In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he gives us five habits we can practice that will nurture our happiness –
focus on the future.
Paul says - “For my determined purpose, is that I may know Christ – that I may progressively become, more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving, and recognising, and understanding Him more strongly and more clearly ...” Philippians 3:10
In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul describes his relationship with Timothy and Epaphroditus. He’s planning to send them back from Rome to Philippi and he says –
“So that I may be cheered” – (Verse 19) and “so that you may be glad” – (Verse 28). Paul says, that sending these men – “will make me happy and lighten my cares”.
These two men clearly have some life qualities that create ‘happiness’. They include –
In Mark 8:35 Jesus says - “Only those who give away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”
Paul, writing to the Philippian church says - “You must continue, to work out your salvation, with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to act according, to his good purpose” – (Philippians 2:13-14).
Now there’s an incredible thought – God first works salvation “into” us so we can then “work out” our salvation in the way we live our lives.Because salvation is God’s gift and is given us by God’s grace, Paul says we can find
-we remember that God is with us, in us and for us (Verse 13),
-we’re grateful and never grumble (Verse 14),
-we keep our conscience clear (Verse 15),
-we remember God’s word and live it (Verse 16), and
-we use our lives to serve God by serving others (Verses 17 &18).
It’s all part of God’s promise that we first find in Ezekiel 36:26 - “I will give you a new heart, with a new and right desire, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take out, your heart hardened by sin, and I’ll give you a new heart of love.”
If we were to go out and ask people what they think is the path to happiness, most people would say something like - get an education; get a job; get married; have a family; make a lot of money and retire. The Bible, however, says that the path to happiness is through humility. Philippians 2:3 says – “Don’t do anything from selfish ambition, or vain conceit. Instead, be humble and give more honour to others than to yourself.” Philippians 2 is very practical. Paul tells us that the habit of humility is the key to reducing conflict in our lives. He gives us four pieces of counsel - 1. Never let our pride be our guide. 2. Be humble. 3. Listen and pay attention to others, and 4. Keep asking ourselves what Jesus would do? May God help us to be humble as we relate to all the people in our lives this week.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul says that - he has learned to be content, whatever his circumstances (Philippians 4:12). That’s a lesson that takes some learning. Often our contentment, our happiness, is determined by our circumstances, especially if those circumstances involve pain, difficult people, pressures and problems. We easily fall into the trap, of ‘when’ and ‘then’ thinking. ‘When’ such-and-such happens, ‘then’ we’ll be happy. In Philippians 1:12-30, Paul says that we can address some of the “killjoys” of life, if we - look at our circumstances from God’s point of view, don’t let others control our attitude, trust God to help us work things out, and stay focussed on our purpose. Paul sums it up this way - “Whatever happens, conduct yourself, in a manner worthy of the good news of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
We can walk down many roads searching for happiness but find nothing is ever a good as it promises to be. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is one of the most joyful parts of God’s word. When he’s writing about happiness Paul begins with relationships. In the first 11 verses Paul encourages us to – be grateful for the people in our lives pray with joy for them expect the best from them, and love them like Jesus does.
When Jesus was crucified, he had around 100 followers. Today, around 2.3 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus (that’s around 1 of every 3 people). How did that happen? How did Christianity spread so quickly and so widely?
It’s the resurrection! Not dead Jesus! Easter Sunday.
When God purposed, to come to earth (that’s Christmas), and die for the sins of all humankind (that’s Good Friday) and then raise Jesus back to life three days later (that’s Easter Sunday), that becomes the single most significant event in history. Nothing else comes close.
Jesus’s resurrection gives us good reason to be people who live with hope, because –
we’ve been completely forgiven
we’re no longer afraid of death
we now have God’s spirit empowering our lives
we know God will never stop loving us
we know the purpose for which we’re created, and
we have an eternal home waiting for us.
John 19:30 records Jesus’ last words – “it is finished”. Later, as the early Christians read John's Gospel and heard those words again, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. “Tetelestai” is the Greek translation of Jesus’ words – it was part of the common language of the time carrying the idea that something (a job, a temple sacrifice, a transaction, a work of art, a task) was completed; there was nothing further to do. When Jesus spoke those final words, he wasn't just saying - "this is the end of me", as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to his enemies and die. His last words weren't a final surrender to the powers of evil as if to say - "you've won. I'm done for". These words don't tell us that Jesus was dead now and that's all there is to it; he's finished and so is everything that he stood for and promised during his earthly life. All those who heard the word – “tetelestai” understood that Jesus was saying that his job of saving the world has been completed? He has finished that task and nothing can be added to what has been done. Jesus has paid the price in full; he has cancelled all debt. His sacrifice has been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father who looking down on his Son hanging lifelessly from the cross said - "This is my dear Son with whom I am well pleased". “Tetelestai - it is finished. Everything is complete!”
Matthew 21:6-9 is Matthew’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem. Matthew says - The crowds in front of him, and behind him shouted: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he, who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” It’s hard to imagine the “ticker”, the intestinal fortitude, the tenacity, the “love-courage” of Jesus as he sets out for Jerusalem and all he knew would unfold for him there. Surely, neither his disciples nor this Palm Sunday crowd had any idea of what was to come. Now, there was no turning back for Jesus. And he was determined, to see it through to the end, and trust it all into the hands of his Father in heaven. In an age of anxiety and in this time of anxiety “love-courage” is the same for us. Trust in the love we know God has for us and the love we have for God. God’s love is the source of the security we have the drives out fear and anxiety.