This blessed me tremendously, and I wanted to pass it along.
Serving God With Joy In The Local Church
(Selected thoughts from a CJ Mahaney sermon called “Sustaining A Pastor’s Soul”)
Sometimes we are serving God faithfully but not joyfully, as we are required to do in Psalm 100:2 (“serve the Lord with gladness”). Paul was the busiest person alive, overseeing the churches; he had tremendous responsibilities (faced daily his concern for the churches - 2 Cor 11:8-9). But he did it all with JOY. "Sorrowful yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor 6:20). His letters are filled with joy. Especially Philippians, which was written from prison!
In Philippians 1:3-8 we see 3 dominant characteristics in Paul that helped him serve God with joy.
1. Gratefulness to God (vs 3-5). Paul assigned a high priority to being grateful. But this gratefulness was not just a part of his personality (he was not just normally wired to be grateful), but came from his theology! He was thankful for what GOD had done.
What about us? Are we modeling gratefulness?
The absence of gratefulness is COMPLAINING, and results in the absence of Joy in our service to Jesus.
We may see plenty of reasons to complain in church and everyday life, but God does not just smile and say, "That's ok, I understand; you are very busy. Complaining is not that big of a deal." He takes a serious view of complaining. It is a grievous sin - an expression of arrogance against God from a root of pride.
• Murmuring is rising up against God, for you set yourself above God as if you were wiser than He – Thomas Watson
• As soon as God does not send what we desire, we bring suit against him; but it springs from a poisoned heart, as if to say ‘the thing should have been otherwise. I see no reason for this.’ – paraphrase of Calvin
When we complain we are saying in effect, “God, I am wiser than you. Explain THIS to me. I see no reason for this.” As if God owes an explanation to any of us! It’s only by his mercy and grace that God does not say to us, “I no longer see a reason for YOU! I see no reason to listen to your complaining nonsense.”
Paul focused on God’s grace in the lives of his church members. We hear JOY and gratefulness to God in his prayers for the church. What would someone hear in our prayers for the church? Are we grateful to God for the evidences of grace in each other’s lives?
If we are complaining about the church rather than speaking words of gratefulness about the church, then we are cultivating bitterness in those who hear us, rather than cultivating gratefulness to God in their hearts! When we complain about the church to our spouse we are cultivating bitterness in his/her heart. What do our children hear us saying over the dinner table about people in the church? What are we cultivating in their hearts? How are we teaching them to view the church?
By God’s grace we need to build an atmosphere of gratefulness in our churches by learning to discern evidences of grace in each other; to identify evidences of God’s grace, speak of them to each other and publicly celebrate them! God is at work; let’s call attention to what he is doing to build each other up. Joy will follow.
2. Faith for the Future (v6). Paul is confident about the future of the local church at Philippi. But this is not because he is naturally a confident guy who hopes for the best. His faith concerning the future of the local church comes from his theology! Paul’s confidence for the future of this local church is based on the past! God who started a good work in them will finish it, bring it to completion, at the day of Christ Jesus!
If our local church if made up of regenerate people, then the same can be said of us! We have a future, because what God has started – he will finish!
• All our failures may be traced ultimately to a defect of faith… Our main difficulty is not in our work (outside ourselves) but in ourselves – our conflict with unbelief. Faith enlivens our work with perpetual cheerfulness. Charles Bridges
My main problem is not in others but in me – my unbelief!
3. Affection for Others (v7-8). Paul yearns for the Philippians with the affection of Christ. But this was not because Paul was naturally a lovey kind of guy. His affection was also theologically informed! He saw the church members as fellow partakers of God’s grace, partners in the gospel, and people for whom Christ died! We are doing church life with those for whom Christ died! He loves them, how can we not?
Our theology, then, should produce in us gratefulness to God for his work of grace in fellow church members, faith for the future of our local church, and Christ’s affection for our brothers and sisters. Walking this way, we will serve the Lord with JOY!