A few weeks ago I mentioned Hudson Taylor, who began a great mission work in China in the 1800’s. While he was there, the work was difficult, and funds were getting low, but he reported to one of his friends that
“the Lord … makes our hearts so very glad in HIMSELF — not Himself plus a bank balance.”
So even in his hardship and financial shortfall, Hudson Taylor was able to “rejoice in the Lord,” just in God Himself.
The Apostle Paul was able to do that same thing when he went to the city of Philippi in Northern Greece. That is where he first landed in Europe with his little mission team and sat down by the riverside and began speaking to some women who had assembled there, and the first person in Europe, a woman by the name of Lydia, came to Christ. And it was there a few days later that Paul & Silas were thrown into prison for sharing the gospel, and while they were in that prison, on mission in a foreign land, they sang praises to God at midnight. God shook the place and opened the doors, the jailer cried out “What shall we do to be saved?” A few days later they were released from prison, went back to Lydia’s house and encouraged the new believers there — and then left to go on to Thessalonica. But that’s how the church at Philippi, the church that Paul was writing to here, got started. (As a side-note, we had pastor Grozdan Stoevski from Bulgaria, here last week speak to us about partnering with them for future trips to minister to unreached people groups in Bulgaria. Grozdan told me that the city of Philippi is actually only about 2 hours south of where we would be working in Bulgaria, so when we go there on mission, we would be able to take a little side trip to Philippi — which would be really interesting!)
But here Paul is writing back to this new church of believers in Philippi, about ten years or so later, while he was prison in Rome. And he is writing to them about the LIFE OF JOY that God has for them. That says something right there: Paul is in PRISON (again!) and in his letter to them he continually tells them to “rejoice in the Lord.” He who could sing at midnight while he was in prison in Philippi, was STILL rejoicing from prison in Rome; and he encouraged the Christians in Philippi — and us today — to find our joy in God too. As we go through this book together over the next weeks, we will see how Paul continually commands these believers (and us) to rejoice in the Lord; to find our joy in Him.
But what kind of person is able to have the joy that he talks about in this book? He shows us right off, in the letter’s opening lines:
“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We saw in our study of I Peter that “overseers,” “bishops,” and “pastors” are all the same thing; so when he says “overseeers” here he just means “pastor.” And we recognized our church deacons just a bit ago; our men who just like in the Book of Acts care for widows and others in our church. That is who deacons are. But these opening words also tell us some important things about those who can be “The People of Joy”: Continue reading