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The Mentality [Philippians 1-2]

A couple of weeks ago, before my family moved to Grand Rapids - I had started working at this church, but I was still commuting about 2 hours from our old house to this area for meeting and such. And every Tuesday the pastors of the Zero Collective get together in the morning to work together on the messages. I know I’ve told this story to some of you already - but because I was commuting so much before we moved - I decided to load up the car with just a ton of boxes. And I was putting them in a storage unit just a little bit from our new house. You know - take the car seats out, stuff the back seats to the brim and drive over. So a couple weeks back, on a Tuesday - I need to be in Grand Rapids for a meeting at 8am. And I learned that I can get there if I leave my house by roughly 5:30 in the morning. It’s early, but I’ve got little kids - so we’re up that early anyways. So it’s 5:30 in the morning, and I’m driving across the state - and it was gross. It was cold and dark and raining. Now I don’t know if you guys drive across the state very often - but coming across from the Midland area, there are so many rural back roads. If you’re not on the main highways, it’s just 55 mph rural roads. And on these roads, there are these ditches off the side, there’s no shoulder. And I was driving and it was in the dark and it was cold. And I clipped, there was like a rusty muffler on the side of the road, and I clipped it - I saw it, and I jerked the wheel, but not fast enough and my back tire smacked it and I got a flat tire. And so now it’s 6am, I’m still pretty tired - I’m on the side of the road, and it’s farm lands in every direction. And I’m pulled onto the shoulder, but there’s no room - so I’m still halfway out into the road. Now, one of the crazy things is that we happen to own a set of winter tires and a set of all season tires. And we have them on rims, so I can actually change them. Like, in my garage, I have a set of all season tires - and it just so happened that that day I was transporting our four all season tires in my van to the storage unit. And I think to myself - wow this is perfect. I have a tire I can put on this. Bummer to lose a winter tire, but I can do this. So I get the tire out of the car, and I start to change it - you know, I put the jack under and I’m cranking it and it’s raining and it’s cold, and I’m in the mud and cars are driving by and I’m getting splashed and wet. ANd I start to change the tire, and as I start to crank it - I realize the car is not going up. And i look, and you know how those cranks go - they look like this (put your hands in a diamond form), but it was getting like this (put your hands in a vertical diamond form). And the car is not going up, the crank is sinking down into the mud. And I’m not very much a handy guy. I wish I was, I want to be - but that doesn’t come naturally to me. And I’m stuck, and I’m thinking to myself - I’m doing the think I’m supposed to be doing and it’s not working. ANd I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. And I’m late for my meeting. And I’m in the middle of nowhere. And it’s still dark, and so I just had this panic moment. This moment where I’m looking at the problem in front of me and I didn’t have an answer. I had this realization “I lack” - I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this. I can’t fix this problem. And so in that moment, I did what I have trained myself to do in those situations. Because they come up a lot in life. I reached out for Jesus. I just cried out to Jesus. And I’m in the rain, covered in MUD, cars splashing me and I just said, “I have to give it to you God, because I can’t do this myself. I can’t do it on my own.” It was very dramatic, I was in a mood, you know - and so it’s like I’m crying out in the rain and the rain is falling on me and I’m just kind of yelling at God. There’s no one around, and so I cried out to God. And so I prayed. And then I cooled off, and I said, “Okay, how can we solve this.” And I go and I lower the crank, get it out of the mud - and then I go and get the floor pad, from the passenger seat and I stick it underneath the crank to kind of keep the crank from sinking into the mud. And that kind of worked, but it was still starting to sink - and so it’s like, ‘crank, crank, crank - get the tire on as fast as you can before it sinks. It was crazy. It kind of worked, I got the tire all tightened up - good to go. And then I pull into my meeting where the pastors meet. I walk into the meeting and I’m half an hour late, I smell like mud and cow poop. My coat is ruined and I come in and I’m just like grinning. I was so elated. I was so weirdly happy, and part of that is just my personality - I’m just an upbeat guy, but the other part of it is the fact that even when I’m having a terrible morning and everything seems to be going against me and it’s just this insane series of events and I can’t believe it - I had this moment where I was just like, “praise God that this happened on a day when I just happened to be transporting those tires. Because if I didn’t have that tire - we didn’t have a spare tire, so I would have been completely out of luck. But God did give me a way out, and even if he didn’t and I didn’t make it to my meeting - whatever! Because even when I am muddy and exhausted and late I knew I was still loved by God. And that was all I really needed to be content and satisfied with life. God still loves me even when I’m muddy and messy and late.

