Philippians – Overflowing Joy
1-2 Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
A Love That Will Grow
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Have you ever been so happy and joyful, grateful to God because of your excitement in living for God, that you could not contain it? Did you notice everyone around you get excited, too, because of your sheer enthusiasm for God? This is Paul. But wait, what? Paul is in a dark jail cell and, at times, chained to the underground cave wall. Yet, he rejoices because he is full to overflow of Christ in him! He wants the world to know. He spills out words that exude his joy of the Lord in nearly every sentence. Can you imagine getting this letter and reading it to the church for the first time?
Yes, this is Paul’s happiest letter, states Eugene Peterson. “And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves–the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.”
But happiness is not a word we can understand by looking it up in the dictionary. In fact, none of the qualities of the Christian life can be learned out of a book. Something more like apprenticeship is required, being around someone who out of years of devoted discipline shows us, but his or her entire behavior, what joy is. WHO is that for you? Who showed you happiness and inner exhaustible joy no matter what the current circumstances to you, in front of you, causing you to be joyful, too? Thank God for this person right now!
When we read what Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, we find ourselves in the company of a joy master. Paul doesn’t tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakable IS happy! NONE of his circumstances contribute to his joy. He wrote from a jail cell, his work was under attack by competitors, and after twenty years or so of hard traveling in the service of Jesus, he was tired and would have welcomed some relief. But he is full of joy!
But circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah, that Paul experiences from the inside. For it is a life that not only happened at a certain point in history, but continues to happen, spilling out into the lives of those who receive him, and then continues to spill out all over the place. Christ is, among much else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this “spilling out” quality of Christ’s life that accounts for the happiness of Christians, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained or even explained within any one person. ALL because of Christ in us.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We look forward to reading, meditating and chewing on the words of joy in excess, inspired by you, as we live in the wide open spaces of your love, mercy and grace. Thank you, Lord. Continue to transform me with overflowing joy. Transform your church. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen