Faithlife Sermons

The Secret to a Happy Life Might Surprise You

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Text:  Philippians 2:1-11


            You just about can’t go anywhere these days that you won’t run into someone who isn’t happy and is searching for happiness.  That search may take them a long time…perhaps a lifetime if they don’t know where to find it.  That’s because it is hidden within you…not somewhere out there in La-La Land.  The secret to a happy life just might surprise you if you’re not already familiar with it.  Have you discovered it?

            The secret to a happy life is found in Christlike unselfishness.  Of all the Christlike attitudes that people exhibit, rarely do any of them grab our attention and hearts like unselfishness…like an unknown man in the water.

            In a bitter cold January in 1982 an airplane crashed into the Potomac River in Washington DC.  A news helicopter captured this infamous heroic act of unselfishness.  A rescue helicopter was hovering over a group of 5 people clinging onto the tail of the Air Florida jet while they hung on for dear life in the frigid waters of the Potomac.  Every time they lowered a lifeline and flotation ring to the “unknown man,” he passed it on to one of the passengers.  This happened four times, picking up each of the other four, but the helicopter was full and had to deliver them to land before they could pick him up.  When the helicopter came back for him, the man had gone under.  His selflessness held national attention and was captured in the January 25, 1982 edition of Time Magazine.

            The editor that wrote the story penned these words.  “At some moment in the water he must have realized that he would not live if he continued to hand over the rope and ring to others.  He had to know it, no matter how gradual the effect of the cold.  In his judgment he had no choice.  When the helicopter took off with what was to be the last survivor, he watched everything in the world move away from him, and he deliberately let it happen.”

            Nearly two thousand years ago a supreme example of unselfishness was recorded by four witnesses who penned the story.  The Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us…He came to pay the penalty for our sins, knowing it would cost Him His life.  He, too, saw it as a matter of no choice but to let it happen.  When His betrayer took off and the disciples fled, He watched everything in the world move away from Him…and He deliberately let it happen.

            That’s unselfishness…and in one word, that’s Christlikeness.  That’s the secret to a happy, fulfilled life, and it’s the topic of our study tonight.  It’s the very attribute Paul wanted Lydia, the Roman jailer, and the rest of the believers in Philippi to adopt.  God wants us to adopt it too.  Read Text.

1.      In verse 1, does Paul actually doubt that there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, or any affection and compassion among the brotherhood?  How are we to understand this statement?  (It’s a rhetorical question that does not expect an answer because the overwhelming evidence to the question is “yes there is!”)

2.      If you were to condense verse 2 into one word, what word would you choose?  (Harmony.)
Insight: A closer examination reveals that the four-fold question in verse 1 is paired with the four-fold unselfish attitude in verse 2:
- Since there is encouragement in Christ – be of the same mind.
- Since there is consolation of love – maintain that same love.
- Since there is fellowship of the Spirit – be united in spirit.
- Since there is affection and compassion – be intent on one purpose.

3.      Is Paul saying there is no room for individuality and disagreement in the church? Are we all to think, dress, and act the same?
Insight: If that were the case, God made a mistake in creating us with free-will choice and a mind that creates.  Far from it.  It’s unity he is pleading for, not uniformity.  Unity comes from within; it is the result of an inner attitude.  Uniformity comes from without; it is forced upon us by external pressures.

4.      How can the Body of Christ achieve unity in the middle of all our diversity?  (It comes about by letting go of our selfish ideals and adopting the mind of Christ.  If we all have the mind of Christ that considers others above ourselves, we won’t go about challenging each other’s opinions, wants and wishes.)

5.      Paul gives us some practical advice of how to integrate this Christlike attitude into everyday living in 2:3-4.  What happens to our self-serving, petty differences that separate us if we apply these verses?  (They disappear.)
Illustration: During Hitler’s blitzkrieg bombing of Britain, people of different classes were in common need of the bomb shelters underneath the streets of London.  Trying to avoid death, they forgot all their differences, divisions and distinctions.  Common need found them suddenly united.  But when the threat passed, so did much of their unity.
Instead of external reasons to draw us together, lasting unity comes about by adopting a Christlike attitude.  Choose to walk in it daily.

6.      There’s no better example of this attitude than Christ Himself.  2:5-6.  What does “in the form of God” mean?  (It literally means “possessing Divine attributes.”  He is co-equal with God.)

7.      What does this mean: “he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped”?
Insight: Nothing tempted Him to snatch or seize all the benefits as the absolute Sovereign over all mankind.  He was willing to release it for humanity.  He who was praised by angels unselfishly came to those who cursed and crucified Him.  He who was surrounded by the Father’s fellowship gave it up for a lonely path of obedience to the cross.  2:7-8

8.      Do verses 6 & 7 imply that Jesus gave up His deity to accomplish our salvation?  (No; He did not give up His deity; rather He set aside His Divine rights to submit to the Father’s will.)

9.      Once Jesus paid our debt, what did the Father do, according to 2:9-11
Insight: He once again lifted up His Son to a position of highest glory and honor.  He bestowed upon Him the name of highest significance, and the recipient of all knees bowing to Him.  All the angelic host and believers who have died before us will bow…all on earth, even the bitter skeptic will bow…and those under the earth that are not saved, including Satan and his demonic host will bow.


            The great question of this moment is whether or not we will voluntarily bow to Him, or wait until we are forced to do so.  If we act now, we will be saved.  If we refuse to confess Jesus as Lord while we are on earth, we will surely concede it one day under the earth.  But by then it is a declaration of truth…not a confession that changes our eternal destiny.

            Remember our opening story of “the unknown man” in the Potomac?  Jesus is the lifeline the Father has lowered from Heaven for our salvation.  There is no other way to be rescued from the penalty of our sins but by Him.  Don’t wait; grab a hold of Him now before it’s too late and you go under.

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