When my grandkids were toddlers, we loved watching Blues Clues together…over and over again. Steve (a real person) and Blue, the animated puppy were favorites in our family. What is Blue’s Clues, you ask? It is a play-along, think-along series featuring hosts, Steve or Joe, and an energetic puppy named Blue. In each episode, Joe or Steve invites viewers into a computer-animated storybook world to look for clues and solve the day’s puzzle.
Our favorite (daily) song came in the middle of the show when Steve (or Joe) went to the Mailbox. As they walked they sang,
“We just got a letter,
We just got a letter,
We just got a letter,
I wonder who it’s from?”
If you know the show, this catchy tune is probably now stuck in your head…as it is mine! It will take another catchy song to relieve you.
Imagine the receiver of Paul’s letter to the new Christians in Philippi. Did they sing, “We just got a letter…” Philippi was a Roman colony in northeastern Greece where Paul founded his first Christian congregation in Europe. Of all the Paul’s letter to churches this is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious…just like our song. 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 show us, by his or her entire behavior, what it is. Moment of verbal instruction will certainly occur, but mostly an apprentice acquires skill by daily and intimate association with a “master,” picking up subtle but absolutely essential things, such as timing and rhythm and “touch”.
When we read what Paul wrote to the Christian believers in the city of Philippi, we find ourselves in the company of just such a master. Paul doesn’t tell us that we can be happy, or ho 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 circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah, that Paul experiences from the inside out. 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 the “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 within any one person.
“We just got a letter” that will help us through the quarantine, the broken relationships, the lack of finances, the betrayals, the disappointments and circumstances that occur in our imperfect fallen world.
Christ has come with eternal joy and peace that cannot be taken away from those who believe, no matter what happens in our lives. Christs alone is joy unspeakable and full of glory!
I love this letter so much that it is hard to pick out the highlights but I will try. I have quoted this book/letter often to help others in their walk because of the tremendous affect the words have had on my own life. I highly recommend that you read this short, powerfully encouraging letter in one sitting. I promise that it will bring you joy.
Philippians 1 (NIV)
PRAY WITH JOY
“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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
PRAY WITH LOVE FOR EACH OTHER
“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
JOY IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCE
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.”
BEING AN EXAMPLE OF JOY
“…because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
“The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
JOY COMPLETE WHEN LESSONS LEARNED
“…make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
BE LIKE JESUS WHO…
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF OUR JOY FOREVER!
“So you too should be glad and rejoice with me!”
“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” No matter what is happening around us or to us, rejoice in the Lord Who will bring us through it.
REAL LIFE IS CHRIST
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
This passage causes us to cry out, “NOT TODAY, Satan!”, when circumstance try to become joy robbers. “I press on…”
AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
JOY BRINGS CONTENTMENT
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen”
We just got a letter! Read it again and again…and rejoice, and again I say rejoice!
In Jesus Name and for His glory, Amen