Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray this message strengthens your relationship with the Lord, and if it does we'd love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online, securely, at calvaryabq.org/give. Life doesn't have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. As we begin our new series, Technicolor Joy, we learn to find joy in the most unlikely places. In the message A Joy Unexpected, Skip teaches that joy is not the absence of trouble, but rather the presence of Jesus. Now please open your Bible to Philippians chapter 1 as we join Pastor Skip.
Would you turn in your Bibles this morning -- did you bring one by the way? Yeah. Hold that baby up. That's a sight right there. iPads, they count. They count. Would you turn in them to the book of Philippians, please. Philippians. Flip to Philippians, chapter 1. Philippians chapter 1.
One of the most infallible signs of the presence of God is joy. It is an unmistakable badge of divine ownership, but now take and flip that coin. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms. I don't think anything has hurt the church over a period of history more so than the idea that a sour, sullen, serious believer is in order. Somebody in church history came up with the idea that clergymen ought to wear black and look like grave diggers. In fact, one of the great judges of our country in times past, Oliver Wendell Holmes, he was an American jurist appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States under Roosevelt, he said, "I would have entered the ministry if clergymen I know didn't look and act so much like undertakers." A man who was a brilliant mind, who thought of entering the ministry, but he said no thank you.
Then there's Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish author and poet, who wrote in his journal these words, as if it were extraordinary. "I went to church today and I'm not depressed." I don't know who came up with the idea that to be sanctified means to be sad, but I reject that. I reject that because, after all, we are called to preach what's called the Gospel, which means the good news. It's not called the bad-spel. It's not the mediocre news, it's not oh yeah, I've heard that. It's the good news. And it should be done with authentic joy.
William Barclay said this, "The Christian is a man or a woman of joy. The Christian is the laughing Cavalier of Christ." You see, a joyful believer is a beautiful believer. It's attractive. When somebody has joy, authentic, real joy, not the fake plastered on stuff that so many people carry around, but the real stuff, it's attractive and people want to know where'd you get that. I want to get me some of that. I want to have what you have. I want to experience what you've experienced. A joyful Christian is a good representative of the good news, the gospel.
Nehemiah, when the people of his town Jerusalem were rebuilding the walls that had been broken down, there was a period of discouragement and sadness, he said to them "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." I love that. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Now it needs to be said, and we'll be able to develop it over the next several weeks, but there should be noted that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is vacillating, joy is fixed. You can be going through horrible, unhappy circumstances, and yet have joy. Because happiness goes up and down depending on the happenings. Happiness depends on the happenings. Happiness depends on the happenstance. Happiness is all about the hap. You may know that the word hap is an old word for chance, and so when the chance falls favorably toward you, you're happy. When it doesn't, you're unhappy. Did you know that 2/3 of Americans claim to be unhappy. 2/3 of Americans claim to be discontented with life.
Well, we're doing a series in the book of Philippians we're starting today, it's called Technicolor Joy. You say why are you calling it that, and what does that have to do with the book of Philippians? It's a fair question. Especially when you understand how the Church of Philippi started, and the conditions that the author who wrote this book faced. The book of Philippians was penned in 62 a.d. by Paul the Apostle, who was a jailbird. He was incarcerated in a Roman prison when he wrote this book. How did he get there?
Well, he had been in Jerusalem, was falsely accused and arrested. He was taken to a place called Caesarea, where he stood before several trials that went on for two years. Finally, he had had enough, and he said I appeal my case to Caesar. He was a Roman citizen, and he had the right to do that, so he said I appeal to Caesar. So the procurator said, you appeal to Caesar, so to Caesar you will go. So Paul was put, eventually, on a ship that was going to Rome, the ship sunk, and another ship was afforded him, and he finally made it to Rome, where he is in jail, and from prison he writes this letter.
Now, Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. It was on his bucket list. He said I want to go to Rome, and I want to preach the gospel there, but he expected to go to Rome as a preacher, he ended up going as a prisoner. And I just got to say I appreciate the humor of God's will, because God also wanted Paul to get to Rome, but he didn't want Paul to have to pay for it, so the Roman government paid for it. He was able to get arrested, and get sentenced, and stand trial, and appeal to Caesar. So, the Roman government put him on a ship and took him to Rome, where he writes this letter.
