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The Joy and Freedom of Serving [Part 2]

Alan Wright Ministries / Alan Wright
The Truth Network Radio
June 18, 2020 6:00 am

The Joy and Freedom of Serving [Part 2]

Alan Wright Ministries / Alan Wright

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June 18, 2020 6:00 am

Problems – you aren’t called to promote them; it doesn’t help to pretend they aren’t there; and you can’t prevent them. Instead, you praise God in the midst of them.

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Pastor, author, and Bible teacher, Alan Wright.

When you can finally get to that place, beloved, where you can forget about yourself, at least for a little while, there is joy in that place. That's Pastor Alan Wright. Welcome to another message of good news that will help you see your life in a whole new light. I'm Daniel Britt, excited for you to hear the teaching today in the series, Unspeakable Joy, as presented at Reynolda Church in North Carolina. If you're not able to stay with us throughout the entire program, I want to make sure you know how to get our special resource right now. It can be yours for your donation this month to Alan Wright Ministries. As you listen to today's message, go deeper as we send you today's special offer. Contact us at pastoralan.org or call 877-544-4860.

That's 877-544-4860. More on that later in the program. But now, let's get started with today's teaching. Here is Alan Wright. He's my spiritual son. You hear a very human voice in Paul saying, if I send you Timothy, I'll be here all alone. I'll be lonely without Timothy. This is Paul. He is known by historians as being one of the most influential men in the history of the world. He is known throughout the Christian church as the leader, the apostle that has announced the gospel to the Gentiles and has taught the people how they have come to faith, saving faith through grace alone.

He is the great Paul and he's saying to the Philippian church with tremendous transparency, beloved church, I just need to be honest with you. I can't send Timothy to you right now. I love him too much. I need him too much. I need this friend here.

This is Paul talking about his problems. I'm in prison. I don't know what the outcome is going to be. I trust that I'm going to be let loose. I trust I'm going to be set free. I'm believing in faith that I'm going to be, but I can't say for certain that I am. Even if I die, I want you to continue to rejoice.

This is what's really going on with me. And let me also just say, I wish I could send Timothy, but I just can't right now. We've got to find out what's going on with me and I need Timothy. He's my friend. Could Paul famous as he is be lonely?

Absolutely. He's in prison. And then he turns his attention to Epaphroditus. We don't know anything about Epaphroditus except what we learned in Philippians. And he's essentially saying, I want to send Epaphroditus back to you.

He's a fellow worker, a fellow soldier. And he says, indeed, verse 27, he was ill near to death, but God had mercy on him. And he says, receive him in the Lord with all joy and honor such men. And why is Paul spending so much time talking about this unknown messenger, Epaphroditus? Epaphroditus was the one that the Philippians sent to bring a monetary gift to help support Paul, to send their encouragement. They sent Epaphroditus to come, we think he's in Rome, a long trip to Rome to visit Paul, to see Paul, help support Paul and encourage Paul and pray for Paul. The Philippians sent him.

But shortly after he arrived, he became very sick and he became sick unto death. And so the man that had been sent to come take care of Paul is now having to receive the ministry of the incarcerated Paul and perhaps occupy some of Timothy's time. In other words, what Paul is being sensitive to here is the very likely possibility that when Epaphroditus returns back to the Philippian church, that instead of being received with honor, he would be received with shame, that they would say, we sent you to go be a blessing, but instead you were a burden.

And Paul is saying, I want you to understand something. Epaphroditus, yes, you got worried that he was sick and he is sick. And I don't want you worrying about that because God had mercy on him and he healed him.

But I want you to understand is that Epaphroditus was a blessing to me. He was a blessing to me. And I want you to receive him back with joy. I'm going to send him back.

He's well enough now. I'm going to send him back with joy, receive him with honor, receive him with rejoicing. And whatever you do, you just make sure that there's no spirit in the church that's saying, oh, Epaphroditus, you became a burden.

But no, I want you to know he was a blessing to me. So Paul's concern here is for Epaphroditus for the Philippian Church's reception of him. And in general, Paul is just concerned for the wellbeing of the church. He wishes he could send Timothy, but he can't. So he's having to write to them because he wants this church that he loves so much to continue to thrive.

And he's a little concerned about how they might receive Epaphroditus. Paul in prison, Paul lonely, Paul concerned for the church. This is a text where there's no great and grand proclamation of the riches of the gospel. There's nothing like you see in Galatians where he's attacking a major heresy so they can elucidate the purity of the gospel. This is not a section of Philippians where he's teaching us something deep about the spiritual principles of joy.

