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A RECIPE FOR COMPLETE JOY: 4th INGREDIENT
by Philip Owen

            It would be challenging to find a more powerful example of God’s intention that believers be united than we find in the text we have been examining for the past three weeks.  The believer who holds the notion that he can successfully go it alone has not begun to apprehend the truth about the church as the body of Christ.  Nor has the believer who has little time for the problems and needs of other brethren grasped the significance of this text, or many more we might cite.  But the Lord in His grace has not called us to this unity without promising much in return, not least of which is complete joy both for ourselves and others.  In previous weeks we have enumerated the following ingredients that contribute to that joy:  (1) be of the same mind; (2) maintain the same love; and (3) be united in spirit.  The fourth ingredient continues this theme of unity:  be “intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2)

4th Ingredient:  Be intent on one purpose.   Vincent explains that the phrase “intent on one purpose” translates a Greek phrase that means literally “think the same thing.”  The thought is nearly synonymous with the first ingredient:  be of the same mind.  But whereas the first ingredient tends to remind us of the source of our singlemindedness, namely, the Word of God, and of the fact that the “mind of Christ” with which we are to agree has been revealed to us in the pages of His Word, this fourth ingredient tends to focus on our active endeavor to bring our thoughts into conformity to God’s revealed truth and the necessary actions that follow.

            The one purpose on which we are to be intent, the same thing that we are to think, if you will, is further expanded later in this passage with these words: “have this attitude . . . which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5).  Whether we deem this to be Christlikeness or self-sacrificing service, the idea of being of the same mind entails a 180o shift from our natural thoughts.  Joy, we are naturally inclined to believe, results from self-fulfillment, pursuing our own goals, achieving our desires, attaining our own objectives.  Nothing is more deeply ingrained in our flesh than the desire to put ourselves first and the erroneous sense that only by doing so will we experience true happiness.

            But God, Who is the only repository of all true joy and who bequeaths that joy to believers as a fruit of His Spirit, gives the lie to the false belief that a me-first agenda is the way to achieve joy.  Later in this epistle, Paul commends to the Philippians an example of one who has been actively putting into practice an intentness on one purpose.  “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.  For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.  Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me” (2:25-30). 

            Epaphroditus was intent on one purpose:  doing God’s will and serving those in the household of faith.  He found such fulfillment and joy in that vocation that nothing short of death deterred him from his ministry.  That he could be so solicitous of the needs of Paul and the brethren at Philippi was a source of joy, not only for him and for Paul, but also for the Philippians.  And if the Philippians would, in return, endeavor to be intent on that one purpose themselves, they would experience the same unspeakable joy.  The key to such an attitude lies ultimately, not in our concern for others (though that concern should exist) but in our loving the Lord, longing to be like Him, and desiring to honor Him.                  

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