There he is chained to soldiers who will be his companions. He will mention them in this letter. Now Paul knows that, as a prisoner, his case before Caesar Nero would come up very shortly, and he did not know which way it was going to fall. He didn't know which way the hap would fall. It could be that he would be acquitted, it could be that he would be beheaded, and he knows that, and he mentions that. However, running through the fabric of all of that knowledge is the unmistakable quality of joy. Joy is in every portion of this letter. Now every commentator that I have read, and I have read several on this book, here's just a smattering of probably 30 books that I have on Philippians, these are commentaries written by scholars on the book of Philippians. And they have noted that the theme of this book is joy. Authentic Christian joy.
So, here's one, A Study in Philippians-- How to be Happy in Difficult Situations. Another one, Philippians-- The Believers Joy in Christ. Another one, Philippians-- Life At Its Best. The classic D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Peace and Joy-- A Study in Philippians. Swindoll's classic, Laugh Again. The Joy of Living, by Dwight Pentecost. And then the classic, Be Joyful, by Warren Wiersbe. All of these authors have made the discovery that this book is about authentic joy.
We've called it Technicolor Joy. Technicolor Joy. Why? Because when color was introduced into the cinema, up to that point it had been shades of gray, black and white. 1939 rolled around, and the first movie to be pushed in color was The Wizard of Oz. And the corporate American response was wow! There's just something about having color spring to life on the screen when before there were shades of gray. So this is an appropriate title, we thought. It's Technicolor Joy. It takes you out of the shadows of grays, of just blacks and whites, and God colors your life with his joy. Even in the worst possible circumstances, we'll discover that this man Paul had the joy of the Lord.
I love what a little country boy said. He was asked what differences Jesus Christ made in your life, and that little country boy said "I feel better now when I feel bad than I used to when I felt good." I thought that was pretty good. It's sort of like saying the worst that God has to give me is better than the best the world gave me. The joy of the Lord. If you want to have joy, and I would I would venture to say everybody in this room does, if you want to have joy, master the principles of the book of Philippians and it will be yours. Now, we're studying this book, and this morning we're going to cover one verse. If you know me that shouldn't surprise you, but we just want to lay the foundation. I want to give you a little bit of background and foundational truth. But in so doing in verse 1 of chapter 1, I want to show you three ingredients that form a recipe of unexpected joy.
We're going to begin with the authors, but let's read a couple of verses. "Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons," he continues "Grace" verse 2, "Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." We begin with the pair, the dynamic pair, Paul and Timothy. Now Paul is the author of this book, Timothy is an associate of Paul, he's with them, he's an assistant, but Paul is the author of this book. Now, you wouldn't have associated the emotion of joy with the person of Paul before he met Christ. You see, before Paul the Apostle met Christ, what was his name? Saul of Tarsus. And Saul of Tarsus was a very religious, exacting, narrow-minded, legalistic Pharisee. Hardly anyone you would associate with being joyful.
In fact, in this letter of Philippians, Paul gives his background, his pedigree, so to speak, in chapter 3. I'm going to read Chapter 3 verse 5 and 6 in the New Living Translation. He says, "I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family, that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What's more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully I was never accused of any fault." Now that doesn't sound like a lot of joy is going on in Saul. Sounds like a lot of judgment is going on in Saul. A lot of jostling, a lot of jabbing, even a lot of jihad, but not a lot of joy.
In Acts chapter 9, Luke, the author, says this about Saul. "Saul, breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord." Do you get that language? It was the very breath, the very air he took in. He was fixated on it, preoccupied with damaging God's people. Same section of scripture says, "And Saul made havoc of the church, entering every house, dragging off both men and women." The word made havoc was a word that was often used of an animal, like a wild boar, who would trample a vineyard or a garden. So this guy did damage. Doesn't sound like he's the ambassador of joy. He sounds like a terrorist.
But something happened to Saul of Tarsus. Remember what it was? Something happened to him, and subsequently something happened in him. We know what happened to him, he got saved. He's on the Damascus Road, he gets knocked off his horse, sees a light from heaven, Jesus talks to him. Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? He has an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, he eventually surrenders his life to him saying, Lord, what do you want me to do. He meets Christ. That's what happened to him. Because of that, something happened in him. What happened in him is a joy seed was planted in his heart that day, and it grew, and it grew, and blossomed, and it continued to blossom, and it permeated his entire life.
