Theme: Joy in Serving (Sunday 18th October, 2020)
Series: Philippians Joy
Bible Reading: Philippians 2:1-14
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Last week we started a new series on Philippians in which we are particularly looking at the issue of Joy. We looked at Philippians chapter 1 and looked at the issue of joy in suffering and how the apostle Paul encourages us to find joy in our sufferings. And yes, while this sounds hard (because if you are like me, when I am suffering I just want to complain, not be joyous) … we need to remember that the Bible’s definition of joy is not “ecstatic happiness” but rather the Bible defines joy as the inner security that God is still with you in all things. Joy is the ability to praise God and trust God, whatever happens.
Today we heard a passage from Philippians 2 and the broad theme we are looking at is joy in serving.
One time I was leading a kids talk and I was trying to get the kids to understand the joy in giving and helping … so I gave all the kids a chocolate bar but before they could eat it I said, “give it away to an adult and come back and tell us how you joyful you feel.” You can imagine the kids reaction, “I don’t feel joyful, I want my chocolate.”
I think it is human nature to look out for yourself first. We wouldn’t mind giving a chocolate away if we were guaranteed one ourselves … but if we are called to give and all we get back is a little joy … mmmmm, we are not sure about that.
That was part of the problem in the church at Philippi. Remember last week I explain that out of all the churches that Paul planted, the church at Philippi was his favourite because they were so good at living out their faith. Although they were a great church, there were signs of some disunity.
Some people were tired of always thinking of others first … they wanted to think about themselves for a bit. They weren’t really minding giving chocolate away to other people … they just wanted some themselves … and now they were starting to complain about it. It is in this environment that Paul wrote Philippians chapter 2 … and they are not the easiest words to implement in our everyday life. How do you respond to the words of Philippians 2?
Paul starts this chapter by saying that if they really are the great church that they are known to be then they should love one another, they should be one in spirit and purpose. Listen to verses 3 and 4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
It is a nice idea, but I don’t think we can achieve that. I’m serious, I think with our human nature, we really struggle to think of others better than ourselves. How can we realistically try and achieve this ideal of Paul’s?
When I was 13 I was a typical young teenager … I only thought of myself and would often complain about the stuff I had to do and what I perceived as unfair expectations. I still vividly remember one day my 16 year old brother giving me a piece of paper with the bible reference Philippians 2:14 written on it. Look it up, it says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. My first reaction was to think … oh no, if the bible says it then I suppose I have to do it. But then I thought … I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can do everything without complaining some of the time.
So how can we serve God and serve the people around us in a way in which we feel joy instead of feeling like complaining and arguing? How can we implement the words of Philippians 2 in our lives?
Hold onto that question why I sidetrack for a moment to tell a story about my son Matthew. When he was young … say around 4 years old, Matthew was a very practical little boy who loved to help, well most of the time. He didn’t always help his sisters, but he loved helping me … his dad.
When we were living in Yamba – my first church – we lived next door to the church and every time I went across of the church for something, Matthew had to come with me to help. We used to joke that Matthew was a bit like Jesus in Luke 2:49… if you wanted to find Matthew there was a good chance he was in his father’s house.
Growing up, Matt didn’t change much. At my next church – when Matt was in primary school, most Sunday mornings Matthew would get up early so that he can come and help me set up church. Why? I don’t think it was that Matthew had learnt the joy of serving, I don’t think that is his motivation. I think that in Matthew’s childlike mind, he just wanted to be with his Dad, to help his dad, and … without being egoistical … I think that Matthew wanted to be like his Dad.
If we look at Paul’s words of challenge to “do everything with complaining or arguing, to do nothing out of selfish ambition, to consider others better than ourselves, to look out for the interest of all, not just ourselves” Honestly, it looks too big and too hard to do. But I think it is possible if we learn from little Matthew.
Paul in verse 5 gives a similar answer. If we want to live like this then Paul writes our attitude should be the same as Jesus. We need to be like Jesus. And to tell us what Jesus is like Paul writes what is basically a hymn which covers who Jesus is and his attitude towards life.
verse 6. Paul writes that Jesus was in his very nature God. Did you get that … Paul is not saying that Jesus was as good as God, or like God but was in his very being … God. Yet he did not think that he needed to claim equality with God.
Actually in verse 7 we read that Jesus actually willing gave up his status, power and glory and became nothing, he took the nature of a servant and became a human.
Now this is huge. I remember reading a poem when I was a teenager that went something like:
Like Michelangelo painting by numbers
Like Einstein enrolling in kindergarten
Like Bradman playing cricket with the boys on the beach
Jesus became one of us.
Jesus gave up a lot to become human. As it says in verse 8, Jesus humbled himself and became human. Jesus willingly gave up the statue, glory and power that he was due and humbled himself and became human. Why? He was being obedient to the Father.
Is there things in your life where you need to humble yourself and be obedient to the Father? Is there things that you know that God wants you to do, but you are resisting. Is there people you need to forgive, but it just seems too hard?
Hey, humbling yourself and being obedient to God is not easy. Just ask Jesus. In verse 8 we read that he humbled himself and was obedient to death – his death on the cross. But the good news is that in response to Jesus humility and obedience God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above all name so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
That is powerful, isn’t it? That passage really captures the amazing and self-giving person that that Jesus was / is. And Paul writes that we need to be like Jesus. Yeah, right. What are the chances of that? I can only speak for me … but there is no way that I will ever be that good and be so self-giving that I become like a servant to all. That I humble myself and be obedient to God … even if it means death. Maybe a little … but not like Jesus. I can’t be as good as Jesus … Was Paul is being unrealistic when he wrote “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”?
No … I think this is the goal we need to aim for, but we can’t do it on our own. Let me go back to my example of young Matthew helping me set up for church on a Sunday morning.
Now I can honestly say that everything that little Matthew did back then to help me on a Sunday, well I could have done better myself. But that is not the point. I didn’t let Matthew help me because he was the best, I let him help me because he is my son. Because I liked spending time with him. And as he helped me, and I showed him things, I was helping him getting better. (And incidentally now, as a 20 year old, he is much, much better than me at the technical side of worship).
You see – If we want to be better at being like Jesus, we don’t have worry about being perfect first go, we just have to spend time with Jesus, doing things with Jesus. And Jesus likes to spend time with us, not because we are perfect, but because we are God’s children, his brothers and sisters. He wants us to spend time with him so that he can rub off a little on us and help us to be more like him. And then just in the same way that God worked through Jesus to bring him glory, God will work through us. That what Paul says in verses 12 and 13.
I don’t know about you, but when I realise that God’s ability to work through me is not actually dependant on my perfection, but rather on my relationship with Jesus … well that takes a load off my shoulders. When I realise that all I have to do is spend time with Jesus and Jesus will help me become more like him … that is exciting.
When I realise that when I am helping, or serving others, or participating in God’s mission to the world that God is actually at work in me and through me … I can’t help but smile.
Maybe this is what it is to discover the joy that is to be found in serving.