true, but that is how it sometimes feels.

But sometimes ...,  most mornings often before 8 a.m., I receive a phone call.  Usually its from my mom, sometimes from my dad.  It usually a very simple and short call, but I take it if at all possible.

You see, they pray during that short time that I would preach for Jesus that morning and that in some way at least one of you who are listening on that day would be changed for Him.  Amen!!!

Its often that those calls last less than 2 minutes.  It may sound simple to you, and you may think those calls don’t matter that much, but let me tell you they are a huge encouragement, and this morning I realized that even though my parents are miles away and that they attend a different church, our partnership for the sake of the gospel is huge!

To be honest,  sometimes I hardly say a word when I am on the phone with them.  Their prayers and concern, and the idea that we are working towards the same goal at the same time means that our partnership for Christ is strong, and it helps settle me down.  It lets me see what is most important: bringing glory to Jesus!

As much as anything, in those moments hearing those prayers it is a reminder that I am not alone.  That’s what a spiritual partnership can look like.  We all need to be in partnership together for Christ in some way.  Don’t think that church is just a social event or even just a good time of fellowship with friends.  Church, at its best, is a partnership for the sake of the gospel of Christ.       

3.  Live out a joyful devotion in Christ in all circumstances
Philippians 1:7-8

Paul says when I think about you, the church, I long to be with you.  He says my heart aches to be with you.  Do you have that same devotion to the church family?  When you miss time with the church do you long for it until next time?

Does your heart ache to be here this morning?  Some still have some heart burn from whatever you ate on Saturday night, but I am sorry ..., that doesn’t count. 

We need to have a joyful devotion to Christ’s body the church no matter what.  There is joy in the commitment to the church.  To many of us will accept any excuse the comes up that might pull us away from the church family for a time.  Let me warn you, you will limit your joy in Christ until you devote yourself to meeting with the fellowship of believers. 

Long to be with God’s people!  Long to be with your family!  Long to be with your spouse!  Stop allowing all the other junk of the world to take first place and rob you of true joy.

4. Live out joyful love in Christ until He returns. 
Philippians 1:9-11

How are we, as normal saints, going to make it to the end of our life or to the point when Christ returns as faithful followers?  What can you and I do today, tomorrow, and the day after that to maintain a proper prospective and be joyful in Christ?

Paul says it pretty simply.  Live out a life of love more and more every day!

That goes right along with our mission here at HCC.  To:

Share God’s love with all people everywhere.

Do it more and more with every passing day and what happens is that through Jesus Christ we will give glory and praise to God.

Today, tomorrow, and in the days to come, commit to loving as Jesus did. 

Maybe today its time for you to accept the love of Jesus?