Happiness is found when your unity with Christ leads you to unity with others
Recently, I was in Romania where I was working with Ukrainian refugees. We travelled to a sweet village snuggled right up on the southern Ukrainian border. There, we visited a small church of 35 people who had taken in five large families made up of sets of parents and their 60 biological and foster children. Parents with eight kids, nine kids, 18 kids. After visiting the homes that had been provided for these precious Ukrainian families, we all got to go to church together.
As I sat in this packed little church, now a church family of over 100, I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of the Bride of Christ, the beauty of the Church. The rows of seats were filled with people, from little Romanian grandmothers to the tiniest Ukrainian infant. Men, women and children who didn’t have a lot in common. We spoke three different languages. We came from three different countries. But we shared one faith. We couldn’t understand each other, but we could worship together.
The piano player started to play some old, familiar chords. And the pastor stood at the front and said in a big, booming voice, “In Romanian…” The voices of 35 of the most generous people I’ve ever encountered started singing in Romanian:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Then the pastor happily shouted, “In Ukrainian…” The voices of 74 of the most courageous people I’ve ever met started singing in Ukrainian:
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
Then the pastor looked at us with a smile and said, “In American…” The voices of 10 of the most emotionally overwhelmed people I’ve ever been part of started singing in English:
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
That’s the unity of the church. The unity of believers. And it’s beautiful. And it’s powerful. And it’s filled with joy. True happiness is found when your unity with Christ leads you to unity with others.
Paul speaks powerfully about this unity saying. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Phil 2:1-2 NIV).
Want to make your joy complete? Want to chase happy? Then chase unity. True happiness is found when your unity with Christ leads you to unity with others. The same love. The same spirit. The same mind.
So, how do we achieve and practice this unity that leads to joy? Well, Paul goes on to say, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil 2:3-4). Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. That word “nothing” means … nothing. Like nothing. No one single thing. Not a thing. Selfish ambition drives us to do things for our own advancement and our own promotion. “Conceit” here could better be translated “empty glory.”
Here’s what Paul’s saying: Hey, church family, do nothing for your good and for your glory. That’ll be devoid of unity, and joy will be absent. Instead, do things for the glory of God and the good of others. When we have the same love, same spirit and same mind, we aren’t just looking out for ourselves. We’re also looking to the interest of others. Paul doesn’t say not to look out for yourself. There is a health that comes from taking care of yourself—getting the rest, help and support you need. But Paul is saying: Don’t look out only for your own interests. Also, do things for the good of others and the glory of God.
Want to make your joy complete?
Want to chase happy?
Then chase unity.
That’s not the only way to achieve unity. When we turn back to Philippians, Paul is about to paint an incredible picture of the mind of Christ. But Paul doesn’t just want us to admire this from afar; he wants us to enter in and emulate the mindset of Christ.
Let’s pick it up starting in verse 5:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:5-8 NIV).
The Bible says that Jesus made Himself nothing. A more common way to translate that would be that “He emptied Himself.” Jesus didn’t empty Himself of His deity, His divine attributes or His equality with God. He was still fully God. But He did empty Himself into the form of a servant. Taking on the form of a servant. The original language Paul uses here isn’t saying that Jesus is making an exchange of His divinity for His humanity, but an adding humanity to His already existing divinity.He humbled Himself when He gave up the privileges of Heaven to walk around on the earth.
He humbled Himself when He set aside the riches of Heaven to be born into poverty.
He humbled Himself when He didn’t just appear as a victorious warrior but as a vulnerable baby.
He humbled Himself when He didn’t rub elbows with the wealthy and powerful but chose to be friends with people the religious leaders called “notorious sinners.”
He humbled Himself when He felt hunger, thirst, weakness and weariness.
He humbled Himself when He lived in obedience to God the Father and under submission to the Holy Spirit.
He humbled Himself in the face of shame, mocking and public humiliation.
He humbled Himself when He endured an excruciatingly painful death on a cross.
So, the question becomes, are we willing to humble ourselves before God and humble ourselves with others?
Humility in our relationships can show up in a variety of ways. It’s taking the time to really listen to others even though you have lots of unchecked items on your to-do list. Humility is seeking wisdom and feedback from others so you can grow. It’s owning your mistakes instead of running away from them and seeking forgiveness when needed. Humility is showing appreciation for others, not just for what they do, but for who they are. It’s a willingness to be vulnerable and live under submission to the Holy Spirit.
That’s where you’ll find the happy you chase.
Check out the rest of issue 13 of Bible Study Source from HarperChristian Women