Sunday, January 13, 2013

KEYS OF EXCELLENCE-I (The Key of Joy) Philippians 4:4-7

Thirty years ago, the Miami Dolphins embarked on an unforgettable & unparalleled season. 14-0 regular season, then a 3-0 run through the playoffs culminating with a Super Bowl victory. No other team has matched that perfect record. Every year 30-some odd teams try, but for 3 decades, it stands alone. Sports enthusiasts all have their own opinion about who might be the “Greatest Team of All Time”, but one of the 1972 Dolphin team members put it best: “Perfection has a way of shutting people’s mouths.” The opposing coach going into the ’72 Super Bowl was asked to comment on stellar Miami defense. "I can't recall any of their names," he said, "but they are a matter of great concern to us." Who knows the nickname of the ’72 Dolphins Defense? The "No-Name Defense."

What made that team special was not the handful of superstars – it was the dedication of every team member. The willingness of every player to execute his position with excellence for a common purpose. Something special happens when everybody plays their position. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. They had some great players, no doubt. But plenty of other teams over history have had better personnel. More, Pro-Bowl players, superstars, and Hall of -Famers. Yet no team has reached the level of achievement that they did.

What was so exceptional of Miami Dolphins? They have learned the secret of excellence. They have excelled in supporting one another to excel in their game. How does that apply to a Church in modern society? Does God want us to excel as individual Christians and together as a team? Without a doubt our God is a God of excellence. Whatever he does is always beyond all our expectations and imaginations. How do we define excellence? The word excel means: to go beyond or above, outdo or surpass. The word excellence means: In possession of eminently good qualities, a superior trait, great merit or virtue. God wants us to excel in all that we do.

Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (NIV) in NLT “Better” ESV, “exceeds” in ISV “greatly exceeds.”

What Christ expects from us is more than following outwardly certain “legalistic rituals” but a heart that is committed to excellence. That commitment to excellence runs through some of the letters of Paul to the early Church.

1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul encourages believers not to stop at just desiring Spiritual gift but to seek for more excellent way the way of love which is indispensable. After this exhortation comes the great chapter on Love.
1 Corinthians 14:12, we are to excel in the gifts that build up the church.
2 Corinthians 8:7 “ We are to excel in our giving,  “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Titus 3:8: We are to focus on the things that are excellent and profitable for every one. “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

What happens when we chase excellence? 1 Timothy 3:13 “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” For the next few weeks I would like to share with you three keys of excellence that the apostle Paul gave to the believers in Philippi. In a sense he gave them to all of us. They are: 1. The Key of Joy; 2. The Key of Faith; 3. The Key of Prayer. (Philippians 4: 4-7). Let’s focus on the Key of Joy.


Vs. 4“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”  The word “rejoice” occurs 74 times in NT. It comes from a Greek word Charis which means “grace” as if Joy is a direct result of God’s grace. In Hebrew it may be related to a word which means, “a young sheep or lamb, indicating the skipping and frisking of a lamb for Joy.  So the word rejoice could here mean “jump for Joy”

When we read the Bible in English we often miss out on the subtle nuances and the intentions of the original writers. Let me explain. “There is no more forceful way in the Greek language to tell someone to do something than a simple imperative or a command. Especially when such a command is given regarding a specific situation, the one giving that command sees himself as an authority figure. He expects those addressed to do exactly as he had ordered.”[1]
The Greek word for “Rejoice” was a present imperative which indicates a command to do something in the future and involves continuous or repeated action.”

With this understanding let’s read Vs 4 again:  “I Paul, am commanding you Philippians rejoice or “jump for Joy,” Let me repeat it again; not once but rejoice continually. It is natural for us to rejoice when things go well fro us; but how about when things don’t go our way how are we to rejoice then? The following scriptures will give us the right perspective towards adversity.

Matthew 5:11-12, ‘11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This scripture tells us that when we choose to live uprightly we will be persecuted and it is a blessing. Persecution is one of the last things a Christian would consider as a blessing isn’t it? Like suffering; we don’t have to seek for it. It could come from the world but most likely from within our family and even from the Church family.
We tend to think that Persecution often has to do with physical torture and possibly death, but how about insults and false accusations are they considered as persecution as well?
In all my years of ministry I have not yet experienced literal persecution, but have received plenty of verbal assaults, criticism, insults and false accusations. Honestly speaking when I go through such situations it is not fun, it is painful, demoralizing and discouraging. The last thing I want do is to “jump up and down for joy” but that’s where I am left with a choice. I could either choose to retaliate or choose to rejoice. The consolation during persecution is that I am not an exception, many were and are being persecuted for their faith and my reward in heaven will be great.

In closing here are the words of James the brother of Jesus. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking any thing. (James 1:2-4) Lord please grant us the grace to use the key of Joy to overcome suffering. Amen!

Next we will learn about the second key of excellence which is the key of faith.


[1] William D. Mounce, “Basics of Biblical Greek” Page 310