So, those of you who know me know that I’m a giant J.R.R. Tolkien fan. In the movie The Return of the King, there’s a scene towards the end, after Aragorn has married Arwen and been crowned king of Gondor. He and Arwen are walking through the crowd, and they find themselves standing in front of the Frodo and his friends.
The hobbits all kneel in front of the newly crowned king, and Aragorn stops them and says “My friends, you bow to no one.”, before bowing to them as a sign of respect. Now, if you’re familiar with the books or the movies, you know that this is because of the quest to destroy the ring. Aragorn shows his humility by bowing to the hobbits, despite the fact that none of them are royalty, and he is the newly crowned king of Gondor. Now, I know most of you have probably never had someone start a message with a Lord of the Rings reference, but there are several ways that the literary work of Tolkien goes side by side with scripture. Aragorn’s humility is just one example that Tolkien uses to illustrate his Christian faith in his writings. One of my favorite Tolkien quotes comes from the first book in the Lord of the Rings series, The Fellowship of the Ring. Bilbo Baggins (the main character from The Hobbit) says “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” Bilbo was very fond of the simple things, as most hobbits are, before his adventure to the Lonely Mountain with the dwarves.
This week, we are continuing our Experiencing Joy series, and we are going to be looking at Philippians 2, where Paul talks about how to have joy in humility. Paul mentions joy or rejoicing 16 different times in Philippians. Last week, we talked about finding joy in our purpose. Paul had great joy in his purpose, but he also wanted to make sure that the Christians in Philippi were united. Honestly, I could write the entire sermon for the week on the first two verses in this chapter, and it already has 4 points built right in. Instead, we are going to make our way through the majority of the chapter, and look at 3 different themes. The first theme is:
Paul starts chapter 2 off with 4 “if’s” that he says should unite the Christians in the church in Philippi. The first one is Encouragement. Philippians 2:1 – 2 (NIV) says “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Those of us who are Christians experience encouragement when we are united with Christ. The word translated encouragement here is paraklesis, which also means exhortation or comfort. It is the same word advocate used in John 14:16 (NIV), where Jesus says “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” We have all received encouragement, exhortation, and comfort from Christ at some point in our lives, and that encouragement should unite us.
The second one is Comfort From His Love. Psalm 119:76 (GNT) says “Let your constant love comfort me, as your have promised me, your servant.” The common experience of being loved by God should unite all believers.
The third one is Fellowship With The Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 (NIV) says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” When a person comes to believe in Jesus as Savior, they receive the Holy Spirit. Each believer has personal fellowship with the Holy Spirit in their own private life, but all believers are united by the same spirit.
The last one is Tenderness & Sympathy. Some of your translations might say Affection & Mercy in place of tenderness & sympathy. Colossians 3:12 (NIV) says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” When the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers, these are some of the fruits that are produced. God has extended his affection and compassion to every believer, which unites all of us.
Paul was talking about unity because he saw the beginnings of problems among the church members. Some people in the church were demonstrating a false sense of spiritual superiority over others, and some were not working harmoniously with each other. He wanted the church to be loving each other. In John 17, Jesus prays for the unity of all future believers.
If any of you have kids in junior high, you know how volatile relationships, and even friendships can be during these years. Almost every time I talk to my daughter, she has a new best friend, or is back to being best friends with someone she had been on the outs with the week before. Sometimes, we have groups of friends have disagreements, and it can split the group right down the middle. How many times have we seen a sports team loaded with talent fall apart because of bad locker room chemistry, or bands break up because certain members couldn’t get along with anyone else in the band? Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A great man is always willing to be little.” One of my favorite bands growing up was Van Halen. The Van Halen brothers have made a career out of being difficult to work with. Despite being some of the most talented musicians in the world, the band has a history of changing members fairly often, to the point that now, 3 of the 4 members are family, and the state of the current lead singer is always up in the air. It has gotten to a point where the Van Halen brothers and Eddie’s son Wolfgang don’t even travel with the lead singer, and barely see each other before going on stage. The second theme in Philippians 2 is:
In the first Lord of the Rings movie, at the end, Frodo is about to leave the Fellowship behind. As he is getting away,Aragorn stops him, and asks where the ring is. Frodo has just been attacked by Boromir, who was trying to take the ring from him, and he is afraid that Aragorn is going to do the same thing. Aragorn tells him “I would have gone with you to the end, into the very fires of Mordor.” His willingness to go with Frodo all the way up to the end shows his humility as well. Philippians 2:3 – 8 (NIV) says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Jesus joyfully gave His life to fulfill His purpose, which was taking the punishment for our sin. Hebrews 12:2b (NET) says “For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” See, there’s that word JOY again. Jesus willfully and joyfully gave His life on the cross for us, and He calls us to the same humility.