E. Stanley Jones, the missionary to India, said "When I met Jesus Christ, I felt that I had swallowed sunshine." I love that. Paul, how do you feel? Like I've swallowed sunshine. He was different. He was changed. And joy began to grow in him, so he went out on three missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. On his first missionary journey he goes to a place called Antioch of Pisidia, and the whole town rejects him, rejects his missionary team, they get kicked out of town. And Paul the Apostle now, along with the others, it says they were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit. For getting kicked out of town? It's because their joy, that emotion that they had, was tethered to something different, not the fluctuating up and down of worldly happiness. They were filled with joy.
And this Saul of Tarsus, now Paul the Apostle, God changes him, and he changes from legalism to lightheartedness. So when he's talking about keeping the laws, and rules, and regulations, like eating and drinking, you know you would not drink certain things or you would not eat certain things, he finally says in Romans 14, "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy." As C.S. Lewis put it so well, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven." Paul started getting really serious about joy, making it a part of his life.
So much so, that when he is on his way to Jerusalem where he gets arrested before he gets into prison that we talked about, on his way to Jerusalem, you know what everybody tells him? Don't go. Don't go to Jerusalem. They don't like you there. They're going to arrest you there. They're going to bind you up, and it's going to be bad if you go to Jerusalem. So he meets with the elders of the Church of Ephesus, and he says to them, "I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things which will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city the chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me. Nor do I count my own life dear to myself that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry that has been given to me by the Lord Jesus Christ."
How's that for living your life? I want to finish this thing up with joy, and I don't care if they arrest me and kill me. I've got joy they cannot be taken away. He writes to the Galatians, and he says "The fruit of the spirit," he has now, that seed has grown, he's experienced it, "The fruit of the spirit," he says "is love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, kindness, gentleness." Now we get to the book of Philippians. And there is more joy in this letter than any of Paul's 13 epistles that he writes. Joy is dripping out of every verse in this book. At least 19 times in four chapters of Philippians, Paul mentions joy, rejoicing, or gladness. 19 times. That's Paul. Saul of Tarsus, now Paul the Apostle, the apostle of joy.
Now we come to Timothy, he's the second name, the third word of verse 1, Paul and Timothy. And let me just say, Timothy is another one you would not naturally associate the emotion of joy with. Timothy came from a tough home situation. He had mixed parentage. One parent was Jewish, that was his mother, religious gal. But his dad was an unbeliever from Lystra in Asia Minor. Now his mother and grandmother are both named, 2 Timothy chapter 1. His mother was named Eunice, his grandmother was named Lois. They were both Jewish ladies who raised him in the Jewish faith, but there was this division at home because dad was not a religious guy, he was an unbelieving Greek. Then something happened. Paul the Apostle came through town, and he preached the good news, the gospel. And Lois and Eunice, mom and grandma, heard it and they received Jesus Christ, and by the way, so did young Timothy, probably about 15 years of age. 15 years of age. But even at 15 years of age, he was allowed to follow Paul on his missionary journeys, and so he did.
We're not told that his Father came to know Christ, just his mother and his grandmother, but he becomes a part of Paul's team. He goes on his second missionary journey. He goes to Jerusalem carrying money that they collected from churches to give to the church at Jerusalem. And for years, Paul the Apostle is able to be his tutor, his mentor, his discipler, and show him the joy of the Lord in the most difficult of circumstances. He becomes so important to Paul, that Paul calls him my son in the faith. And he's the guy that Paul will send back to the Philippians to represent him.
He says in chapter 2, Philippians 2:20, "I have no one who is isopsuchos," that's the word he uses, "like-minded." I'm going to send you Timothy, because in sending you Timothy I'm sending you somebody who thinks like I think, values what I value, and sending Timothy is as good as sending me. I have no one on my staff or that I know who is like-minded, except this young man. That's Timothy, we'll read more about him, consider him more as we go. But these guys have been changed.
