When it comes to being joyful, we know people and circumstances can get in the way. But, you know what else often gets in the way of our joy? Things.
Too often, we spend a significant amount of time trying to obtain things to feel joy. It’s a futile cycle because true, lasting joy does not come from things – tangible or intangible.
Have you ever heard someone say you can’t take stuff with you when you die? Have you ever seen a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse?
This is true for everyone. But, it is especially relevant for those who call themselves Christians because it shines the light on why accumulating things or accolades is meaningless when we view our lives through the lens of Heaven.
If our citizenship is in Heaven, why are we obsessing with things here on Earth? If our citizenship is in heaven, why are we storing up treasures on earth?
In today’s blog, we are looking at a section of Philippians where Paul explains what he learned about the value of things on earth.
Using his own background and experience, Paul tells us why it is more important to focus our faith on the internal rather than the external. By doing so, Paul had true joy.
For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 3:1-11.
Examine Your Life
It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of wanting - not just material things but accolades too. Many times, we find meaning and purpose in storing up such things.
In and of themselves, these things are sinful. However, they become sinful when we turn the focus to satisfying ourselves with these things, and our motives are selfish.
As Wiersbe explains, “Many people who have the things money can buy have lost the things that money cannot buy… Many people today are the slaves of ‘things,’ and as a result do not experience real Christian joy.”
Are you a slave to things? Take time to examine your life. Are the “things” you are counting as valuable really valuable? Are the investments you’re making going to survive you?
The False Narrative
Paul stresses the problem of salvation by works. He begins by telling us to watch out for false teachers and those who teach God can be pleased by what we do.
Wiersbe writes, “Circumcision, baptism, the Lord’s supper, tithing, or any other religious practice cannot save a person from his sins. Only faith in Jesus Christ can do that.”
Been There and Done That
Paul lived a works-based life before he met Jesus on the Damascus road (Act 9), and it got him nowhere with God.
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
– Philippians 3:4-6
The problem was Paul put his faith in himself (or in his flesh). He had the right family line; he followed the religious laws; he attacked Israel’s enemies.
As Wiersbe explains, “He was comparing himself with the standards set by men, not by God.”
Once Paul entered a relationship with Jesus, he understood how spiritually bankrupt he was. He knew his good works meant nothing without Jesus.
He trusted his own self-righteousness rather than the righteousness of Christ.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
– Philippians 3:7
What mattered most to Paul before Christ was his reputation. After Christ, it no longer mattered. In fact, Paul counted it trash.
Wiersbe writes, “But he measured these treasures against what Jesus Christ had to offer, and he realized that all he held dear was really nothing but refuse compared to what he had in Christ. His own treasures brought glory to him personally, but they did not bring glory to God.”
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
– Philippians 3:8-9
Even though Paul experienced loss, his gains were much better. He exchanged self-righteousness for the righteousness of Christ.
Paul gained knowledge of Christ; not “book knowledge.” Paul came to know Christ through having a relationship with Him. Paul experienced an intimate fellowship with Jesus.
Wiersbe explains, “It was a personal experience as Paul walked with Christ, prayed, obeyed His will, and sought to glorify His name. When he was living under the law, all Paul had was a set of rules. But now he had a Friend, a Master, a constant Companion.”
The Joy of Faith
It’s hard for anyone to have joy when they are focused on things of the world.
Tangible and intangible things never fill us or satisfy us.
Paul understood what matters most – knowing Christ (Philippians 3:10-11).
Wiersbe adds, “No wonder he had joy – his life did not depend on the cheap things of the world but on the eternal values found in Christ.”