The Enemies of Contagious Joy
A precious family in our church suffered the death of their husband and father. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack. The family, of course, is shattered by this.
It led me, once again, to asking questions about this current series on Contagious Joy. Particularly with the text, “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say, rejoice!” Here’s my thought…my question. Is the joy we’re talking about robust enough to be present even for a family whose life has been dashed on the rocks? Can it survive the civil unrest and Covid 19 and political uncertainty and all that flows out of this?
My conclusion is this. If it can’t I am either preaching it wrong or we are understanding it wrong. The joy of the Lord is not restricted to our circumstances being rosy. We don’t need the joy of the Lord when everything’s going our way. We need it when our lives are shattered.
So, I read our text today with fear and trembling. I do not want to misspeak or overstep anyone’s pain in this time. I am not saying that Christ followers don’t hurt. They do. They die.
IN the face of all of that there is joy.
Enemies to our spiritual walk abound. John speaks of our unholy trinity of enemies as, “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” The enemy of our joy can be disunity…in our families or in our church. But often our enemies are much closer to home and do their work within us.
Today I want us to take a look at three hindrances to our joy. They are joy-stealers and joy-killers if we do not confront and deal with them. We hear about the first one as Chapter 4 opens.
ATTACK YOUR ANGER
One of the most dangerous enemies to our joy is anger. Sometimes we keep our anger bottled up inside. Other times it creeps out say, on the golf course. One golfer came to play with a new putter. He said the other one didn’t float. Sometimes, sadly, it can be released on our families and people we care about the most.
Anger itself is not wrong. Anger is a defense mechanism, and every person on some level deals with anger regularly. But some allow it to build up and spill out in domestic abuse and conflict in homes, and churches and the workplace.
Dads, your hand is on the thermostat of the home. You can turn the heat up in your home by not dealing with your anger properly.
What we are seeing in Philippians 4 is a conflict between two women who had a difference of opinion that had damaged their relationship, and then spilled over into the church. It threatened the fellowship and the unity of the church.
Paul gives us three keys to resolving conflict in these verses. The first is we CHOOSE to live in harmony. It begins with your choice that relationships are far more important than always getting your way.
Secondly, we need to CONFRONT the problem. At some point, if you’ve injured another or you’ve lost your joy because of a broken relationship, you have to confront the problem. If needed, find a trusted friend who can stand with you as you do this.
One Wednesday night we had a service of prayer for racial reconciliation. At some point, the church needs to take a stand… not make a political statement… but to be a “fellow laborer” and do the Gospel work of reconciliation.
Finally, we have to show the CHARACTER of Christ as we deal with this conflict. “Rejoice in the Lord, let your reasonableness be evident to all, the Lord is near.”
Dads, back to you. Are you gentle in your relationship with your family? You have a position of Divinely appointed leadership in the home. That means your voice has a constant amplifier with your wife and your children.
Did you know that almost 90 percent of conflicts in the home happen because someone uses the wrong tone of voice? Not the wrong words… the wrong intonation.
ARREST YOUR ANXIETY
I have spoken about anxiety already several times in 2020 and began the year with a message on it. The world has changed since January, but the need for dealing with anxiety has only accelerated in the face of everything that is happening in our world.
Anxiety-related problems are usually rooted in fear. We fear an unknown future, a declining economy and loss of jobs, an uncertain political climate stoked by civil unrest, and an unseen virus that has killed almost 120,000 people in America and now…its numbers are increasing again.
Anxiety is a joy stealer. There are no joyfully anxious people. Some anxiety is a physiological symptom of a deeper problem. Most anxiety is simply a matter of our being tossed like a cork on the waves of the sea.
It clutters our thinking, obscures our ability to see Jesus clearly, and generally saps our energy and drains us of joy. It is an enemy that must be arrested! It needs to be stopped from doing its destructive work.
PRAYER IS ADORATION: We have a good, good Father!
Easy for me to transition to that. I had a great, godly, faithful father. Some folks choke a bit to pray, “Our Father…” or to sing, “Good, Good Father.” I never saw my Dad get angry…
The most frequent word in the New Testament for prayer is the word “proscheuo” which is an act of worship. Prayer is worship. When we worship, we don’t worry. When we worry, we aren’t worshiping. A part of every prayer time should be our adoration of Who God is, of What He is like, of the things He has done for us.
PRAYER IS SUPPLICATION: We ask. Indicates intense asking.
Pray about everything, be anxious for nothing. “Nothing is worth worrying about; everything is worth praying about.” E. Stanley Jones used to say, “To worry is to live against reality.” Only 8 percent of the things we worry about are real. The other 92 percent are imaginary, “what if” scenarios. Anxiety clutters our thinking by importing things from our past that we cannot do anything about or imagining the worst-case scenarios of our future which probably aren’t going to happen. We pray about everything. “With prayer and supplication, we make our requests known to God.”
PRAYER IS APPRECIATION: We give thanks. “With thanksgiving make your requests known…”.
We need to stop anxiety in its tracks. Let me say again. There are some realities unfolding in our day that will drive us over the edge if we do not master this. You can let this blow past you, or you can decide today to arrest anxiety and not permit it to make itself at home inside of you.
Paul said if we will simply do these things, then “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.”
ALTER YOUR ATTITUDE
My grand darlin’ McCail has now moved in with me for a few months while her Mommy and Daddy build a new house. They came with her. She had a new doll that looked real…creepy real. For some reason unknown to all of us, she threw it downstairs and its head broke off. Last night, after we had gotten ready for bed, she looked at me and said, “Poppy why did I throw my doll down the stairs?”
The things we do have mostly to do with the things we think. Negative thoughts lead us to do negative things. In fact, in an article I read last week, persistent negative thinking actually can lead to dementia!
But Paul doesn’t just say, “Stop thinking negative things.” Instead, he gives us a list of positive things to replace them with. “Think positive” is better than “don’t think negative” …if we remove something from our thoughts, nature abhors a vacuum. Something will fill that void.
What we dwell on in our minds shapes us and is reflected in our external person. In other words, we will always act and do like what we think about.
Biblical transformation does not come until we enter that process of “renewing our minds.” Romans 12 tells us we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Recovery groups refer to our negative and wrong thinking as “stinkin thinkin.” This is the core of most addictions and substance abuse issues. We think ourselves into it. Nothing is more influential to human life than our thoughts. So, the Gospel goes after how we think. Gospel-transformed people think differently.
One person said, “we need to let the mind of the Master become the master of our mind.” What does that look like? Paul shows us here:
You may be thinking, “well, that’s all well and good. I’ve tried to think good thoughts. I’ve tried to stop thinking bad thoughts. But nothing changed.”
Ok, here’s the thing. Everything in these verses, first of all, is addressed to Christian people. That means not just religious people or people who go to church and try to be nice folks. Let me go back to a phrase I used a moment ago: Gospel-transformed people. You notice phrases in these verses: “whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
“Rejoice IN THE LORD…”. “guard your hearts and minds in CHRIST JESUS.” “The God of peace will be with you.”’
All of these benefits, all of these promises are available within a relationship with the Son of God Who is Jesus Christ. Apart from that relationship they won’t work.