But here's what I want you to see. The real reason for the joy in the lives of Paul and Timothy is described by the very next word in verse 1. "Paul and Timothy," what's the next word? "Bond-servants of Jesus Christ." The reason they were joyful is because they decided, I'm going to serve the Lord. That brought them joy. The word bond-servants, doulos, describes a person owned by someone else, that's a slave. You say, how do you get happy being a slave? Where does joy come from? Being a slave of Jesus Christ. Bond-servant, a person owned by someone else who lives to serve someone else. When it's used in the New Testament, it usually refers to somebody who serves another willingly. Voluntarily. They are voluntarily devoted and surrendered to Jesus Christ as their master.
Now joy is a funny thing. It's elusive to so many people. And that is because joy is never found by direct pursuit. You might look for joy all day long, you won't find it. Joy isn't found by direct pursuit, it's a byproduct. In our Declaration of Independence, we have a few guarantees. You're guaranteed life, you're guaranteed liberty, and you're guaranteed, tell me, the pursuit of happiness. We have a country where people are pursuing happiness, the problem is nobody is finding it. 2/3 of Americans claim to be unhappy. They're are looking for happiness, but they are not finding it. Because real happiness, true joy is a better term, is not found by direct pursuit, it's a byproduct of pursuing Christ and his will. As long as you live for yourself, and try to find peace and happiness and joy for yourself, you'll never find. You'll be miserable. You'll be hard to live with. It's when you turn from yourself to an alien will, who takes over your life and you live for him that you find joy. You see, the more you do as you please, the less you will be pleased with what you do. But when you say, forget me, I want to serve Him, I want to be a bond-servant of Him, the byproduct of that is joy.
Over in England, there's a great spot called Buckingham Palace. Now Buckingham Palace is one of the center landmarks and places to visit. It's the palace of the royal family. Well, there's a flag that is flown outside of Buckingham Palace called the royal standard. The royal standard is the flag that has pushed up on the flag pole whenever the sovereign is in residence in the palace. So if the queen's home, flag goes up. Or if the King's home, depending on what area of English history we're talking about, the royal standard is flown. Think of joy like that. Joy is the flag flown over the castle of your heart when the King is in residence there. It's the badge, it's the sign, of a bond-servant. The King is residing in my heart.
So that's the pair. That's the author and his associate, Paul and Timothy, the dynamic pair. But there's something else to notice, and that is the difficult place. Verse 1, "Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi with the bishops and the deacons." Now, did you know that Paul never wanted to go to Philippi? At least, that wasn't on his plans, it wasn't on his radar. He went there out of compulsion. Not because he said, I want to go to Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony, not a big deal that he wanted to visit, at least right now. On his second missionary journey, his plan was to go through Galatia, he had already been there before, but then expand northward and southward. That was his plan. But he got resistance. You know he got resistance from? God. God resisted him going to the places he planned. God resisted him.
Psalm 37 says "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Oh, how we love that verse, but let me tell you another part of that truth. The stops of a good man are also ordered by the Lord. Sometimes God says no. I have had people say, I've been praying for that for months, and I've got no answer from God. Yes you have. No. Sounds like he said no. That's what it sounds like to me. Well, it's not the answer I wanted. That's an answer, and it's a good answer if God gives it to you. God's no is as important as God's go.
And Paul discovered that. What do I mean? Well, let me read it to you. This is Acts 16. It said, "When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia." That's God saying no. "So they came to Mysia and they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them." So twice, God says no, no. You can't go there, can't go there. So he is flummoxed. He goes to a little place called Troas, which is a cool little beach town, and must have been much bigger then. I visited there. And he, at Troas, gets a vision of a man from Macedonia. Saying come over to Macedonia and help us. My friend [INAUDIBLE] calls him the man from macadamia. But he is the man from Macedonia. And he gets a vision, this man in the vision says come over to Macedonia and help us. So, he's come from one direction. He tried to go north, tried to go south. He's come from that way, there's only one way to go, and there's a guy in this vision saying come over here and help us. So they wake up the next day and they go, I think God wants us to go there. That's how he goes.
