Season 2 | EPISODE 3

Finding Joy When Life is Hard

58:54 · September 19, 2023

Is there something you lack that, if you were to gain it, would secure your happiness? In this episode, Jim Lovelady talks with Josiah Bancroft, diving into his latest book centered around the teachings of Philippians. Josiah opens up about his ongoing journey of re-learning to find joy and contentment in Christ, especially in the face of unforeseen suffering and hardship. Together, they explore the paradox of chasing happiness and how living in pursuit of Jesus is the path to the lasting joy we seek.

Is there something you lack that, if you were to gain it, would secure your happiness? In this episode, Jim Lovelady talks with Josiah Bancroft, diving into his latest book centered around the teachings of Philippians. Josiah opens up about his ongoing journey of re-learning to find joy and contentment in Christ, especially in the face of unforeseen suffering and hardship. Together, they explore the paradox of chasing happiness and how living in pursuit of Jesus is the path to the lasting joy we seek.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • What it looks like to re-learn core truths in each season of life [9:14]
  • Why it’s difficult to find joy when life is hard [15:53]
  • Why Philippians is not telling us to simply “Be Happy!” [23:00]
  • Why our struggle to believe actually presents an opportunity [35:37]
  • The real meaning of “I can do all things through Christ…” [40:09]
  • What made Paul invincible, and how it can empower us as well [51:53]

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guest for this episode was Josiah Bancroft. Josiah served in Serge’s executive leadership for decades. Now, he and Barbara mentor and consult with leaders, couples, and pastors in the US and abroad. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, Brooke Herron, Ashlie Kodsy, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


0:00:23.9 Jim Lovelady: Hello, beloved. Welcome to another episode of Grace at the Fray, where we explore how God’s grace meets us at the frayed edges of life. Alright, I’ve got a question for you. Here it is. What do you lack that if you had it would make you happy? And what if you didn’t need that thing anymore?

Today I wanna introduce you to someone who has had a very significant influence on my life through his teaching ministry with Serge, and just knowing him personally. Today I wanna share with you my conversation with Josiah Bancroft. Josiah’s been around since the beginning of Serge, and he’s done a little bit of everything with our organization. He’s been a leading influence on us in more ways than I can describe. You’ll hear him talk about the founders of Serge, Jack and Rosemary Miller, and their son Paul, who was also vital in those early days of our organization.

He also mentions Pastor Claire Davis, who happens to be the dad of my renewal teammate, Marc Davis, who did a podcast episode with me last season. Now, you may not know all of these folks, but they’re all worth a little Google search but you don’t necessarily need to know who they are to follow the conversation today. Today I’m pleased to announce that Josiah just released a small group Bible study on the book of Philippians, and I got to sit down with him and talk about his book and how meditating on Paul’s letter to the Philippians has guided him into fresh expressions of God’s grace. In this episode, Josiah helps us wrestle with the question, what do you lack? And if you had it would not make you happy. He does it by deconstructing the typical pursuit of happiness and shifting our focus to a life in pursuit of Jesus.

And it reminds me of Psalm 1:1-3 and it goes like this. “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread or sit in the seat of scoffers. But their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law they meditate day and night. They’re like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither in all they do, they prosper.” an apple tree growing out of a potting plant. It just won’t bear fruit. It’s got life, but it’ll never have the abundant life that bears fruit. For there to be fruit, the tree needs to be planted in the ground.” So it’s only when we’re rooted in Christ that we will bear fruit and be a blessing to others. But how do you do that, especially in the midst of suffering and hardship? Well, let’s follow Josiah as he shares his experience of pursuing Jesus in the midst of suffering. 

0:03:14 Jim Lovelady: Well, my friend, welcome.

0:03:15.9 Josiah Bancroft: Hey, thanks. [laughter]

0:03:16.9 Jim Lovelady: Thanks for being here.

0:03:18.0 Josiah Bancroft: I’m glad to see you. Glad to be here.

0:03:20.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, I must admit that, well, two things. The first one is I don’t know how competitive you are, but I just wanna let you know, and I’m sure Barbara has already let you know that she was on the podcast first.

