Most of us know how to live well when things are going our way. But how do we live in the face of problems or in the mundane of ordinary days? How do we live in the meantime?
The meantime is the space between a prayer to God and it’s answer on earth. The Apostle Paul wrote Philippians when he was in a meantime.
He wrote from prison but even though he was in a hard place, he refused to let to defeat him or derail his faith. Philippians known as Paul’s joy letter is packed with truth, wisdom and encouragement from a man who learned how to live well in every situation.
Joy might not always come easy but it’s something we can fight for as we stand in the faith remembering that whatever happens, God is with us, loves us and will forever be faithful. Paul was teaching about abundance in a world filled with hardships.
We too can thrive and find Joy as we embrace the practices of rejoicing in the face of anything and everything that comes our way.Read More
Good Morning! I’m Debbie Alsdorf and I attend Blue Oaks Church as well as being part of the pastoral care team here. I am excited that Matt invited me to join in on this Series in Philippians on being Happy.
And, like Matt has been teaching:
Happy is dependent on our circumstances
Joy is a condition… a fruit of the spirit
With Joy we begin to live in abundance rather than emptiness.
For many years I have been selecting a word for the year, to serve as a personal focus . I begin by praying about it in December and ask God to give me a word that will focus me on what God intends to do in my life in the coming months. And though I have chosen the word, the surprising thing is that God has taken part in the choosing ….as I look back I can see that it all worked together—my word, my life and my journey of growth for that year.
I have had words like, Love, Grow, Stewardship, Intentional….you get the idea. And, it’s funny that when you enter into the year with a WORD of focus, you begin to see it everywhere you go. It’s kind of like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden, a car you might not have noticed before, is all around you.
This year, 2019, my word is JOY.
These days the word JOY seems to be everywhere…
And, it’s not just me who would focus on Joy in 2019, a whole world of people would be learning to “spark joy” by tidying up their living areas. By now, you may have heard of Marie Kondo, a best selling author of the Art of Tidying Up. She has gone viral on the internet, has a new tv series, and is taking the world by storm in an effort to help people spark joy in their life by using her KonMari method of organization.
Her Netflix show is a huge hit, and people everywhere are asking the question “ Does this spark joy in me?” And if something doesn’t spark joy….well they are tossing it!
Take a look at one of her followers:
While I’m certain that I will be learning some joy techniques this year in de-cluttering my life…. I think God had so much more in mind then me controlling my things or environment in the choosing of that word.
I practically arm wrestled with God over this word. I fought it because I knew it would be hard.
You see I knew what was coming up…and frankly, I could barely let myself think of what the future would be. For a couple months leading up to their move to Arizona, my son Justin and his wife Janae and their sweet family lived with us,
Picture on screen of family
They put their things in storage while they figured out the details of the move.
Our home was filled with lots of joy. Each day I was greeted by my 5 year old granddaughter and my one year old grandson. Hearing the sweetness of the words, grammy and papa, several times a day, melted my heart and let me know that though having that time with them was sweet, the parting of everything I knew with them was coming soon and would be hard, very hard.
I have been caring for my granddaughter for the 5 years of her life. We share a birthday, share a love for silliness and dance parties…and quite frankly, that girl has brought me so much joy.
(PICTURE ON SCREEN OF JESSA)
So I treasured each day, took it all in….and fought the idea that I would focus on joy once they left. Truth is, if I even thought about them leaving for too long, I would be wiping away tears…some moments I felt I could barely breathe.
Joy? Right! And, being I knew she was going to be gone…why would God give me JOY as my word? Nope, wasn’t going to choose it…and I continued to fight it wanting to feel sorry for myself with changes about to take place.
After all , it was just a year ago when our youngest son and family moved to Nashville. And months later when our youngest daughter and family moved to the Sacramento area. Out of our 9 grandchildren, 6 of them moved away in a year. I already knew the missing and pain
Picture of Grandkids
….Joy? Really God? Joy?
For the past 5 years, my weekday life has revolved around Grammy days. Being Grammy with kids in my weekly life, had become part of my new identity in this season. Now, My life was changing, and my “job” of caring for grandkids was changing…. and I don’t like change.
So, Joy seemed like a ridiculous and trite word to me. There was no joy in these changes. None.
But as much as I wrestled with the choice, the more my heart knew that God wanted to teach me something that could profoundly change my life….if I would let it.
I would have to fight for joy, contend for joy and stand guard over my heart to live in joy.
And though I have a sanguine, upbeat personality….often my inner disposition can be more on the Eyore side of life. Dread, fear of change, fear of disapproval, etc…..has robbed me time and time again and I have lived days and months with no joy….just negative spiraling.