Now this is interesting. If you were to have interviewed Paul the Apostle at that time, and you would have said, where you going Paul? He would've said I don't know. What? You don't know? What the will of God for your life? He'd have said I don't know, I haven't got a clue. You? You're the writer of 13 books in the New Testament, surely you know the will of God. Not today. All I know is twice, I've tried to go places and God keep shutting that door. But I got a vision from the man from Macedonia. I guess I'm supposed to go over there. God said no, and to Paul, he's now understanding God's no is as important as God's go, because of closed doors.
OK so, he arrives in Philippi, that's the chief city of Macedonia. Philippi named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. He gets to Philippi, and I bet he's looking for a man from Macedonia. He had a vision of a man. He's looking around the streets going, I don't see that guy that I saw my vision. I'll look over there -- no that doesn't look like that -- So, he goes down to the river, we're told, where women are gathered praying. Why are women gathered praying? They're Jewish women praying by a river, because there is no synagogue in town. None. He often goes to the synagogue, that's where he starts, but there's no synagogue because Jewish law said you had to have at least 10 Jewish men to have a synagogue. It was called a minyan. There was no minyan, so they had no synagogue. Because there was no synagogue, he couldn't go to it and start preaching, so he goes down to the river where women are praying.
There's one woman, named Lydia, who sold purple fabric from Thyatira, and the Bible says the Lord opened her heart to receive the words spoken by Paul. So she comes to Christ because of Paul's presence down at the river, and I'm sure Paul's going, OK well, we're off to a start, may not be a great start. Usually I get a lot more response than one chick from Thyatira down by a river, but there's no synagogue, so I'll start with that. So things go from bad to worse. He ends up getting arrested, beaten up, and thrown in jail. There's sort of an old joke about Paul that whenever he would go to a new town, he would say, show me the jail, I want to find out where I'm going to be spending the night. He spent a lot of time in jail, lot of nights in jail.
So he's in jail, in stocks, stretched out, in pain with his buddy, and at midnight they sing hymns to God. An earthquake happens, the stocks fall from his hands, the doors open. He ends up leading the Philippian jailer to Christ, and his family. So we have a chick down by a river named Lydia, and a jail guy. Two converts who become the seeds of this church that's going to grow. So Paul leaves, years go by. Maybe even a decade goes by right now. The church of Philippi out Paul is in jail, again, this time in Rome. So they send him some money. A love gift to help support him. He writes a thank you letter. Philippians is that thank you letter. It's a special relationship of love, and he's saying thank you, and as they read it, they discover something unexpected in it. Joy. Joy. This guy who's had it so bad for so long is writing with such joyful terms. Unexpected joy.
Billy Sunday said, "If you have no joy, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere." "If you have no joy, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere." I know, I can hear all sorts of rebuttals. You don't know what I've been through. You don't know who's hurt me. You don't know what circumstances I'm under. Wait a minute, what are you doing under your circumstances? You see, as believers, we're told to rise above the circumstances, that's where joy is, and Paul says "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Don't get under your circumstances, get over them, on top of them.
So this dynamic pair, Paul and Timothy, faced difficult places with difficult people, so what did they do? In their pain, they found God's purpose. They found God's purpose. So want to go from the dynamic pair, and the difficult place, to the divine purpose. What is that purpose? Well, it's hinted at, at least. Again, in verse 1 "Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Jesus Christ," now watch this "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi with the bishops and the deacons." Sounds like they've grown. What started out as a woman by a river and a jailer and his family, has grown into all the saints. A spiritual family with spiritual fathers, overseers, pastors, and servants, deacons in this case. Church has grown. So that growth, from all of his pain to see a church grow out of that and strong, is worth it all to him. Worth it all.
I know that because -- read the next couple verses. Let's just take a sneak peek. Verse 3, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making requests for you all --" he's from the south apparently -- "requests for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ." Here's the key, or here's one of the keys, of Paul's life and his joy. Whatever negative experience he was facing, and I bet I'm talking to a few people who are facing some negative experiences, whatever negative experience Paul was encountering, he was looking for how God was working. When something bad happened, he would think what's God up to? He's up to something. This hurts, this is painful, this is horrible, what's He up to? That's how he lived his life. Listen, when life happens unexpectedly, God is moving supernaturally. Paul believed that, Paul lived that way.