0:03:38.0 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. Well, no, well, both of us are competitive, but not about that.

0:03:45.2 Jim Lovelady: Oh, that’s good.

0:03:45.9 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. So, and she said to tell you that she has the cooler Sion.

0:03:52.6 Jim Lovelady: See, I’m competitive and I’m already… I was gonna say something about we still, she and I still need to race.

0:04:00.6 Josiah Bancroft: Well, I’m not worried about racing. I’m just hoping yours runs. 

0:04:09.2 Jim Lovelady: It does. [laughter] Well, Barbara sent you to smack talk about my car, didn’t she? 

0:04:11.0 Josiah Bancroft: Well, you know, yeah.

0:04:12.6 Jim Lovelady: So yeah, this is the first thing is Barbara beat you to it. I’m glad that it’s not gonna cause too much competitive. The second one is, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this that I have such a respect for you as a preacher, as a pastor, as a missionary. And I met your voice through the sonship material. And your talks the middle section of the sonship course eight and nine. Those were when things clicked. And so your voice for me is when it… Like, as they say, the penny dropped and I realized the father’s love for me. I realized the framework around neither following legalistically to the best of your ability nor doing whatever you want is of any value, but faith working itself out in love. Just all of these things and your conversations about your struggle with anger, and so your openness and vulnerability. All of these things it just landed. And so it’s that stuff that I’m so glad to have you here.

0:05:28.9 Josiah Bancroft: Oh, what a compliment. And all of that was received. I’d be quick to say when we went through sonship, penny dropped, our ministry changed after 14 years. I’ve been a church planter at two locations and was really known for talking about grace. But for me personally it took someone to sit with me and hammer on me a bit. Personally. So that grace got into my head and heart in a new way. And when that happened I’d already done so much intellectual work or theological work in Sanctification by Grace was just like I had been stuffing things into a dark room, treasure in a dark room, and somebody flipped the switch on. It was like wow.

0:06:29.8 Josiah Bancroft: I kind of had an understanding and theological head start that my heart caught up with. And then our response to that was really overseas with Serge that grace really freed us to hear God’s call in a different way more than just us and church planting but world, and I literally called up World Harvest Mission at the time, now Serge, and called up and they answered the phone and they said, “You want to speak to us?” I said, “Well, we’re ready to go into mission with somebody.” And I got Paul Miller.

0:07:15.2 Jim Lovelady: On the phone? 

0:07:15.4 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. Okay. On the phone and he said, “Well, we’ve got this course you need to go through. It’ll cost you how many hundreds of dollars and you send the money in and we send you the course.” And I get off the phone and I said, “Barbara, I think it’s a scam.”

0:07:33.6 Jim Lovelady: That’s awesome.

0:07:36.5 Josiah Bancroft: They won’t even take my application until I send them the money.

0:07:39.9 Jim Lovelady: Until you send some money and go through a course. That’s amazing.

0:07:44.9 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. But as we were in Ireland during our first term, Jack Miller of the course called me back to be what they call the mission minute. And I was to go to a weekend event, six lectures from Jack in Virginia, and I would stand up and give just a little bit of a talk, would be there trying to get people to join my team in Ireland. Well, that was to start Friday, well, Tuesday Rosemary calls and says, “Jack had a minor stroke, he’s in the hospital, he says he won’t make the event and you’re on.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?”

0:08:26.0 Jim Lovelady: What do you mean I’m on? 

0:08:26.8 Josiah Bancroft: She said, “You’re doing his lectures.” And it’s like, I said, “to whom?” She said, “We have 400 registrants.”

0:08:35.3 Jim Lovelady: Wow.

0:08:35.9 Josiah Bancroft: And so I literally wrote my first lectures on the plane on the way over. And what a gift having to speak about and engage that centerpiece of our walk with Christ and what he did for us over and over again. I’m a slow learner so repetition was just nothing but grace, just nothing but a gift.

0:09:06.4 Jim Lovelady: I love that. I think you’ve said it before. I think you even wrote it in the Philippians book about how it just leaks, how grace just leaks.