Obviously this HAPPY series was perfectly timed for me and has been good. There are no easy steps, because
We choose joy, fight for joy, in the hard places of life…
· while in the middle of a problem to be solved,
· an illness to be healed of,
· a broken heart that is grieving
· or a change with an unknown future.
***A plaque I recently saw
it does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, disappointment or hard work,
it means to be in the midst of those things and still
be calm, have gladness and peace, in your heart
So…it’s about what is happening inside more than what is happening outside
From a friend:
Someone sent me an article that said the way to spark joy and maintain inner peace is to finish things you’ve started. It is definitely working for me. I am now making it a point of always finishing what I start, and I think I am well on my way toward sparking joy and finding inner peace. Because I care for you, I am passing this wisdom on…
Here are the things that I have finished today:
ñ Two bags of potato chips,
ñ A strawberry cheesecake
ñ a package of Oreos
ñ A small box of chocolates
I think this really works because I’m feeling better already!
Obviously Joy is much deeper than a box of chocolates.
Paul speaks of many things in Philippians, but a few things really stand out for me when it comes to reclaiming joy in my life.
First …he assured them that God would finish what he started in their lives.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Then using his own life as an example, he exudes confidence in God working in his own life as well.
“I will continue to rejoice for….What has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.’”
He refused to let circumstances defeat, derail or define him…
Because God is at work, and God works for the good and best in our lives…he goes on
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
“Meanwhile live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ.”
Philippians 1:27 (MSG)
Websters defines Meanwhile as…The Meantime, the space in between things.
Paul was teaching them how to live in the meantime….
The meantime is the place in the middle.
· The space between….A problem recognized and a solution realized
· The dash between point A and point B
· The days between a prayer and God’s answer
We all live in the meantime…So it’s important to pay attention to what Paul was teaching. What was it that made Paul have a “ Whatever!” attitude? He was encouraging us to have a “ Whatever Happens” Attitude as well. So that nothing could defeat or derail us.
Last week Matt spoke of ways to be unhappy, while encouraging us that Joy is a learned skill, one that we must take responsibility for. Your spouse can’t create your joy, neither can you children, your employer or your best friends….Joy, is something that we learn to live in by practicing it.
And, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Phillipi about the reasons they could rejoice, or live in Joy. Infact. Philippians, is often called Paul’s joy letter, or the joy epistle. And, though he wrote this letter from prison, the words JOY or REJOICE were used as his theme14 times.
Joy or the ability to rejoice in the midst of the hard places is much about our view of life, our attitude or the truths we believe. We must train our hearts and minds to process life circumstances through the reality of God’s love for us. This view changes our attitude and our mindset can go from despair or emptiness to hope and abundance.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
The letter that Paul wrote to his friends, the church in Phillipi is much about attitude. But, He didn’t just tell them to have joy or have a new attitude, he explained to them, through his teachings, why a different attitude was possible. Through his own life he showed them how they could….and why they could rejoice in everything.
Basically, Paul pointed them to a place of believing God was working in their lives in everything and through everything. Pointing to the fact that God was faithful.
Phillipians is my favorite book of the Bible.
Philippians is called Paul’s Joy Letter…and Philippians is all about choices.
· Joy in the place I am in
· Joy with the people I’m with
· Joy and the person I am
· Joy and the peace of God
I have read it many times over, processed it, prayed through it, and even wrote a book about it to encourage women ….
(Picture, A Woman Who Trusts God)
The book, written under the working title of , Living in the Meantime, points out that it’s easy to trust God when things are good and there are no problems and all our prayers are answered….
But, usually things aren’t that perfect or smooth…so in the Meantime….we must learn how to trust, how to yield to God’s work in us and how to REJOICE or, live in JOY.
Some years back I was having coffee with a friend, we laughed, caught up and had a great time….as we parted we hugged and she said to me with tears in her eyes… “ In the end I am going to be fine, but in the meantime, I will do radiation, chemo and go wig shopping.”
She had cancer. She had faith she would beat it, BUT, in the meantime, it would be hard as she daily walked through the process of the hard steps to get her from diagnosis to the end of her treatments.
The meantime is part of life. Whether it be getting through the day or getting through the next few months or years, The meantime is all around us.
It’s not a question of IF but a question of how will we live when life presents a problem, a disappointment, devastation , loss or a daily annoyance. How will we live in that space between a prayer to God and the answer on earth?
