In my blog post yesterday we saw the first aspect from Philippians chapter one as to how Paul had the church in his mind – how he thought about the church. When he thought about the church he did so with thanksgiving. Today let me share a second way that the Apostle thought about the church.
The Apostle Paul also chose to think of the church with joy. We see this in verse 4 in which he says that he was, “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” When Paul thought about the church at Philippi, he did so with joy. Please keep in mind that there is a big difference between joy and happiness. He doesn't think of the church with happiness. The truth is that the church doesn’t always make us feel happy.
In fact, if you're to follow through the story of Paul, especially in the later portions of Philippians chapter one, you will find out that some of his experience with the church and with “church people” did not produce much happiness in his life. There is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes based on our circumstances. Let me say it again - the church doesn't always make you happy. However, Paul says, when I think of the church, I do so with joy. Joy is an inner contentment in spite of outward circumstances. Even though all the experiences Paul had with believers were not wonderful, he still have an inner contentment when he thought about the church.
Let’s be honest - the truth of the matter is that the church is made up of humans and humans hurt people. Have you ever been hurt by a church? I bet that most every person that has ever attended church for any length of time has experienced hurt at the hands of the church. Why? Because churches are made up of humans – just like families are. Who hasn’t been hurt at some point by a family member? We all have! Why? Because families are made up of humans.
The greatest hurt I have ever experienced in my life was church related. It was a hurt that could have turned me off to the church forever. But as I went through that time of great hurt in my life, I remember praying a prayer every single day. My prayer was simple. I prayed, “God, when this is all over, no matter what it looks like and no matter where I'm at (and at that point I had no idea that I would end up in Gaylord, Michigan), please let me be more in love with the local church than ever before in my life.” And I can tell you that God answered that prayer. As a result, even though the greatest hurt I have ever experienced came at the hands of the church, I can honestly say that I am more in love with the church and more passionate about the local church today than ever before in my life. I can say what Paul says - I have the church in my mind and when I think about the church I choose to think of the church with joy.