Today we are starting a brand new series called Finding Joy. This is just a little mini series, three parts and we’re going to be reading through a little letter in the New Testament called “Philippians.” Now Philippians, if you’ve never read it before - you’re in for a treat - it’s all about how to find joy. But not just temporary joy, not fleeting happiness that comes and goes - no, what Philippians teaches us is how to find joy that is bulletproof. Joy that endures even when you’re going through a hard time. Unending Joy, unbreakable joy. So let’s dive in. 

If you want to open your bibles, or get out your phone and use a bible app - we’re going to be in Philippians, which is the New Testament (the back half of the book) and I’m going to be floating around chapters 1 and 2. As I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks, we want to be a BYOB church - bring your own bible church. I see some of you brought your bibles, and I love that - I want to encourage you. If you bring it, I promise we will open it. So we start out in chapter one verse one. [read v.1-3]. So to start out, we need to remember that this is a letter written from a guy named Paul to a church in the town of Philippi. The bible is not actually very creative with their names. “Philippians” is a letter written to the Christians in the town of Philippi, how did they come up with that. But that framework matters a lot. You see what would happen is Paul was a church planter. He would go from town to town, he’d come into town - start telling people about Jesus. And people would start to believe. And pretty soon, he’d have a group of people who would meet together to worship Jesus. And once he had a little house church up and running, he would move to the next town. BUT as soon as he would leave town, the church would start to bicker. I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes there was drama in the church. And so for Paul - when he would hear about what the church was going through, he would write letters to the church, to help them, to guide them. And so Paul is writing this letter to encourage them and help them find joy.

And one of my favorite things about reading these letters is how much Paul loves these churches - it just comes through so clearly, listen to this, [read v.4-7]. Wait, what did he say? Did you hear it? I love you guys so much, happiness and joy and sparkles and oh also I’m in jail. One of the greatest things about the book of Philippians - a book on how to find joy, is that Paul wrote it, WHILE HE WAS IN JAIL. Verse 13, [read v.13]. Paul is so full of joy and love and yet he is literally writing this letter while chained to the wall. Do you see why I wanted to read this letter? I don’t want to get up here and do a series on how to be regular old happy. You guys already know how to buy a Reese peanut butter cup, okay? But happiness comes and goes! The peanut butter cups run out! No - I want, I want what Paul has. Joy that bubbles up and overflows even when life is hard. In the next few weeks, Paul is going to walk us through how to find unbreakable joy. 

Now for Paul, the first step is the mentality. We have to get our mindset right on this journey of finding joy. And his main point in chapter 1 sort of goes like this - “When the focus of your life is completely on Jesus, the rest falls away.” If Jesus is your everything, then you don’t have to worry about anything. Watch this. Chapter 1, verse 15, [read v.15]. Oh no! There are people who are talking about Jesus for the wrong reasons. Which, let’s be clear, in the modern world - churches have divided over less than that. But Paul responds in verse 18, [read v.18]. As long as Jesus is being preached - that’s all he cares about. Then he pushes it even further. [read v.20-24]. What did he even just say? Paul has so totally sold out for Jesus - he says, “if I die, I get to be with Jesus - and that’s pretty awesome.” If I live, I get to love you guys and love other people - and that’s pretty cool too.” That is a level of security that you just can’t hurt. Whatever I do with my life, whatever happens to me or around me - as long as I’ve got Jesus, I’m untouchable. This kind of has King David vibes, right? We talked about this a couple weeks ago - “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil - for thou art with me.”

Jump over to chapter two with me real quick. [read v.1]. Just to be clear - the answer to all those questions is “YES!” - there IS comfort from his love, there IS encouragement, all that stuff. [read v.2]. Again, we’re getting this idea from Paul that we need to get our mindset right. [read v3-5]. Now, here’s what I want you to pull out of that - Joy starts in the mind. All that stuff he just listed is about getting your head in the right place before we begin. If we want to find unbreakable, bulletproof joy - we need to have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. So the only question that matters to me right now is, “Okay, so what attitude did Jesus have?” What is it? Give me the answer, Paul! What’s the secret sauce? Well, you just have to keep reading. 