Paul spoke about the meantime. He knew much about being in desperate and hard situations and still being able to find abundance of joy there. I guess that is why I have been so drawn to Philippians. Paul was not only a great teacher of God’s truth but he was a wise life coach…..pointing people in the right direction.
Themes in Paul’s teaching ( Read Philippians)
ñ Others Focused
ñ God is always at Work in Human Lives
ñ What happens is going to bring me to more freedom and deliverance
ñ To live is Christ
ñ Whatever Happens, In the Meantime, I am to Live in Position.
We will be looking at Living in the Meantime…..
That said, let’s just walk through his key points, the foundation he was laying in his letter to Phillipi.
He begins by showing he lived in gratitude:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with Joy.
He spends time assuring them of God being at work in their lives.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
This is the same Paul that wrote to the church in Rome:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Romans 8:31-32, 35:37
Paul was convinced that nothing could separate him from God’s love.
Through trials, like being shipwrecked and persecuted, and even writing from prison to the Philippians, Paul worked on the one thing he had control over…the attitude he would take based on what he believed.
He knew about the meantime. He wrote Philippians while in the meantime, He was in prison, and was waiting to be released…he had enemeys, hardship and undoubtedly loneliness….but in the meantime… he kept living, kept serving, kept encouraging
I guess you could say he refused to live under his circumstances in the meantime, but instead lived upon the promises of God’s love and involvement in human lives,
Many things are out of our control. But we choose:
- The attitude we carry with us (mindset)
- The direction we take in each situation (choices)
- What we believe about God’s love for us, even when life is hard (faith)
- Where we put our hope and trust in each circumstance. (Joy in the Lord)
So throwing out a few questions for you:
ñ Does the meantime rob you of joy?
ñ Does a problem steal your peace and dilute your faith?
ñ Does the meantime distract your focus?
ñ Does a problem you can’t control open the door for chaos and worry?
When faced with a problem we have a few choices.
ñ Will I trust God while waiting for answers
ñ Or will I freak out and temporarily forget how big God is, how is at work in my life and how much he loves me?
Read page 19 from Woman who trusts God ( highlighted areas)
The first thing I began to learn is this:
Problems are Inevitable: Living Overwhelmed is Optional
Discouragement is Easy: Joy is sometimes hard and must be fought for
Joy: the emotion evoked by well being or delight. A state of happiness
The opposite of Joy is, Misery, Sadness and unhappiness
In this journey of life….
ñ Will I remember God is with me?
ñ Will I be thankful that my life is set apart for his purposes and that God is always at work in me?
ñ Will I cultivate a positive attitude that finds its foundation in the truth of God’s love for me?
ñ Will I learn to live for a bigger purpose, looking for a better ending to my story?
When I have a word for the year, I find a verse to hold on to as well…..here is mine.
He will fill me with joy In His Presence
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Psalm 16:11
more on In his Presence…..
As a Reminder to help Spark Joy in us:
All things were created by him and for him
And in him all things hold together
“All the days ordained for me were written in his book before one of them came to be.’ Psalm 139:16
“he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
- He has gone before us
- He holds us together
- He leads us into His purposes for us
It is vitally important to REMEMBER….
If we forget, we will lose heart, because life can be hard
If we don’t learn to stand in the spirit, we will fall in our flesh:
- living in fear,
- lack of love
- and constant stress and confusion.
Inside change begins in the mind.
Life is about choices.
Choices start in the mind.
A thought is just a thought—it’s not necessarily truth or accurate
Some of our thinking has left God out of the equation…even how we view ourselves….
Listen to me…….
You who I have upheld since you were conceived and carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you
I have made you and I wil carry you
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Life is complicated. If we forget who we are and worse whose we are….We will live in fear, anxiety, insecurity and doubt.
So in the remainder of time I want to give you
5 ways you can live a life of joy in the meantime
1. Start each day in fresh surrender
2. Pay attention to your attitude
3. Believe that God is at work in you
4. Let go of the past and press on to the future
5. Learn to live in daily gratitude.
Standing on the Promises In the Meantime
- God will continue working in me, he will complete his work in me.
- What is happening to me will turn out for more freedom of self and deliverance.
- The sacred journey of life involves believing on him, and suffering for him.
- God is working in me to “will” and to “do” of his good purpose for my life.
- Rejoicing is a safegaurd for my mind
- My righteousness is not from me, but comes from God through faith in Him.
- God has the power to bring everything under his control.
- The Lord is near.
- There is a peace that can fill my heart and mind, it comes from the Lord God.
- Because of His strength within me, I can do all things he calls me to do.
- My God supplies all that I need according to His riches.