There's always two sides of every event in your life. There's the factual side of the event, but then there's the actual side of the event. There's the facts. The who, the what, the where, the how, and usually, I want to know, what are the facts? What happened here? OK, here's the facts, but then there's the actual side. The why. Why did this happen? And so, Paul lived his life looking around for the actual side of this event. He knew the facts, but what's the actual thing happening? Why is God allowing this? What's He up to? Where is the will of God found in this fabric of pain and suffering? In this case, he'll discover that God uses Roman law, appellate law. He appeals his case to Caesar, which gets him on a ship where he almost dies but doesn't, which takes him to Rome, which puts him in jail for a long time. But through all that, he discovers this is the will of God, and for that I'm joyful. You go, the will of God? How? Listen, and again sneak ahead a little bit. Look at verse 12.
"I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." Now, you think of that statement. You know what he means when he says the things that happened to me? Falsely accused in Jerusalem, thrown in jail in Caesarea, bad trial after bad trial, put on a grain ship and taken to Rome, locked up in a Roman prison, in guards, all those things that have happened to me that sound bad, have actually turned out to further the gospel. And as we get into it, I'll show you how that happened. So we have 104 verses in four chapters dripping with pure joy.
Amazing to think about. A book of joy, written by a guy who was once a killjoy, has now become the apostle of joy. Now here's how to calculate your life. Here's how to think about your life. Here's how to get joy in any situation. You take these elements and put them together. You take a dynamic person, by dynamic I don't mean I'm dynamic. It just means I'm saved, and filled with the Spirit. That's dynamic, you have life in you. That's what dynamic means. Take a dynamic person, saved and filled with the Spirit, place the dynamic person in a difficult place with difficult people, but have that person discover the plan of God, and the result will be joy. When you discover the plan of God in that difficult place. The joy may be quite unexpected, and when it is it's better that way. You go, I can't -- I've talked to people, I don't know how to explain it, this is the worst period of my life, but I have such peace and such joy.
Let me close with this story. Tim Hansel writes about an 82-year-old man, served as a pastor for 50 years. They discovered skin cancer on this man that required 15 operations to maintain him. 82 years old, skin cancer, 15 operations. You're thinking, there can't be a shred of joy in this story. But listen. Tim writes this, "Besides suffering from the pain, he was so embarrassed about how the cancer had scarred his appearance that he wouldn't even go out. Then one day, he was given a copy of my book You Gotta Keep Dancin', in which I tell of my long struggle with chronic intense pain from a near-fatal climbing accident. In that book, I told of the day when I realized that the pain would be with me forever. So, at that moment, I made a pivotal decision. I knew that it was up to me to choose how I responded to it. So I chose joy. After reading a while, the elderly pastor said he put the book down thinking he's crazy. I can't choose joy. So he gave up on the idea. Then later, as he read the Gospel of John chapter 15, verse 11, that joy is a gift, and Jesus says, I want to give you my joy that your joy may be complete, he thought a gift. A gift! He didn't know what to do, so he got down on his knees, then he didn't know what to say.
So he said, well then Lord, give it to me. And suddenly, as he described it, this incredible hunk of joy came from heaven and landed on him. I was overwhelmed, this old man wrote. It was like the joy spoken about in the book of Peter. A joy unspeakable and full of glory. I didn't know what to say, so I said turn it on, Lord turn it on. And before he knew it, he was dancing around the house." Picture an 82 year old guy, skin cancer, dancing around his house. "He felt so joyful that he actually felt born again again. And this astonishing change happened at the age of 82. He just had to get out, he said. There was so much joy, he couldn't stay cooped up. So he went out to the local fast food restaurant, and got a burger. A lady saw how happy he was and asked, how are you doing. He said oh I'm wonderful. Is it your birthday, she asked. No, honey it's better than that. Ah, it's your anniversary. No, better than that. Well what is it, she asked excitedly. It's the joy of Jesus. Do you know what I'm talking about? The lady just shrugged and answered, no I have to work on Sundays."