Hear these beautiful words, chapter 2 verse 6. [read v.6-11]. I’m going to call that a mic drop moment. Jesus was equal to God, chilling up in heaven. But because he loves you, he did not cling to that comfort. Did not cling to that power. He gave up his divine privileges and took the humble position of a slave. Born as a human being. Ask yourself - would you do that? Would you give up paradise, equality of God to be born as a human? I don’t even like sharing my ice cream, are you kidding me? Verse 8 - he humbled himself in obedience to God, and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Okay, I can’t emphasize this enough - these three lines? They show you the character of God. Every other religion on the planet teaches you a way to climb up the mountain to get to God. Do this thing, follow this rule, earn this love. Christians are the ONLY ones who believe that God came down. The mentality of Jesus - the attitude that we need to have in order to find unbreakable joy is humility.  [pause].

And then Paul brings the receipts. He doesn’t just say “take my word for it” - he points to an example. Down in verse 19, Paul starts talking about his buddy Timothy. [read v.19-21]. He genuinely cares about your welfare. Everybody else only cares for themselves, and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. That’s what we are after. That’s what we are chasing. If we can get ourselves in a mentality of humility - we can unlock joy. Because look - let’s talk about the alternative for a second. When we are faced with an obstacle in our life, what did Paul say? “All the others care only for themselves.” There’s a temptation for self pity. For self-absorption. I think my favorite word for it is “wallow” - have you ever wanted to wallow? Something bad happened, and I’m in the mud and I just want to splash around a little. You get home from a rough day at work and you just need to dump all your frustration on your husband or wife or family member. Or you get bad news at work, and your response is to just talk about it to everyone who will listen until the whole office is grumpy. Misery really does love company. You see it all the time with kids. A kid will scrape his knee or something, and it hurts and they cry - but if there’s no audience…have you seen this? They will stop crying, get up from the ground, move so they're within earshot and then start up all over again. When life shows up to challenge our joy, our instinct is selfishness. We become self focused.

You know what it really is though? Pain has a way of shrinking our world, while humility has a way of expanding our world. Let me see if I can explain it like this. When we are in pain, our world shrinks. I think one of the greatest examples of this is child-birth. When a woman is having a baby there is no one else in the world except the people in that room - and when she’s in the middle of a contraction, I’m not even sure she is aware there are other people in the room. Pain shrinks our world. And that’s how it is sometimes. You lost your job. Your relationships are falling apart. You're struggling with depression or self-image issues. You’re having issues at work or at school. You don’t know what to do about your finances. You don’t know what to do about your kids. Pain shrinks your world and in that moment there is just you and the pain and that’s all you’ve got and the only thing you can think of is “look, I can’t deal with anything else right now. I’ve got my own problems.”

Pain shrinks your world. But there is a way out. A pregnant woman in the midst of childbirth, what does she need? Usually, it’s just a hand to hold onto. I have held my wife’s hand during the delivery of every single one of our five children. Her world has shrunk down, but she needs something to hold onto. Paul writes, “is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love?” What I’m trying to say is that when your world has shrunk down and you need something to hold onto, that something you need to hold onto is Jesus. We don’t wallow. We don’t slip into self absorption. Let the power and humility of Jesus expand your world once again.  

The good news that I have for you this morning is that Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God. That he was equal to God, but did not cling to it. And that humility is the starting point for Paul’s joy. Now there’s a lot more to it - we’re going to dive into what Paul has for us in chapter three next week, but the starting point for lasting joy is humility. 

 And I say “lasting joy” - because most people mix up joy and happiness. And there’s all kinds of “Get happy fast” schemes, like a “get rich scheme” but for your feelings. You know what I’m talking about - you’ve heard this stuff. Oh you just need to work out more, get those endorphins going. Oh you just need to get some more sun, go for a walk out in the park. Oh you just need to reduce your stress. Hold a baby, pet a puppy, treat yourself to some cinnabon or whatever. And all of that is lovely. Don’t mix it up - all that stuff works! For a minute. That’s chasing happiness. But the tricky thing about happiness is that it is fast acting, but not long lasting. After a while the baby threw up on you, the puppy peed, you got a sunburn from your walk and your muscles are sore from working out. All that stuff is amazing at lifting your spirit for a little while and sometimes that’s what we need. Sometimes our spirit just needs a little boost. And so I hope you do all those things - but if you want to find joy that lasts forever, you’ve got to dive a little deeper. Jesus had a mentality of humility, and so that’s where we are going to start. 