This is a little autobiographical section in which basically this is the man of God talking about his problems. And notice that he doesn't in any way try to deny the fact that he has problems. He doesn't use his imprisonment to pull on the heartstrings of the Philippian Church and say, look at all that I'm going through. He doesn't use his predicament as an opportunity to promote his problems in order for people to feel sorry for him. He doesn't use this predicament to promote his problems or to promote himself. And he certainly doesn't say, look at how spiritual I am suffering for the Lord. And he doesn't fall into the second era of trying to pretend like everything's fine. He doesn't pretend like, oh, I don't need Timothy.

I'm just sufficient in the Lord. He doesn't say that. He doesn't act like he has no concern about the wellbeing of the church or his own wellbeing.

He's laying it out. So he doesn't promote his problems. He doesn't pretend he doesn't have the problem. And he doesn't act like that somehow his rejoicing is going to guarantee a magical solution to his problems. He's very honest about this, isn't he? Beloved, the way in which we are to talk about our problems in relationship to our praise is never to simply morbidly turn it back into talking, talking, talking about our problems.

So we just labor it and promote it. It's not to act like we just pretend like they're not there, nor is it to have this magical sense that somehow we can prevent it all from happening. But instead, what is Paul saying? Paul is saying he has tremendous confidence and trust in the Lord. He trusts that God is going to set him free. But he's saying essentially, if God doesn't set me free, I'm still going to praise him.

I want you to rejoice with me. He's essentially saying that no matter what happens here, there is a praise and there's a cause for joy. He reminds me so much of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. You remember those Hebrews who are in Babylon who are being forced to try to bow down to an idol of Nebuchadnezzars and they refuse.

And so they're going to throw them to their execution in the fiery furnace. And as they're getting ready to be thrown into the fiery furnace, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, they say what you can just tell, they tell the people, they say, listen, our God can save us, our God will deliver us, but even if he doesn't, we're not going to bow down to your idol. Our God can, our God will, but even if he doesn't, I'm going to praise him still. This is the Christian response to our problems, is that I trust God is going to carry me through these problems, but I have something greater that's going on here than that. I have something that is taking place in my heart of a confidence through the gospel that in many, many ways is a whole separate category and a different way of dealing with problems.

I recommend to you a little book, you could get it online, called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. And it's a very, very helpful little writing of his, as is almost everything that he writes, just gives you opportunity to see how rich the gospel is because of the finished work of Jesus. And this particular little book, Keller says that, and I think this is very parallel to what we're talking about today is why I illustrate this for you, that in a previous generation, that Western culture would have said that the problem with people is they have too much pride, that they think too highly of themselves. So the solution is we need to tell people through the gospel really how sinful they are, how bad they are, and they'll change in order to try to improve. But as Keller points out, in more recent times, the modern era in the Western culture, that the thinking has shifted, that the problem is not so much that people think too much of themselves, but that people think too little of themselves. Thus, the self-esteem movement began in which we began to realize that we need to tell people how wonderful they are. And this then is the problem, we think, is that because people think too little of themselves, if we can tell them how wonderful they are and they'll think more of themselves, then they'll be able to change. But there's a distinction between the self-esteem movement and what the gospel really says. And if you've ever heard me preach, you know that at some point I'm going to try to convince you that accepting ourselves in Christ is one of the greatest solutions to the fears, worries, and sin of our lives, because so much of the time we're rejecting the self that God has made. And you'll also hear me say over and over that we have to come into agreement with what God says about us if we're ever going to live out the destiny that God has given to us. And so I tend to believe more towards the latter that the problem is that people think too little of themselves, but here really is the distinction of the gospel from self-esteem movement. And that is that in the self-esteem movement we're trying to just tell people that they're wonderful, but the gospel does something far different than that. The gospel says Jesus is wonderful, He died for you, and your identity is now found in Jesus.

And it's very different. That's Alan Wright, and we'll have more teaching in a moment from today's important series. Have you ever thought that joy is a delight reserved for those who have no problems? Or have you ever assumed that some people are just born with a joyful personality?

If so, get ready for some good news. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit available to all in Christ no matter the circumstances of life. Though Paul was in jail when he wrote his epistle to the Philippians, he spoke of joy 16 times. No matter what you're going through, you too can discover the secret to unspeakable joy as Pastor Alan Wright leads you through a life-building exploration of Philippians. When you make a gift to Sharing the Light Ministries today, we'll send you the new CD album, The Secret of Unspeakable Joy, as our way of saying thank you for your partnership. Your gifts are the only way we are able to continue broadcasting the message of grace all over the nation. Happiness may rise and fall with happenstance, but joy is ever-present in the Spirit.