0:09:14.2 Josiah Bancroft: Oh, I loved an old professor, a friend of Jack’s, he used to say, “I believe I remember having forgotten this before.” That was Clare Davis, Mark Davis’s dad. But that’s the way it is, as each new experience and season in life come, the truth is that though I know grace, I have to relearn it because here I am, I’m 70. I’ve never been 70 before. The problems, the pressures, the worries, and the daily needs are so much different than they were just a few years ago that I literally have to learn again what the grace of Jesus looks like for me in this moment. And so it’s like I’m a newbie again at learning the things I already know in one way, but the world changes, my experience changes, and it just, I have to renegotiate what it means to love Jesus, to follow grace, know God’s love, to look to him for a supply, all the basics again for this moment. And when I stop doing that, it ossifies, it just hardens, and then you become a grace sheriff.

0:10:52.6 Jim Lovelady: Graced sheriff. Right. Yeah.

0:10:54.9 Josiah Bancroft: Do you know what I know? Have you had my experience in your life? It’s dead and gone in your life, but you’re still looking back at it, and so the truth about my walk with Christ and His grace is that I have to just learn it anew over and over again.

0:11:17.5 Jim Lovelady: So what’s that been like? Especially, you just wrote this study on Philippians and you’ve been going through Philippians for years. You’ve just been soaking in this book.

0:11:28.7 Josiah Bancroft: Well, Philippians has played an unusual role in my Christian life. Certain books do for me at different times, but Philippians has been recurring, and one of the recurring moments, one of the first moments was I was converted at age 18, I had some drug problems, God got me cleaned up. The first Bible study I went to was on Philippians.

0:11:57.3 Jim Lovelady: Oh, really? 

0:11:58.3 Josiah Bancroft: And I still remember where I was in the room when the Bible teacher gifted woman named Elizabeth Newbold, said, “Worry is a sin.” And when she said that, she was teaching on Philippians 4, “be anxious for nothing,” but when she said worry is a sin, it was like the world stopped. I didn’t hear anything else she said. I remember thinking, oh no, that can’t be right.

0:12:26.7 Jim Lovelady: I’m going to look that up. Is that right? 

0:12:28.8 Josiah Bancroft: I worry all the time. So there, just once after my conversion, Philippians 4 shows up. And then later, even as a mission worker in Ireland, Jack comes to visit, and Jack Miller, the head of the mission, the founder, and I were talking, and he said, “Josiah, you race around the Bible.” He said, “You know so much. You’re engaged with so many projects and teachings. Do you ever just camp out from a verse?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “Well you know, sometimes a verse is bright or just grabs your attention and your heart.” And I said, “Yeah, I know that moment.” He said, “Well, stop. Camp on that verse until God lets you go.”

0:13:29.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Settle into it and let it do its work before you rush away.

0:13:35.5 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. Well, I’m very, have been a very busy person mentally and physically, and so it’s easy to rush. So sitting on a verse, camping on it, as Jack said has been good. And God has used that in repeated places. And I would say again, to turn the page, a third recurrence of verse, a student group in Czech Republic called, and it’s one that I had spoken with the founders and helped them regain their grip on faith at a conference. And they called and said, would you come and teach? I’d been there before. I said, absolutely love the people. Mainly students, young adults, young professionals. So we went and as I was preparing and they said, look, you’ve just got some of stuff. Pull out nine lectures. And then they called back two days later and they said, we want you to preach through a book.

0:14:38.8 Josiah Bancroft: And I picked Philippians. And so to engage Philippians at the level I wanted to I found that the ESV version online you can put the marker at Philippians 1:1 and hit the little speaker button. Oh, okay. Yeah. And it will say the book and just read the book to you. Well, I would do that once, twice a day for months leading up to it, so that the content my hope was it would be native, it would settle in and I would understand. And I wrote the nine lectures, outlined them, and it was a great time. And those nine lectures became much the base of the book. We finished all that all the groundwork for it early, and then George Floyd politics go crazy. Churches divide and COVID hits. I don’t know if you were here in the office, but it, everybody’s zooming everybody.