So I think the project is pretty obvious - as we start this journey of finding joy, the first step is to start with your mentality. We need to copy of the mindset of Jesus - a mentality of humility. So I have two practices for you this week to work towards building joy. These are my challenges for you this week. First - the gratitude list. This is a very simple practice - something you could do once a week or every single day. You sit down and you write up, or type up on your phone a list of things you are thankful for. And I think a lot of people roll their eyes at this - but it works! I do this all the time - it plants a seed of joy in your heart. The practice of listing off all the things you are thankful for, shifts your heart. If you’ve never done it before - get a pen and paper, and ask yourself “what if tomorrow you woke up with only the things you said thank you for today?” Write down a list. Sara and I play this game every week called “Sponsor of your life” - and every week we have to pretend like our life has a sponsor, a product or event or person or thing that we love and we want to promote or advertise for. We ask the question, “what’s sponsoring your life today?” And sometimes they’re silly and sometimes they’re serious. Sponsoring my life today is this really good donut I got at a new bakery I was checking out, or sponsoring my life is my brother in law who helped me load up a couch into a trailer. And it’s the same thing as the gratitude list - what are you grateful for today? What’s sponsoring your life today?

Practice #2 - I want you to pray for other people. And maybe that sounds overly simple - but remember the project of pain is to shrink your world down, to tempt you into selfishness, but the project of humility is to expand your world, to push your heart outwards. Again, this is really simple psychology - when you pray for someone else, you are spending time thinking about someone else, and that practice grows your heart towards them. I’ll give you an example. I’ve been a pastor for about ten years. And in one of my previous churches I met my buddy Michael. I was at the Methodist Church downtown, and he was at the non-denominational church up the road. His church was much bigger than mine and they did so many amazing things in the community. I love my church, and we did cool stuff too - but you know what? I’ll just be honest, he was better at preaching the gospel. He knew his bible so well, and he had such a love for Jesus - I was blown away the first time I heard him speak. And I’m not going to lie to you - a little jealousy got into my heart. One of the things I struggle with in my life is pride, and I spend a lot of time sort of pushing back against pride which is trying to spring up in my heart. But God was working on my heart and it became really clear - there’s no competition between sister churches. There’s no competition between pastors - we are not competitors, we are co-workers. And so to push back on the jealousy which was trying to steal my joy - I started praying for his success. Prayer focused on others, instead of prayer focused on me helped me grow in humility and reclaim my joy. I prayed, God bless his ministry. God send people to his church. I hope that church doubles in size and more people get to hear about your son Jesus from my friend Michael. That became my prayer. And I realized that wasn’t enough, I needed to humble myself even further. Humiliate myself really, and I had to tell him. I reached out and told him, “I just want you to know how inspiring I think your ministry is, and I’ve been a little jealous, but I want you to know I’m praying for God to bless you.” And since then, he’s gone on to be an airforce chaplain, and I’ve moved to Grand Rapids - but we remain co-workers building God’s kingdom. Pain shrinks the circle, praying for others pushes the circle back out. If you are wallowing, or becoming too self focused, stop and start praying for other people. Push your heart outwards, and reclaim humility. 

Everyone wants to be happy. The problem is that happiness comes and goes if you’re having a good day or a bad day, if good things are happening or bad things are happening. But Paul, writing a letter about Joy, while shackled to a prison cell - he’s talking about something more. Something better. Something deeper. If we want to live a life of invincible joy - that endures and stays with us through the highs and the lows, a peace that sticks around - no matter what comes - we start that journey today. You know I was telling the story of my flat tire and changing it in the mud and the rain and being late for my meeting - and someone told me about these new tires they’re making now called “twheels.” Have you heard of this? They are airless, radial tires. Wheels that have no air in them, so they can’t go flat - they’re supposed to be amazing and invincible. They’re using them on tractors and mowers and stuff, maybe we’ll get some for cars too. And so if you’re looking for twheel level joy - unbreakable joy… we start by chasing the attitude of Jesus, which we know was a mentality of humility. Let’s pray.


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