Article: KEYS TO EXPERIENCE JOY IN OUR RELATIONSHIP | JACOB VARGHESE
Let us turn our attention to Philippians 1:3-8. This book is Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians who were living at Philippi. Paul wrote this book while he was in prison. Paul was in prison because of his teachings about Jesus Christ which conflicted with the popular teachings of the day. But understanding what Paul talks about his relationship to the Philippians, how he felt about them and loved them and desired to be with them, how he prayed for them and how he partnered with them in the gospel, I couldn’t help but to shout and say: “This is what the church is supposed to be. We often in our interactions, such as: ‘How are you today? Oh, just fine. God is so good. How are you? Okay fine. Yes, he is good. I’ll be praying for you. Oh, that’s fine. I’ll pray for you too. Wonderful. Have a nice day. You too.’”
That is not the feeling I get when I read Philippians. On the assumption that Paul is being sincere and not just chit chatting with the Christians in Philippi, this strikes me as a Christian. The introductory information to this passage comes from the book of Acts chapter 16, where Luke records Paul’s first trip to Philippi and the people Paul introduced to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. These people became the first members of the diverse congregation at Philippi Community Christian Church. The membership at Philippians church included the wealthy female merchant Lydia and her household, a Greek slave girl and the Roman jailer and his family. Not only was the membership diverse in ethnicity, but they were diverse in socio economic status. To these diverse believers Paul wrote this joy-filled letter.
As we examine this passage, we understand that Apostle Paul demonstrates four very simple, yet important ingredients to experience joy in any relationship. So, I have entitled this message as four keys to experience joy in our relationship. Let us look at them in the order they show up. I remember the story of an older lady who went to the pastor after a service and commented on what a beautiful service it was. As she was walking away, she told her family, “I couldn’t hear a word he said.” What kinds of relationships bring joy? Let us get real. Let us be transparent with each other. Don’t do false appreciation.
Phil 1:3-8 says “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
1.The Practice of Affirming People: Philippians 1:3-5 Paul tells the Philippians that he values them and they bring him joy. Paul counts them as partners in the important work of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. When Paul said that Philippians were partners in the gospel, he was pointing out their valuable contribution in spreading God’s message. They contributed through their practical help when Paul was in Philippi and through their financial support when he was in prison. If we want to experience joy in our relationships then we must begin by affirming the people that we are relating with. We cannot enjoy the relationship with people whom we criticize. This is not to say that we over look sin or we do not correct them if they are at fault. There is enough good in every one of us to be affirmed. We can only enjoy those whom we affirm and appreciate. Affirmation lubricates relationships. Affirmation often takes the form of verbally praising what another does or is worth. However, affirmation can take other forms also. When a parent takes time to play with his or her child, the parent is affirming that the child is important. When we are patient enough in teaching someone a new skill, we are affirming that he/she has the potential to learn the skill. Most of us know how to affirm people, especially people who are like us or people from whom we want something. Unfortunately, we often do not affirm those who are different from us or those who oppose us. Th good thing we need to do is to intentionally affirm anyone and everyone. The practice of affirming or appreciating people is the first thing we need to do for experiencing joy in any relationship.
Have a selective memory – Choose to remember the good of the people. We often remember the failures and disregard the good of the people when we should be overlooking the failures and remembering the good in people. We need to work together with such people and support each other in God’s work.
2. The correct placement of Confidence. Let us look at Philippians 1:6, here Paul is confident that the Philippians will remain faithful to God and that they will continue the ministry God began through Paul even while Paul is in jail. However, Paul’s confidence is not in the Philippians or in himself, but in the God who began the work. Where are we placing our confidence? Where or in whom we place our confidence determines how much joy we can have in our relationships, whether in church community or in the family or among friends. What often ruins relationships is the inappropriate placement of confidence. If we are placing our confidence or trust in our pastor or leaders to meet our needs, or to be caring all the time, we are going to be disappointed and even resentful. If we place our confidence in our friends to be there when we need them, we will fail. Likewise, if we place confidence in ourselves, we will eventually be disappointed or manipulate others to achieve our own goals. That is why psalmist in Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
We are not perfect, only God is. The God who began a good work in us continues it throughout our life time and will finish it when we meet Him face to face. God’s work for us began when Christ died on the cross on our behalf. His work in us began when we first believed. Now the Holy Spirit lives in us enabling us to be more like Christ every day. Do you sometimes feel as though you are not making progress in your spiritual life? When God starts a project, He completes it! As with the Philippians, God will help us grow in grace until He has completed His work in our life. When you are discouraged, remember that God will not give upon you. He promises to finish the work He has begun. When we feel incomplete, unfinished, or distressed by our shortcomings, remember God’s promise and His provision. Do not let our present condition rob us of the joy of knowing Christ or keep us from growing closer to Him. So, if we want to experience joy in our relationship, we need to place our confidence correctly in God alone.
3. The presence of community in our life: As per Philippians 1:7, when we have people in our heart, it does not matter whether they are in our presence. Paul was re-living the joyful relationship he shared with the Philippians in his heart even though he was many miles away in a prison cell. The presence of true community exists in the heart. If the relationship we have exist only in the presence of formal gatherings, we have a crowd not a community. The presence of community starts in the heart, whether or not the relationship is revealed in a gathering.
Scheduled programs and decorated facilities bring organization and appeal to the senses, but they can never produce joy in relationships; only the presence of community in the heart will produce joy in our relationships. The presence of community is a by-product of sharing our lives together with one another in positive experiences. So let us work hard to create a sense of a church community.
Fourth and final point
4.The principle of reciprocity: Reciprocity is doing to others what has been done to us. In Philippians 1:8 Paul is saying the same way Jesus loves, I love you Philippians. But we also need to understand More than Paul loving all the Philippians, Jesus loved all the Philippians. In this we need to understand one more thing that Paul loving all the Philippians because Jesus loved Paul. In other words, Paul was being honest in how he could love everybody in the Philippians church. If we say that loving people is easy, we have not tried to love everybody. Joyful human relationships are the method that God has ordained in order for the lost humanity to be restored to a right relationship with Him.
The way for us to have joy in our human relationships is to affirm others while correctly placing our confidence in God. This will enable us to have the presence of community in our hearts by reciprocating the love that we have received from Christ to other people. If we will do these things, we will find that our relationships are more joyful than ever before.