0:15:53.6 Josiah Bancroft: We’re having these distance meetings, learning new technology, trying to keep up with what the need of the moment is. Struggles on teams that were new, people locked in places for months. It was just awful. And toward the end of that, we sort of ended our COVID time in the mission with two conferences, the leadership and the company conference, which were great events. They really were. But man, we decided to do those in January and put them on at the end of May and early June.

0:16:29.1 Jim Lovelady: Oh, wow.

0:16:30.3 Josiah Bancroft: And the foot race to get all that done on my part, I was tired going in. And by the time I showed up at those conferences, I was really depleted. Barbara got COVID while were there. She had a bad case for the first week. I survived. Didn’t get sick the whole time, got back, I got COVID badly at another conference, and that went into long COVID. And that really debilitated me. I’m still not over it.

0:17:03.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. That’s a struggle that you’ve had to this day.

0:17:05.8 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. Now I am better, but I’m still walking wounded from it and limited because of it.

0:17:15.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Physically, emotionally, all of it.

0:17:18.1 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. Fatigue is a problem. Like your dad or with someone with MS or something like that fatigue is a problem. So is a weird thing that I’ve never experienced, which is called PEM post-exertional malaise. So if I have a really heavy emotional week or emotional days, I’m done for the next two days. It fatigues me after the event which is really weird because emotional life and mental life have never fatigued me. They’ve actually energized me and then to have this backlash and it took me a while to connect up what was going on and talk to a doctor, and he said “No, that’s PEM” That’s…

0:18:10.1 Jim Lovelady: We have a title for that.

0:18:11.3 Josiah Bancroft: Oh, yeah. Well, everything has three initials now and…

0:18:14.2 Jim Lovelady: Of course.

0:18:14.6 Josiah Bancroft: And then an unpronounceable drug, and then side effects that are worse than.

0:18:19.8 Josiah Bancroft: Worse than the…What you’re fixing. [laughter]

0:18:22.2 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:18:25.4 Josiah Bancroft: But having to manage all that has really in some ways man, I had to start over not a little bit like I lost my position here at the Mission because I couldn’t physically do it. I could not travel. And I was laid out with fatigue too often. And so Joel had stepped in – great. They made a role for me that I can do. I’m glad for, but Philippians finding joy when life is hard. Well, I wrote that and then life…

0:19:13.0 Jim Lovelady: Got hard.

0:19:13.8 Josiah Bancroft: Got really hard. And so what I find myself doing is starting over, learning joy again, learning grace again, learning Jesus again and in great ways. But it’s not like I’m the expert it’s like I really have to engage it and be surprised. Oh, it means this, it looks like this now because Grace doesn’t stands still in my life, my life doesn’t stand still, and what I learned five years ago is helpful, but it’s not today.

0:19:52.6 Jim Lovelady: It’s not today, yeah.

0:19:54.9 Josiah Bancroft: So Grace is always there, there’s always like. And it’s surprising again, because it looks so different at this juncture in this moment, it’s sweeter in a different way it’s, unexpected in a different way. And so, even though I am genuinely debilitated by long Covid/ in the last few months, I mean, you’d think I wrote the book, it happened automatically, it didn’t. But just in the last few months, I find myself seeing, or I find myself, smiling in the middle of the difficulty because my life is hidden with Christ in God and from that position of being in Christ, Paul shouts back to those who are on the way, rejoice, rejoice in the Lord. And so I’m learning that again, and that’s good.

0:21:08.6 Jim Lovelady: So paint me a picture that connects these two realities, because like my head knows, your life is hidden in Christ, but my mundane life, so maybe it’s kind of a “Mundane story” but where it is that like suddenly you find yourself smiling because your life is hidden in Christ.

0:21:30.1 Josiah Bancroft: Well, when you look at American politics, you’ve got this huge division between, let me get the hands right. So I don’t put the people on the wrong side.