So become a partner today and discover joy like never before. We are happy to send this to you as our thanks from Alan Wright Ministries. Call us at 877-544-4860.

That's 877-544-4860. Or come to our website, PastorAlan.org. Today's teaching now continues. Here once again is Alan Wright. In this little book, Keller refers to another passage of Paul's. You need not turn there with me, but let me quickly mention a few verses from 1 Corinthians 3. This is Paul writing, gives you real insight into his heart. So that no one boast in men, for all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death, the present or the future, all are yours and you're Christ's and Christ is God's. This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Moreover, it's required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me, it's a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, Paul says, I do not even judge myself for I'm not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It's the Lord who judges me.

What's Paul saying there? He is saying essentially, it doesn't really matter to me what you think of me, but it also doesn't really matter to me what I think of me. What matters is what God thinks of me because he's the judge. And what he's saying further is that the judge has already announced the verdict in Christ. You see, God is the judge.

He's your judge. When you accept Christ, the gavels come down and it's already been declared who you are and that is not guilty. And furthermore, when the gavel came down to declare who you are and announce who you are and not only was an announcement, you've been found not guilty in Christ, but it's also an announcement that you've been given the righteousness of Christ. So announced you're righteous and merit the rewards of heaven in Christ. And so once this gospel goes deeply and richly into your heart and you realize God's my judge and the judgment has come in Christ and I have been forgiven in Christ. I've been set free in Christ and I have been announced as the righteousness of Christ unto God seen now as a co-heir with Christ, this changes everything. This is the only way you could ever come to that place like Paul is saying in the end it doesn't really matter what you think of me and it doesn't really matter what I think of myself. That's not really what's going to change things in my heart.

What's changing me is the awareness of what God has said about me and what God has done. So Keller says this, Paul is saying something astounding. I don't care what you think.

I don't care what I think. He's bringing us into new territory we know nothing about. His ego is not puffed up.

It's filled up. He's talking about humility and Keller goes on to say although I hate using the word humility because it's nothing like our idea of humility. Paul is saying that he's reached a place where his ego draws no more attention to itself than any other part of his body. He's reached the place where he's not thinking about himself anymore. When he does something wrong or does something good he doesn't connect it to himself.

I don't know if it was Keller or C.S. Lewis who first said this that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. The last couple weeks I've kind of tinged my back so every now and then I do this and so I've been having to be more attentive, do my back stretches, back exercises and just a little bit more attentive about making sure that I'm taking care of it. So the last couple weeks I'm thinking about my back but if my back's okay I don't think about my back, right? The only time you think about your big toe is if you've stubbed it or something, you know.

In other words if there's nothing wrong with with some part of your body you don't have to think about it. You don't think about it. You're not supposed to be thinking about it. When you're doing something with your hand you're not supposed to be thinking about your hand. It's just happening, right? Just happening. I was sitting down playing the piano last night just worshiping and uh and I was just playing a few songs that I love and I was just like and and I don't know just all of a sudden I was just like I thought to me boy I'm playing this song this song I was gonna play this well and then I started thinking about it and I looked down at my hands and I looked at the notes and I was like I couldn't play anything.

