Philippians: More Than Happiness
During the month of June, we are studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I am encouraging everybody to read, study, and reflect upon this very powerful and timeless Epistle. Here is what I shared Sunday morning as a basic introduction and overview of the epistle:
• Philippians was written by Paul around 62-63 AD when he was in prison most likely in Rome
• It is perhaps the most unique of all Paul’s letters because he is not dealing with doctrinal issues but he’s basically writing a thank you letter to the church at Philippi for supporting him over the years. They even sent a gift to him in prison. The letter is full of hope and encouragement and positive thinking.
• The words “joy” and “peace” appear sixteen times throughout the letter so these are primary themes that Paul wants to emphasize.
• The Church at Philippi was the earliest church that Paul started on the continent of Europe. He visited it on at least two different occasions but stayed in communication with the people.
• This letter is short, only four chapters long – you can read it in one setting.
• And perhaps the greatest lesson from Philippians is Paul’s challenge for us to live like Christ, to model his humility, and he remind us that we get to choose our attitude in life. We may not get to choose our circumstances, we may not get to choose everything that happens to us, but we always get to choose our attitude in life. Nobody can take that away.
In our culture, everybody seems to talk about happiness. There are many books that have been written on happiness and how to achieve it. Paul is arguing that JOY is better. It is deeper. It is more lasting. Happiness is often self-focused, joy comes from connection and service to others. Happiness is fleeting but joy is lasting. What is truly inspiring is the attitude that Paul had while he was in prison, not knowing whether or not he would be put to death. He reminds us that we are to focus our time an energy on the good and positive things in life. He writes these powerful words in chapter 4:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. AMEN.
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