Sunday, September 12, 2010

Road To Joy

Road to Joy

Intro.: Nisswa, Minnesota, is known for its turtle races. Every Wednesday afternoon in the summer, the people of Nisswa and the surrounding communities gather at a designated parking lot for the races.

Vendors rent turtles; others sell “turtle products.” And the fans gather early, placing their chairs and blankets in the best viewing sites. In a recent contest, 435 turtles raced in fifteen heats over a six-foot course.

The announcer calls the turtle holders to the mark and gives them the “Go!”—and the crowd goes wild as the handlers release the turtles and scream at them, jump up and down, wave furiously, and throw water, trying to urge the racers to the finish line. The winners of those heats then race their turtles in the championship race.

The winning handler receives $5—along with a turtle necklace. It’s an uncharacteristic frenzy of emotion for the normally reserved folks of northern Minnesota. And to think that some people get upset when Christians are too expressive in church on a Sunday morning.

Per Nilsen, Burnsville, MNi

Read: Philippians 2:14-16



  1. Paul's Expectations

    1. Easy to state – do all things without grumbling or arguing.

    2. At first glance, it sounds as if Paul is asking two things of us

    3. But it seems to me that these two requests are really two sides of the same coin -

      1. grumbling is a very personal activity. It allows me to sit at home and complain – not to anybody in particular, but to myself.

        1. It is individual,

        2. I can grumble in my home, in my car, or while doing my odd jobs.

        3. And grumbling is best done when I am by myself – with no one around to talk me out of it.

      2. arguing is quite the opposite.

        1. It normally takes two to argue – making it a much more public activity

        2. If I find myself arguing with myself, it means I have not made up my mind. But if I am arguing with another person, I have most likely made up my mind!

    4. Paul is not concerned about where we find our discomfort – he is concerned about our attitude. He is concerned how we face the difficulties, the discomforts, the unfair situations that will surely come our way.

    5. Paul makes this clear with how he begins the paragraph – “Do all things ...” or, in some translations, “In everything ...”. It makes sense to me that does not leave many options for me. I cannot say, okay, “I won't grumble about anything except my wife.” Or, boy, am I glad, that Paul allows me to grumble about the price of food this week. Paul does not give us an out .. “Do all things without grumbling or arguing.”

(Ill.) Benjamin Franklin once said, “The sentence which has most influenced my life is, ‘Some persons grumble because God placed thorns among roses. Why not thank God because He placed roses among thorns?’ I first read it when but a mere lad. Since that day it has occupied a front room in my life and has given it an optimistic trend.”ii

    1. May we, like Franklin did and like Paul admonishes us to do, see the roses among the thorns, rather than the thorns among the roses.

  1. without blemish

    1. To Paul, when believers start to grumble or start to argue it becomes a blemish – not just to the church, but on them individually.

(Ill.) This week, as we said earlier, Sandra had her catheterization. The procedure started in her arm, but almost all of the work was done in her heart. But when it was all through she was left with two marks on her arms – blemishes. She says they have embarrassed her a bit and she has worn long sleeve sweaters or blouses to cover it up.

    1. Just as those bruises on her arm are blemishes, so our grumbling and arguing become blemishes in our lives.

    2. Some thoughts -

      1. Blemishes are embarrassing. We would rather not have them, we want to cover them up.

      2. We take care to not get them – we keep our faces washed, we are careful about where we walk,

      3. When we get them, and other see them, we feel like we have to explain them.

    3. Our spiritual lives can also be bruised – and Paul is telling us to use the same care with our spiritual lives as we do with our physical lives

    4. Paul describes what a spiritual life that is blemish free will look like – it will be blameless and innocent. This is the second time Paul has used almost this this phrase – in Chapter 1 of Philippians he prayed that the Philippians' love would grow. Why? So that their love would be “blameless and pure” in the day of Christ's return.

(Ill.) Let me ask you a question – how long has it been since you have stood outdoors and looked up at the sky.

  1. I feel so small when I do

  2. I want to see every star – but know that I cannot.

  3. But I also realize something else, there is far more black space than there are stars.

  4. That is what Paul says we are to be - “lights in the world”, or like “stars in the universe”.

    1. We live in a crooked and twisted generation – and we in the midst of that world, we are to like “stars in the universe.”

    2. Should not be surprised that so few attend church – whether it be here or your local church. The blackness of the universe is far greater than stars – and, except that they shine, they would be lost in the darkness.

    3. My prayer for you, I hope your prayer for yourself is that you become a star in your universe. Not a TV star, but a star that shines with the grace of God in your own life.

  1. so we can all rejoice

(Ill.) If we go south just bit from our house there is a county park – Black Creek Park it is called. At the far end of the entrance road is a shelter for picnics. If the shelter has not been reserved by some group, we like to use it for our family picnics – either put together a quick meal, or pack hamburgers or hot dogs to grill, or buy a pizza. We have done all three. Just past the shelter is a large pond or a small lake – not sure which. It is a good walk to go around it – but one that all three of us enjoy taking. We are not the only ones that like that walk around the pond. Other take it as well with their dogs. Some of those dogs (let me make it clear I am not talking about BoDandy here), take a detour and jump into the pond. And when we do, all our attention is on the dog. But you know what, something else is happening. While that dog is enjoying a brief swim, the water around him or her is all messed up – there are splashes, sprays, and the water is agitated in ways that are not normally seen. But it does not stop there – because as the dog frolics in the water, ripples go out and out and out. In fact those ripples cover a far larger area of the pond than the dog will ever see.

    1. The same is true of our Christian life – if we follow the advice Paul has given.

    2. Paul illustrates this from the worship experience of his readers. They are use to going to the temple and offering an offering – a dove, a fatted calf, etc. But then the priest would offer a liquid offering on top of the offering offered to on the altar. We are the sacrifice – when we are obedient. But Paul becomes the “drink offering” that is added to the worship experience.

    3. And at that point – both the reader of Paul's letter and Paul can rejoice.

    4. It becomes a ripple effect – our lives, our obedience, impacts the lives of those around us.

    5. … and the end result is joy.



iLarson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

iiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.