Does anybody else ever struggle with feeling like there’s just not enough time in the day? I admittedly can get a little selfish with my time. I think part of that is because I’ve been on my own for so long now, and you get used to doing things a certain way, and not really having to give your time to anything that you don’t want to. Being a parent is the ultimate test of that selfishness, though. When you have kids, it’s no longer about you. You have to do everything you can to make sure that your children know that you are there for them, even if it means giving up things you used to do. When my daughter was younger, she played basketball. Saturdays that were once reserved for relaxing, college football or basketball watching, or whatever else I felt like doing suddenly became flooded with basketball games, and sometimes several games in one day. There are very few things that will test your patience and your humility like sitting through 3 basketball games in a day where no one seems to score for either team.
Philippians 2:14 – 18 (NIV) says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Paul is telling us that, as believers, we should rejoice in everything that we do. Michel de Montaigne said “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” Have you ever had a job that you felt was beneath you, or been ask to do something you thought was a waste of your time? 1 Peter 5:5 – 6 (GNT) says “God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, then, under God’s might hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.” We should go about the tasks of life with joy and humility, not grumbling about doing them, or thinking that they are beneath us. This is something that has been a struggle for me, at times. I’ve had jobs where I dreaded going to work everyday, and I even made comments to myself about how much I hated them while I was at work. I noticed a funny thing, though. The more I dreaded going to a job, the more miserable the day became, but the more that I looked forward to going to work, and worked like I was excited to be there, the more successful and productive my day became. Studies have shown that our level of happiness actually has more of a bearing on our success than our level of income. So, the happier you are, the more successful you can be. The last theme of chapter 2 is:
Paul mentions twice that he longs to send someone back to the Philippian church. In v. 19 – 24 (NIV), he says “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ, but you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” Paul makes it very clear that he holds Timothy in very high regards. In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” It is clear that Paul feels this way about Timothy, and his work with him in spreading the gospel.
Philippians 2:25 – 30 (NIV) says “But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.” Epaphroditus was joyfully willing to do whatever it took for the cause of Christ, even to the point of risking his life. Paul says to the church in Philippi that they should welcome people like him with great joy, because they were willing to go to any length to see that the purpose of Christ was accomplished. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus were all men who persevered through unspeakable obstacles to help others receive the good news of the gospel. How great would it be if we all were willing to go to such lengths to reach others for Jesus? What would you be willing to do to reach people for Christ? What would you give up? That’s something I want us to think about as we go through this next week. Is there any job that you’ve considered to be beneath you that you would reconsider doing if it meant furthering the spread of the gospel to those who needed to hear it?
We are so thankful that You were willing to send Your Son to die on a cross to pay for our sins, even when we do not deserve it. I pray this morning that we would be a people ready to be sent wherever You would have us go, and do whatever You asked us to do to help spread the good news of Jesus to the world. Lord, be with us as we go through the week. Help us to be a light to all those who do not know You, and help us to show them that they are loved by a God who will never leave their side. It’s in Your Holy Name we pray.
I hope that you really consider these things as you go through your week this week. My challenge is that you would look for ways to show humility in your daily lives, and to do things that would open up doors for you to share the gospel with people who may never hear it otherwise. Next week, we are going to be covering chapter 3 in Philippians, and talking about Experiencing Joy Through Faith. Have a blessed week!!!!!