The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:17–18)
There are three facets of the beautiful, supernatural diamond of Christian joy in those two verses. And I’m going to try to show you that this multifaceted joy is the power to free from cowardice, free from consumption, and free from comfort for the sake of Christ’s mission.
1. Joy in Being Poured Out
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad . . . (Philippians 2:17)
The first facet of the peculiar joy called Christian joy is joy in being poured out as an offering for faith. “I am glad. I am glad that I am being poured out. If I must be poured out, I’m glad. Glad. Glad, glad, glad to be poured out.”
What is Paul talking about? He’s talking about dying, and we know that because he uses that phrase “poured out” for himself one other time. Second Timothy 4:6: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” He’s dying. What he means in the beginning of Philippians 2:17 is: “I am glad if it costs my life to build your faith.”
So, the first facet of Christian joy is joy at the prospect of dying to bring other people to faith. How are you doing? This is clear. There is joy that I can die and not be safe.
2. Joy of Faith
I . . . rejoice with you all . . . (Philippians 2:17)
If he’s rejoicing with them, they’re already rejoicing in something. I have my joy in dying. You’re rejoicing. And I’m rejoicing with you. What are they rejoicing in?
He has just said, “I live and die for the sake of your faith,” and now they are rejoicing and he’s joining them in their joy. This must be faith and joy going together. Paul believes he’s going to have a season of ministry with them alive before he dies. He says,
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1:25)
Literally, the last phrase is: “joy of faith.” When Paul says, “I’m rejoicing with you and you’re already rejoicing, that’s because I have labored for your faith, and your faith is that faith in Philippians 1:25: the ‘joy of faith.’” You’re rejoicing in all that you have by faith in Jesus.
The second facet is the joy of faith that gets created by the mission of being poured out.
3. Joy Together
Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:18)
And what did Paul say he was already rejoicing in? His death for faith. He is telling them, “Look: it makes me glad if I must be poured out in death, to strengthen, create, preserve, advance, multiply your faith. Be glad with me in my death.”
To which we can easily imagine the Philippians saying, “Paul, it’s asking too much. May we not have a season of sorrow at your death? We love you.”
To which Paul would answer — I think — “Why do you think that what I have said means you may not have a season of sorrow?”
“Oh, well Paul, you said you are rejoicing to be poured out in death for our faith, and then you summoned us to rejoice with you, even in your death for us. That’s why.” And I think Paul, being the man that he is, would smile gently, and look at them and say, “Children, you have so much to learn about joy in Christ. Why would you think, Philippians, that sorrowing and rejoicing shouldn’t be simultaneous, in the same heart, at the same event?”
Ten verses later, in Philippians 2:27, after Epaphroditus almost died in serving Paul from the Philippians, Paul says,
Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Paul would have wept if Epaphroditus hadn’t gotten well. It’s right to weep when you lose a great apostle whom you love. It’s just not right to stop rejoicing, because Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:10, We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
And I know I’m talking to hundreds of you who probably, in your walk with Jesus, just haven’t quite gotten there yet. To you, it’s always sequential. There are seasons of sorrow and seasons of happiness, but this talk about sorrowful and always rejoicing through and in sorrow, you think that’s a contradiction. It’s not. Just give yourself time. That’s why I think Paul would have smiled gently and spoken of these facets to his children.
Those are the three facets of the diamond of joy. To recap, I’m going to rename them in the order that they happen in reality, not the order that they happened in the text.
- The joy of faith (verse 17, at the end).
- The joy of pouring out your life for the sake of the joy of faith (verse 17, at the beginning).
- The rejoicing with those who joyfully die for the sake of other people’s joy (verse 18).
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