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The Joy-Stealers
05/18/2008
Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; ...
Track 1 of 6 in the Philippians-A Life of Joy series
Running time: 1 hour, 01 minute, 21 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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This letter we are going to study for the next 8 weeks is a remarkable example of how Christians are to care for one another and how that love and caring will result in joy, both for the one who helps and the one who receives. I don’t have enough time to teach the entire series I taught several years ago on the Philippian letter so I am going to pull some excerpts that will remind us of the important points found in Philippians. This study will run along side what Chuck is preaching for the next 9 weeks. We won’t meet together as a class on Father’s Day.

Joy is a word today that not many use in everyday conversations anymore. Mistakenly, many equate joy with happiness. In a world that has so many sad things happening in it, there are scores of people who consider themselves unhappy with many things. How can the world that seems so unhappy experience joy or even know what joy is.

One thing we have to know right from the beginning as we start our study of this letter from Paul to the Philippian church is joy and happiness are not the same things. A person who is joyful might have happiness but happiness is not an important ingredient. Joy is a characteristic, not a feeling. Joy is something the Holy Spirit gives us as a gift because we are in relationship with God. It is impossible to have joy in life as a characteristic without a relationship with God. God is the giver of joy.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

In our study of 1 John, we learned that the fruits of the spirit are characteristics that God grows within us as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Under the old nature, man is incapable of manufacturing these qualities. Oh there might be times when a person might display actions that look like one of the fruits, but God is the one who grows all of these in his children and it is the true child of God who displays these qualities on a consistent basis.

The difference between happiness and joy is happiness is a feeling or state that is affected by the circumstances. It is a reaction or feeling when things are going well or the way we want them to go. But when the situation turns bad, ugly or evil, happiness is driven from many people. Joy on the other hand is not dependent on or affected by the circumstances or surroundings. Times can be ugly or times can be cruel and still joy reigns in the quality of a Christian. Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure or happiness.

Today in the world, many times even in the church, what is the biggest pursuit in life? What is it that many people are looking for? HAPPINESS. Can happiness ever be truly found? Where do we find it?

The Bible warns that self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 records the sad testimony of one who sought to build his life on pleasure-seeking. The search left him empty and disillusioned. Today in our modern world millions seek the ultimate find, winning the lottery. “Surely if I can win millions, all my troubles will be over”, many believe. Yet the track record of those who struck it rich through the lottery records unhappiness, depression, failed marriages, destroyed families and deep despair.

Philippians is a joyful letter. If you master the truths in Philippians you should be filled with joy as you live your Christian life.

Do you know what is so fascinating about this letter written by Paul to the Philippians; Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison. Paul was in prison because of his bold stance in preaching and teaching the Gospel. Many scholars believe that this letter was probably written to the church sometime between AD 61-63 during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. This letter is one that radiates with joy; the joy he has in Jesus, the joy Paul has for his fellow friends in Christ at Philippi, the joy he has because the Philippian Christians were fellow partners with Paul in the gospel.

How many of you have read at least one book written by Mark Twain? What kind of writer was he? Mark Twain was a humorist whose lectures and writings made people around the world laugh, and for a short time forget their troubles. He knew the importance of the “pause”. It wasn’t necessarily what he said was funny, it was how he said it and his use of the “pause” made him a famous man. But in his private life, Mark Twain was a man whose life was broken by sorrow. When his beloved daughter died suddenly of an epileptic seizure, too ill to attend the funeral, he said this to a friend, “I have never greatly envied anyone but the dead. I always envy the dead.”

Jesus was referred to as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet he possessed a deep joy that was beyond anything the world could offer. As he faced the cruel death on the cross, Jesus said these following words:

John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Jesus says these words right before the passage where he tells them that the greatest act of love a man can do is to lay his life down for his friends. Jesus was talking about his death on the cross and all of this was to complete his and the disciples joy. Both the names Jesus and Mark Twain are famous names but the men were totally different. There is a great privilege in experiencing joy, the kind of joy that comes from knowing Jesus.

Psalms 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

When Paul wrote this letter, he had many things going against him. He was in prison and his case was coming up soon. While he was in prison he was chained to a Roman guard everyday and was not allowed to preach the word of God in public. He wanted to go to Rome and preach to the believers who were there that he had never met. He heard stories that some in Rome were against Paul while others were for him. In fact, some wanted to make things worse for him. In spite of all the dangers and discomforts, in his disappointments with some of the Christians, Paul overflowed with joy.

