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Joy in Being Second
There are 2 great misconceptions in our world today. One is to confuse joy with amusement, thrill, and self-gratification. The second is to think that the way to joy is through personal pursuit of that which makes me feel good, that which promotes my individual purposes, or that which promises me some sort of physical or emotional satisfaction! And thus our culture tells us:
- Pursue your dreams
- Do what makes you happy
- And YOLO -You only live once, so enjoy yourself
You’d think that with so many people pursuing their own dreams that the world would be a really happy place. Unfortunately it isn’t. Yet today we have more methods to make you happy more technologies to bring you entertainment, more money to purchase excitement, more opportunity and more choices to give you fun, excitement, thrills, adventure, and a thousand pleasures not even dreamed of 50 years ago!
Our society is fixated on having a blast and making life fun. You’d think that with all this stimulation and excitement you’d find a lot of joyful people! Instead we are dealing with unprecedented epidemic of depression, addictions, and suicide.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15-34 and is in the top 10 leading causes of death for all age groups. Since 1999 the overall suicide rate in the US has grown by about 27%
Our “me first, pursue your dreams and find your happiness” society has not brought greater happiness!
Greg Easterbrook in his book “The Progress Paradox” writes:
“If you sat down with a pencil and graph paper to chart the trend of American and European life since the end of World War II, you’d do a lot of drawing that was pointed up. Per-capita income, “real” income, longevity, home size, cars per driver, phone calls made annually, trips taken annually, highest degree earned, IQ scores, just about every objective indicator of social welfare has trended upward on a pretty much uninterrupted basis for two generations….
But your graphs would lose their skyward direction when the topics turned to the inner self. The trend line for happiness has been flat for fifty years. The trend line is negative for the number of people who consider themselves ‘very happy,’ that percentage is gradually declining since the 1940s. And the trend line would cascade downward like water over a falls on the topic of avoiding depression. Adjusting for population growth, ten times as many people in the Western nations today suffer from ‘unipolar’ depression, or unremitting bad feelings without a specific cause, than did half a century ago. Americans and Europeans have ever more of everything except happiness.”
“For increasing numbers of Americans and Europeans, life is like being in a really nice hotel room, but not having a good time because no one else came along for the trip”
If the conditions of life and seeking our own happiness is not producing happy and joyful people then where can we find true joy?
We find joy not by putting ourselves first but by putting ourselves second.
About the text
Paul spent most of chapter 1 writing about his own situation in prison and how God had used it for the furthering of the Gospel. He tells them of how he does not fear death because it means that he will get to be with Christ. He also tells them how he knows that he will continue living in order to serve the church.
We see in chapter one how Paul finds joy even though he is writing from a prison cell. Paul’s example for the Philippians and for us is very instructive.
After these very personal remarks he turns his attention now in chapter two towards the Philippians. Here Paul begins the meat of his letter and what he wants to communicate to the Philippians. He now addresses them specifically giving them clear instructions on how to find joy.
2:1-11 is probably the most theological section of the book. It is both deep and rich, meaningful and beautiful in it’s teaching on Christ and what it meant for Jesus Christ to leave heaven and come to earth as a man.
But don’t be thrown off by the fact that I said it is theological. This section has huge practical implications in daily life. If we can only grasp the truths of this Scripture it will change our relationships with our spouse, our children, our parents, our coworkers, and our brothers and sisters in the church.
I. The reason to find joy in being second
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if 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.
1. It’s the only way to find joy in trials
We only need to go back to the end of chapter 1 to find out what Paul is referring to here when he says, “Therefore”
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:29-30
Paul’s time in Philippi was not exactly a nice vacation. (Act 16:11-30)
- He was pestered for days by a demonized girl
- He was stripped naked by a crazed mob of people
- He was flogged/whipped publicly
- He was thrown into prison
- He experienced an earthquake
- He was asked to leave the city
Imagine writing a prayer letter like that! And now he says that the Philippians are experiencing the same thing!
The Philippians needed to know the joy of coming second because they certainly would not be experiencing joy otherwise. They needed the inner strength of God’s joy to endure the persecution that they were facing.
2. Joy is inseparable from our growth in the faith
It’s impossible to grow in your faith without joy!
Jesus had joy. How do we know?
- Because his birth was announced as “Good news and great joy”.
- Because children came to him.
- Because wanted to give the disciples his joy
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
It brings joy to others.
Paul tells us that he joy will increase being seeing their joy increase! What better gift can you give your pastors, teachers, parents, mentors than to grasp the joy of being second and run with it?
How can I expect my children to have joy if I don’t example it daily?
- True joy is rare
- True joy is contagious
- Joy is not a limited commodity for the Christian. Joy is self-reproducing
- True joy is others focused
II. The way to find joy in being second
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:
Now Paul gets down to the details. Exactly how can we find this joy in being second. It all sounds nice but what steps do we need to take, how can we make it real in our lives today and tomorrow and next week and next month?
*Finding joy in being second is more about attitude than it is about action.
*Service to others without humility will always be cruel and unbearable
“Selfish ambition” -used of those running for political office, or someone who is using the system to work their way up with no care about whose head they have to step on in the process.
We shouldn’t be sticking our campaign sign in everyone’s yard!
Paul tells us that some preach the Gospel this way in Phil 1:17
“Vain conceit” -literally empty glory.
“Not looking to your own interests”
In contrast to the above warnings we are to have a 2nd attitude:
- Humble -literally having a low mind.
- Look to the interests of others.
- Have the mind of Christ.
Humility is to see yourself as God sees you
- True humility is the only way to really see who you are
- True humility always contrasts self with God
- True humility enables service
- True humility recognizes that I am created in image
What does putting yourself 2nd not mean?
- Fails to recognize God’s image
- Having an unbiblical false humility that sees no value in yourself as an image bearer of God.
- Has a victim attitude
- Can become a become a “doormat” for evil and people.
- Jesus stood hard against evil -He said tough things against the religious rulers of his day
- Standing up against evil people and injustices of the world can be a way in which we find joy in being 2nd!
- Fails to take care of your own spiritual and physical needs
- Jesus took time to be alone
III Jesus our example of joy in being second
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!
Where does the attitude of 2nd come from?
- It comes from Jesus’ example
Look at the progression:
- God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and earth, the father of time, the one who measured the oceans in the palm of his hand Isaiah 40:12 BECAME MAN!
- That MAN became a SLAVE
- That SLAVE was considered a CRIMINAL
- That CRIMINAL was put to the most humiliating death!
He holds the seas in his hand and you don’t.
He has the right and authority to judge and punish and you don’t.
He should be honored and glorified and you shouldn’t.
Yet it was he would humbled himself in a way that you and I can’t even come close to!
True humility can only come from a true understanding of who Jesus is and faith in what he has done!
- It comes from knowing Jesus and realizing that everything is loss in contrast
- But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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. Philippians 3:7-8
IV The result of finding joy in being second
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The ultimate end of joy is God’s glory
How does being second bring you joy?
- It frees from the pressure of being first!
- It teaches us that joy isn’t dependant upon circumstances
- It allows us to see God’s simple graces
- It makes us like Christ
- It allows us to glorify God
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