When you're thinking about something it paralyzes you, doesn't it? What Paul was saying to the Corinthians is echoed here what he's saying to the Philippians. He's saying it's not that I don't have problems it's just that God has done so much for me that he has transformed me that my soul is so filled up with God that the problems do not dominate me they do not preoccupy me I can talk to you about my problems but my problems are there in their place. You see God has already announced the verdict Paul is saying and therefore I'm free to talk to you about my problems but I'm also free to talk to you about my successes and so what this means is that if things get really rough then I can be honest about that and it might be tough going through it but it doesn't define me and if I've got all kind of success and all kind of accolade and I'm on the mountaintop that might be nice but that doesn't define me either. In other words wouldn't it be nice to be able to be able to be open about your problems so people can pray with you and you can walk through them without having to be preoccupied with them and wouldn't it be nice to to be self-forgetful enough that you don't really need other people to praise you all the time because your ego is filled up your inmost being is satisfied in the Lord it's something big it's something deep it's something richer the fact is Paul's saying I'm in prison the fact is I'd be lonely without Timothy the fact is I'm a little bit worried about you guys and and I wish I want to send Epaphroditus on I have real problems but I don't have to promote them I don't have to wallow in them I don't have to try to announce that I don't have them and deny them and I sure am not going to act like that somehow I can magically prevent all this because I'm praising him because of something else it doesn't have anything to do with whether I have problems or don't have problems the fact that I've got problems isn't defining me it doesn't mean because I've got problems that I'm less spiritual and that I have left faith come on you're talking about Paul he understands he's been caught up in a vision of God and spoken directly with Jesus Christ this is Paul who God has used for miracle after miracle after miracle he is content and and his relationship with Jesus it's because he's got problems and because he hadn't been set free from prison and because Epaphroditus wound up sick and because he can't send away Timothy it doesn't damage his faith come on this is Paul he's saying I've got the verdict than Jesus Christ I've been filled with the Holy Spirit yeah I've got some problems but those problems don't define me and on the other hand he's not saying look how spiritual I am because I am suffering he doesn't draw attention to it at all in that sense he's not saying well look I'm just like Jesus I'm here suffering look at me poor me pull on the heart swing send more money take better care of me send more people help me out here he's not drawing attention to himself why are you not drawing attention to himself because he doesn't need to draw attention to himself because the verdict is in he's been found not guilty he's been found to be the righteousness of Jesus Christ so he's he's like he's like yeah we got all got problems but in the midst of them the reason we praise God is because there's something transcendent that has taken place and when you can finally get to that place beloved where you can forget about yourself at least for a little while there is joy in that place my daughter just got back with her senior hires from mission trip and they went uh to a gathering of about a million young people at the mall in watching dc they went on to Baltimore had some uh and uh time there a fellowship and worship they went on to New York City and they're there they were in the Bronx and they would go out each day and they would pray for people on the street and just ask them could I pray for you and uh abby came back she said that she got down and she was um handing out new testaments and asking people she could pray for him and she said it happened to be a guy over here on the street who was trying to sell bottles of water and this guy got madder because she was competing with the attention of the people going by and abby said to him said well do you do you uh would you like me to pray for you and he's no and the lady said would you like a new touch no and so this went on so she's out there and she's praying with people and uh um and and and he's trying to sell water and uh she's like finally said he's not selling any water so finally he just huffed down the sidewalk and went down picked up a new testament came back started reading it you know she's telling me these stories she said one of the girls are walking up walked up to a stranger on the street a lady walking through the Bronx and just walking down the sidewalk walked up next to the lady said ma'am ma'am could i pray for you and said the lady said dang it god you found me i've been trying to run from god i just oh you found me all right go ahead and pray with me he's already been all over me i know i need to recommit my life to lord go ahead when you come back from a mission trip like that you come back and you've been doing stuff that you you you couldn't even dream of doing that on vacation what are you gonna do go out and meet strangers and pray for them in the middle of the hot sidewalk in new york city and why you come back joyful from that because you're not thinking about yourself you are designed beloved not to have all your attention on yourself you're designed to be satisfied in jesus so that no matter what you're walking through you can be honest about it you can receive prayer you can also praise god in the midst of it because the fact of the matter is that god is with you no matter what and if he is you can praise him all the time and that's the gospel alan wright and today's teaching we're wrapping up this particular message on the joy and freedom of serving but we still have lots more to cover in unspeakable joy and more even on this program in just a few moments where alan is back to have additional insight in our final word for today in your life stay with us cs lewis said no soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it in other words joy isn't an elusive dream reserved for a select few who have no problems or for those who were born with a joyful disposition actually joy is a fruit of the spirit available to all in christ no matter what you're facing you can have the joy of the lord in the midst of it the apostle paul did though he wrote his epistle to the philippians while imprisoned he spoke of joy 16 times alan wright's newest cd album the secret of unspeakable joy takes you chapter by chapter through paul's explanation of the secret of joy in philippians when you make a gift today to sharing the light we'll be delighted to send you the new cd album as our way of saying thanks for your partnership become a partner today and discover the secrets of unspeakable joy we are happy to send this to you as our thanks from Alan Wright Ministries call us at 877-544-4860 that's 877-544-4860 or come to our website pastor alan.org alan what is our takeaway on this as we're in the middle of this unspeakable joy series as we're wrapping up this the joy and freedom of serving christ well think of paul and how the path to joy for him was the opposite of self-absorption he's not thinking of what do others think of me he's not thinking uh here's what i think of myself instead what's happened with paul is he's gone to a new and deeper place of grace than what most people experience and i think this is what god wants for for all of us um yeah uh you may have some real times in your life where you go through difficult things like paul has but there's a freedom of self-forgetfulness that comes in the life of serving that is real real joy to us um what a beautiful picture we have of it and paul the grace of god brings joy even in the midst of suffering get a daily email devotional that matches today's teaching delivered right to your email inbox free find out more about these and other resources at pastor alan.org that's pastor alan.org today's good news message is a listener-supported production of Alan Wright Ministries
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-26 09:21:42 / 2023-11-26 09:32:15 / 11

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