Right over her head. She didn't get that crazy old man talking about the joy of Jesus. That's how she thought, but he didn't care, he knew. He felt, he experienced, a whole new way of living. The joy of the -- unexpected joy. Unexpected joy. Well, in this case, you can expect joy. If you're filled with life, the life of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, a dynamic person in a difficult place with difficult people discovering a divine purpose, the result will be joy. And the results of this letter, all 104 verses, 103 left, we'll be here awhile, will be joy that will drip on us week after week as we derive its benefit. Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for our time, and how I thank you for this precious book. This simple correspondence of a man, changed by you, surrendered to you, in love with you, facing obstacle after obstacle. Riding from jail, saying rejoice in the Lord always, and I'll say it again, rejoice. Lord, this is an experience everyone can have who's a believer. It's sad that only few will. They will not choose joy, but some will. And they will decide to live their life looking, being on the lookout for what you are up to, what purpose could be in this situation. Beyond the fact that they're hurting, they feel pain, this is horrible, but this could be because other people need that example, and that instruction. Lord as we surrender to you, even in the bleak situations some may find themselves, would you give that precious gift, that byproduct of seeking you and surrendering to you, which is joy. Joy unspeakable full of glory.
This morning, as we close, you may not know Jesus personally. Let's just start there, you may not know Jesus personally. You know things about him, you've heard his name, you don't know him personally. You have never surrendered, you have never decided that you're going to follow him, that you're going to do what he wants. You have never surrender to an alien will, in fact your big fear is loss of control. And the Bible says, let go of your life and give it over to God, completely, utterly, totally, and follow him. This morning, that's what I'm asking you to do. If you've never personally received Jesus as, not just Savior, but as Lord, master of your life, I'm going to ask you to do that. I'm going to give you an opportunity to do that. If you're willing to surrender to him, and to say yes to Him this morning, to follow Jesus as Savior, as Lord. If you've never made that personal commitment, you can just raise your hand up, if you're willing to do so, just so I can see it, and I'll acknowledge you as we close this service. I'd love to pray for you, I need to know who I'm praying for. You surrender and say, I'm going to let go today. I'm going to give my life to Jesus today. I'm going to follow him today. It's going to be real from this day forward. He'll forgive you of your sins, cleanse you from your unrighteousness, make you his child, and you'll see the byproduct of joy chase you around the rest of your life.
As David said, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." If you're up for that, then you raise your hand up. Put it up high enough so I can see it. God bless you, right there in the middle. Anyone else? To my right, toward the back, in the middle. On my right, far right. Right up front, to my left. Anyone else? Jesus rose from the dead, we celebrated that this week. Guess what? A week later he's still alive. He'll still change. He's still available. Father, thank you for these. Strengthen them, bless them. Fill them with purpose. Help them experience mercy, and as they experience it, Lord, put within them that joy unspeakable that's indescribable, full of your glory, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let's stand on our feet. I'm gonna give you an opportunity, as we close this song, if you raised your hand, different parts, easy if you're up front, little harder if you're in the back. Wherever you're seated, I want you to, as we sing the song, get up and come this way, and stand right up here. I saw a few of you raise your hands. We're just going to wait for you. We don't do this to embarrass you, we do this to celebrate with you. We're brothers and sisters, we're forgiven people. So come right up here, I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ. If you raised your hand you come. Come right up here to the front.
[MUSIC - "COME AS YOU ARE"]
[SINGING] So lay down your burdens. Lay down your shame. And all who are broken, lift up your face. Oh wanderer come home. You're not too far. So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, come as you are. Come as you are.
I'm about to pray with those who have come forward. Anybody else take Jesus' offer of life, love, joy, forgiveness? Well, those of you who have come forward, I'm glad you're here. I know you didn't expect to be here when you came in this morning, but here you are, responding to God's call in your life. So, I'm going to lead you in a prayer, and I'm going to say this prayer out loud, and I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud from your heart to the Lord. All right? Let's pray. Great, come on, come on over. God bless you guys. Thank you.
Say Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I believe that he paid for my sin. That he died on a cross. I believe he rose from the dead, and I believe he is alive right now. And so I turn from my sin, I leave my past behind, I turn to Jesus as my Savior, as my friend, and as my Lord. It's in his name I pray. Amen. Congratulations!
Paul's joyful letter to the church at Philippi is not what you would expect, given his circumstances at the time. Were you encouraged by Paul's example? We'd love to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.