Vince Lombardi was one of the greatest football coaches of all time. As head coach of the Green Bay Packers, he took a team that had finished the season 1-10-1 the season before, and led them to a 7-5 season in his first season as head coach. He would go on to win 7 championships with the Packers, including the first two Super Bowls ever played. To this day, the Super Bowl trophy is named after him, and he is known as one of the most inspirational people in football history. He once said “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
This week, we are continuing our series on Experiencing Joy by talking about finding joy in our purpose. Another great Vince Lombardi quote is “It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.” It’s very easy to have joy when things are going well. That’s not really a problem for most of us. We’re good at staying the course when the wind is at our back, so to speak. The problems come when the waves start crashing in on us, and things start to turn against us. That’s when so many people give up.
Paul was another man who was obsessed with purpose. He went from being a man who helped the Romans hunt down, torture, and kill Christians to a man obsessed with Jesus. His purpose in life became to make Jesus known to as many people as possible. Jesus became his purpose, and he focused everything he had on accomplishing that purpose. Nothing could stop him from accomplishing it, because nothing that anyone did could take away his joy. Another great Lombardi quote (last one, I promise) was “Success demands singleness of purpose.” Paul was determined to do everything he could to spread the good news about Jesus, and he even used his time in jail as a way to preach to people about Jesus.
Philippians 1:12 – 14 (NIV) says “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear through the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” This brings me to my first point.
1. If We Live Our Lives On Purpose, Our Chains Can Actually Multiply The Effectiveness Of Our Witness
Remember that Paul is writing this letter from jail. Everyday, there are several Roman guards that come in and are chained to Paul, and as my friend and mentor Rick Atchley said, “If you’re chained to Paul, who’s really chained to who?” I can just imagine the guards coming in and chaining themselves to Paul thinking that they are guarding him, and he spends all his time preaching to them about Jesus. If we live our lives for a purpose higher than ourselves, any situation we find ourselves in can be an opportunity to share the gospel. Think about it this way. What if the worst thing that’s ever happened to you is actually the thing that God uses to make your witness for Him more effective? What if the bad news you got actually helped you to spread good news? You see, there’s an amazing thing that happens when we focus on our purpose instead of our pain, and that is that we can actually have joy in whatever circumstances we face. Paul may have been locked up, but it didn’t stop him from reaching people for Christ. He took the circumstances he was given, and he leveraged it to work for him instead of against him.
Mark Twain said “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” We all have a purpose in life, and that purpose is to show Christ to others in whatever we do. Ephesians 2:10 (NCV) says “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for to live our lives doing.” Paul knew what his purpose was, and he dedicated everything to it. This brings me to my second point.
2. We Experience True Joy When We Prioritize Our Purpose Above Our Position
Have you ever gotten jealous because someone else got a job or a promotion you thought you deserved, or they got to go out with the girl you wanted to date? Today’s society puts a high priority on position. Those who are considered successful are the ones with the offices on the top floor, the prettiest wives or kids, or the ones with the most money. So often, we look at these people with envy, and we wish we could have their position in life. When you’re living for position, your opponents success will impact your happiness in a negative way, but when you live for purpose, the success of the team is more important than your personal success. The truth is, joy increases when self decreases. Look at Philippians 1:15 – 19 (NIV). Paul says “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Paul is not concerned that people are preaching with intent to cause him trouble, because they are still preaching a good gospel. All that matters to him is that the good news of Jesus is preached. To him, it’s not about personal status, but about reaching people for Jesus. When we put our purpose over our position, it won’t even matter to us if someone else is better suited to accomplish our goal, as long as the goal is accomplished. This brings me to my last point.
3. We Cannot Control The Things That Chain Our Joy, But We Can Control How Much Power They Have Over Us
Philippians 1:20 – 25 (NIV) says “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” Paul’s position was that of a man in jail, but his purpose was Christ. Look at v. 21 again. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The Contemporary English Version says it this way: “If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more.” How do you stop a man like that, who is so focused on his purpose that even death doesn’t stop him from trying to accomplish his purpose.
Winston Churchill said “It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to have lived for something.” Paul Schneider was a great example of that. He was a pastor in Germany during the rise of the Nazi regime. He helped lead the church in standing against the things that Nazis were doing, and was arrested several times for doing so. In the winter of 1935/1936, he was interrogated 12 separate times by Nazi officials. He is quoted as saying that “I do not seek martyrdom, but I have to follow my Lord. My primary responsibility is to prepare my family for eternal life, not to ensure their material well-being.” Schneider was put in the concentration camp Buchenwald, where he was placed in solitary confinement for watching out for fellow inmates. He used his solitary confinement to preach the gospel from the window of his cell, and was removed from solitary because he refused to salute the Nazi flag, calling it a criminal symbol, and even refused to salute Hitler himself, saying “You can only receive salvation from the Lord, and not from a human being.” One Easter Sunday, after being tortured on several occasions for preaching the gospel, he climbed to his cell window and shouted “Comrades, listen to me. This is Pastor Schneider. People are tortured and murdered here. So the Lord says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life!’” before being interrupted by Nazi soldiers. Despite all that they did to him, he refused to stop preaching the gospel. He was eventually killed for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus. At his funeral, one of the pastors said “May God grant you that the witness of your shepherd, our brother, remain with you and continue to impact on future generations and that it remain vital and bear fruit in the entire Christian Church.” This was a man with a purpose, and nothing you could do to him could stop him from living out his purpose.
Are you finding joy in living out your purpose, or are you consumed with what you don’t have? For me, over the last few months, this has been a major struggle. I’ve struggled greatly in this season of my life to feel like I even had a purpose, and it has been a real joy killer. Writing these messages has helped me to remember that my purpose, like Paul’s, is to make Jesus known. Thankfully, I am not in chains, and I pray that I never am, but I also know that I can have joy in all circumstances because of my purpose.
We thank You today for giving each of us a purpose in this life. I pray that we take whatever position we have in life, and we leverage it to bring glory to You. Father, I pray this week for anyone who is struggling with knowing what their purpose is. I pray that You bring them clarity, and that You give them the focus and determination to accomplish that purpose. Most of all, we thank You for Your Son Jesus, and for the grace You showed us. It’s in His Name we pray.
If you would like to talk to someone about what it means to live for Christ, or if you have any questions, feel free to comment on here or send us a message. As always, there will be someone for you to talk to about any need you may have. If you want to know more about what it looks like to live for Christ, I would encourage you to reach out. Next week, we will look at how to experience joy through humility. Have a blessed week!!!!!