Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Today, I want to talk to you about joy killer number two, and that is suffering. If you don't handle suffering right, it will kill your joy.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
We have been talking about joy over the last few life lifters. All this week I am talking about some joy killers that the Apostle Paul shares will kill our joy. These are from his his letter of joy to the Philippians in the New Testament. Today, I want to talk to you about joy killer number two, and that is suffering. If you don't handle suffering right, it will kill your joy. I've seen people who had a pretty good walk with God, they go through a bout of suffering, and man, it wrecks their life or wrecks their faith. It wrecks their walk with God - they stop reading the Bible, stop giving, stop serving, stop coming to church. I see it again and again and again. They let suffering do what the evil one wants it to do: take away their joy. God wants suffering to do something better. He wants suffering to refine your life so you have even more joy, just like a plant that's pruned. Initially, you prune a plant and the plant is smaller, but by pruning the plant appropriately, it allows it to grow fuller and thicker. When you nail in a nail with a hammer, you have to bring the hammer back to go forward. Suffering is like that. It's like a pruning. It's like bringing the hammer back. It doesn't make sense, but when it's fully accomplished it changes us and fills us with joy.
I get that from Philippians 2:17-18. Look what the Apostle Paul says. He says, "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." Paul says, "Even if my life is being poured out like a drink offering." What does that mean? Basically, even if I'm in the process of dying because I'm living out my faith, you should rejoice with me. What Paul is saying is, "I know what suffering is all about. I know this life is temporary. I know suffering is always fitting into a plan for good for me, for God's work, and for God's people, and for the people who will become Christians." Paul had an amazing attitude towards suffering. Other than Jesus himself, I don't know anybody who suffered as much as the Apostle Paul. He suffered so much for the Lord. And yet, I don't know anybody that had more joy, other than Jesus, than the Apostle Paul, because he learned that suffering was doing a great work. He even said, Don't you even worry about me, Philippians. Don't worry about me. Rejoice with me because the suffering is for God's glory. Even if I'm being poured out like a drink offering, even if my life is slowly being taken from me through these circumstances, rejoice.
Can you do that? Can you rejoice in suffering? You say, "Vince, how do I rejoice in suffering?" You see God's work in it. You see God working something good out of something which is uncomfortable and not good in your own eyes. The other way to do it is to have eternal vision. You see the future, you see a reward in heaven. You see your life five years from now, if you handle the suffering well today, and that fills you with joy. Again, when you're suffering you may not be happy, that's okay. You don't have to be, but you can be joyful when you make the choice to rejoice in your suffering. Are you suffering? I feel bad for you. But God is doing something in you, and for that I rejoice with you. And I hope you rejoice in that too.
Let's pray. Father, I pray that we would all realize that suffering is not fun - it hurts, it stings - but it's doing something good in us. Paul said, don't cry for me. Rejoice because I rejoice. What an amazing attitude. Help me to find joy in my suffering. Help those listening to find joy in our suffering, knowing that you're the God who either sent it if we sinned, or allowed it if we didn't. Help us to be more and more like your son Jesus, because that will bring us joy, and suffering is a part of that journey. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
I want you to know that you can be joyful no matter what. Do you believe that?
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Philippians 1:12-14, 18
I believe this because the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians, but he wrote it from a Roman prison around 60 AD. I find it ironic becuase if I was in prison, the last thing I would do is write an epistle and have it be centered on joy. I would have it be centered on suffering for the Lord, suffering for Jesus, but the Apostle Paul was contagiously, uncontainabley joyful. I get that from Philippians 1:12-14, 18. Look at what he says. Writing to the Christians at Philippi about his imprisonment, Paul says, "Now, I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Paul didn't focus on circumstances outside of him. He focused on the gospel, which was what God wanted him to do, the work he wanted him to do inside. The happy part wasn't there. The joy part was. Then he goes on to talk about the effects of his imprisonment on others. He says, look, I don't like being in chains for Christ. I don't like being in prison. I'm not happy about it. But I'm joyful about it because now everybody knows why I'm in prison, why I'm in chains. I'm in chains for Christ. And he says, that's exciting. Look at verse 14, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly." In other words, because Paul was willing to suffer for Christ, a couple things happened. Number one, people who were not yet Christians were seeing Paul in chains for his faith in Christ, which must have been a bold witness to these people. They realized that he loves Jesus so much he's willing to go to prison for him. And I'm sure it helped Paul have an opportunity to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus, with others. Then he says that his imprisonment also encourages those who are already convinced to share their faith more. That's why he says in verse 18b, "Because of this, I rejoice."
He goes on to say that no matter what your motives are in sharing the gospel, at least it's getting out there. And so Paul said, look, because of what's happening to me outside, I don't have happiness. But inside what's happening to me is, because the gospel is getting out to more people and the people who are already Christians are helping get it out even further, in that I rejoice. So here's what I want to say: You can be joyful no matter what because God has given you unconditional Joy. He hasn't given you unconditional happiness. He doesn't promise happiness, but he does promise joy. Are you ready for that? For joy no matter what? I love being joyful and happy. That's a double win. But you know what, even if I'm not happy, I can go and I can be at peace with myself saying, I have to find the joy that the Lord has given me. He has given you joy. Have you gotten down on yourself? Have you gotten down on life? Are you unhappy? Stop trying to be happy. Let God take care of that. Do what you can do, because you can control joy. Joy is a choice because God has already given you that joy. You just have to turn yourself over to that joy.
Let's pray. Father, I don't know what people are going through. I don't know what wrestlings they might have. I don't know what threats to their joy are coming their way. I pray that you'll help them stop the losing battle to always be happy, but instead put that energy to fill their life with the joy which is always available in you, in their heart, through faith in Jesus. Encourage them now, fill them with joy, indescribable and incomprehensible. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Friday, April 9, 2021
We all suffer. We've talked a lot about suffering and about remedies. Today, I just want to give you a one word reminder.
Friday, April 9, 2021
I get that from James 5:7-8. I think James tells us to be patient because when we suffer, naturally speaking, the first thing we want is the suffering to be over. But sometimes God allows us to suffer more. This calls for us to be patient so God can accomplish his work. Look at what James says, "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yeild its valuable crop, and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near." Now that's quite interesting. First, he says, Be patient for Lord's coming is near, and then he ends with the same thing. Then, he has kind of an inclusio in the middle of that bracketing idea, which is repeated at the beginning and end. He says this farmer has to wait. You know a farmer can't put a seed in the ground and go, "C'mon seed, let's go! I got till 5pm." You know, it just doesn't work that way. He has to be patient, has to wait for the process, has to wait for the seed. Have you ever seen pictures of a seed in germination? Essentially, the shoot sprouts and the growth spins around, and it shoots up and it gets stronger and stronger. There's a process. There's a season, and God has a season for your suffering. Because God has a season for your sufferings and it's not just haphazard, remember patience.
Let's pray. Father, all of us struggle with suffering. All of us struggle with the pain and anguish that come with it. We don't like it. We fight it, we want out of it, we want it to be over soon. And that's okay. Except, that's part of why you will allow it longer - to build in us a patient perseverance and endurance. Help us to be patient by remembering that your coming is near, and our return to you is near. Help us to remember that is life isn't everything. So, whoever is suffering right now, give them a spirit of patience to wait on you. In Jesus' name. Amen.