What was his secret? The secret is found in another word that is often repeated in Philippians, it is the word “mind”. 10 times he will use the word “mind” in his letter. 5 times he will use the word “think”. Add those to the number of times he uses the word “remember” and there are 16 references to the mind. In other words, the secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks – his attitudes.

Outlook determines outcome. As we think, so we are.

Proverbs 23:6-7 Do not eat the food of a stingy man, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

Philippians is a letter that explains the mind a believer must have if he is going to experience Christian joy in a world filled with trouble. The best way to get the total picture of the book is to discover first the “thieves” that rob us of our joy, and then determines the kind of attitudes we must have in order to capture and conquer these “thieves”.

The Thieves That Rob You of Your Joy

Circumstances:

When do you feel happier, when things are going your way or when things are out of control? Be honest, how many of the circumstances in your life do you have control over? Which ones don’t you have control over?

The person whose happiness depends on ideal circumstances is going to be miserable much of the time.

People:

Have you ever had the experience of a person draining you of every ounce of joy you might have? What are the ways people can rob you of your joy? Have you ever been one of those joy robbers? Is there any way to have joy in spite of people?

Things:

How important are things to the average Christian today? How far are you willing to go to preserve them? How much can you get by without? Or is that a dumb question because most Christians strive to see how much they can get?

Do you remember what we studied and talked about the iin 1st John? Do you remember when we were discussing eternal life and where in our lives the promise of eternal life rates? How can person tell what is really the most important things in his or her life? We can tell by how much we spend on insurance to protect them. What is the most important and where does eternal life fall?

Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street with his two sons, who were crying and fighting. “What’s the matter with the boys?” a friend asked. “The same thing that’s wrong with the whole world.” Lincoln replied. “I have three walnuts and each of the boys wants two!”

Things, boy can they be such joy robbers. Yet Jesus said the following:

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against laying up treasures on earth; they are not safe, they do not last and they never satisfy. Yet most people today think that joy comes from the things that they own. In reality things can rob us of the only kind of joy that really lasts.

Worry:

This is the worst thief of all. How many people have been robbed of peace and fulfillment because of worry?

What are some of the consequences that can develop or come from worrying all the time? How many physical problems do we sometimes have due to out of control worry?

As we study Philippians, we will see that Paul had a whole lot to worry about. He was a political prisoner facing possible execution. His friends in Rome were divided in their attitudes toward his case. He had no mission committee supporting him and no legal aid society defending him. But in spite of all these difficulties, Paul does not worry. Instead he writes a letter filled with joy and tells us how to stop worrying. My favorite all time scripture is found in the 4th chapter:

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious (worry) about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These are the four thieves that rob us of our joy in life. How do we capture these thieves and keep them from taking away the joy that is rightfully ours in Christ? The answer is: we must cultivate the right kind of mind. If outlook determines outcome, then the attitude of mind that we cultivate will determine our joy or the lack of it. In the four chapters of Philippians Paul will describe four attitudes of mind that will produce joy in spite of the circumstances, people and things, and that will keep us from worrying.

The four attitudes that maintain your joy:

The Single Mind (Philippians 1): Paul will discuss his difficult circumstances but his circumstances can not rob him of his joy because he is not living to enjoy his circumstances, he is living to serve Jesus.

The Submissive Mind (Philippians 2): In the first chapter Paul put Jesus first, in this chapter he will put others second which means he put himself last. The reason people aggravate us so much is because we don’t get our own way. If we put ourselves last, many of the battles we experience will go away. But if we have a submissive mind, we won’t expect to be served instead we will serve others.

The Spiritual Mind (Philippians 3): 11 times Paul will reference the word “things”. He will point out that most people have their minds on earthly things but the spiritually minded person is concerned about heavenly things. The quest for things is robbing us of our joy in life. We want to posses things only to find out they posses us.

The Secure Mind (Philippians 4): Worry is actually wrong thinking and wrong feeling about circumstances, people and things. So if we have the single mind, the submissive mind and the spiritual mind, we won’t have a whole lot of trouble with worry. All that we need is something to guard the heart and mind so worry will not enter. Paul will describe in this chapter the spiritual resources the believer has in Christ to give the Christian security in his thoughts and actions.

In this lesson series, Paul will give us regular examinations in our daily lives to help us develop the correct spiritual attitudes that produce abundant joy.