0:21:40.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh yeah. [laughter]

0:21:41.9 Josiah Bancroft: The Republicans and the Democrats, and what the Bible does that our churches and that my faith seldom engages well or is learning to engage better, is that this division is actually this division in scripture, in scripture, Democrats and Republicans all live under the God of this age. And once you begin to see that the reality that we’re welcome into with Christ and God in Heaven is the last one, is the real one. It is here in present and learn to connect to that by faith and the promises and the perspective words that he gives you, it changes the way you look at everything in life and does that progressively, as you get better and better at living out of that reality. And so when Paul says, rejoice in the Lord, he is not just saying happy up, happy up.

0:23:00.3 Jim Lovelady: Which you can still often feel, oh gosh, I better happy up.

0:23:03.3 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah, yeah when I was thinking about it, I went back and looked at pictures of dictators and so you have Stalin speaking to a crowd, and you think are they happy about that or are they there scared to death not to come because of the brutality of this regime, because of the lies that they have been forced to believe. And there can be a whiff of that in some Christian responses who actually dead in their emotional lives in order to appear the way they think they’re supposed to appear. And so they have this steady input of pablum music that happy is their heart or a drone of speakers that helps them maintain an emotional stasis that is in my mind and in my observation, brutal. Because while they’re unengaged, the people around them suffer reality, suffer them and suffer the reality and want nothing to do with it.

0:24:25.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah.

0:24:26.6 Josiah Bancroft: Frequently.

0:24:27.2 Jim Lovelady: It’s fake.

0:24:27.9 Josiah Bancroft: It is fake, and it doesn’t feel like that on the inside of that artificial religious bubble.

0:24:36.1 Jim Lovelady: There’s an anxiety simmering below all of that inside that’s.

0:24:40.8 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah, and the ones that are really good at it are aren’t even anxious anymore they just, I can think of a man who felt really loved, he was delightful, he was a greeter he welcomed people into the church, he was just a wonderful guy. And his wife was always sick. And, really, she had a lot of physical problems and Joe was a thorn in her side because he could not weep with those who weep, he could only try and cheer her up, try and give her the magic bullet so she’d get over feeling like she felt. And so he was actually an impediment to her joy rather than, an encouragement. In the book of Philippians, when it says, rejoice in the Lord, one of the places I go mentally is the Old Testament where people say, hallelujah, which is praise the Lord.

0:25:42.8 Jim Lovelady: Praise the Lord.

0:25:45.0 Josiah Bancroft: So those crowds that gathered to say Hallelujah, they were a mixed group but Paul is saying, praise the Lord because he is revealed who he is in Jesus Christ. And he’s not who you imagined, he’s the one who came and suffered and died that’s chapter 2. And who gave His life to make you righteous that’s the rest of chapter 3. And right between those descriptions of Christ, you have the call live out of this reality and if you.

0:26:16.2 Jim Lovelady: You have the mind of Christ.

0:26:17.7 Josiah Bancroft: You have the mind of Christ. And in Philippians 3:1 you have that rejoice in the Lord. But then a verse or so later, he says, for we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.

0:26:39.2 Jim Lovelady: No confidence in the flesh.

0:26:39.5 Josiah Bancroft: With the word glory there, that description is what it means to rejoice in the Lord, to glory in Christ Jesus, and to put no confidence in the flesh. That word glory, I believe it ties back to 1 and 2 Corinthians and the word boast, to boast in the Lord, that’s connected to rejoice in the Lord, that we rejoice in this, in the victory of Christ, which looks like no other victory. We participate in those sufferings, says Paul, not because we love sufferings, but because the meaning of this age is the mission of God to gather people to himself through the grace of Jesus Christ and as you rejoice in what Christ has done, joy is a result happiness begins to come.

0:27:38.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, like you say in the book, it’s thought that Philippians is a book about joy and you say, no, this is actually a book about Jesus. And when you focus on Jesus, the byproduct is joy.

0:27:51.7 Josiah Bancroft: And that focus is the rejoicing, because it’s not… The reason I say that is, it is not a empty or non, it is a focus that I enjoy, that I delight in, that I pursue because it is beautiful and meaningful and draws me in and so it’s not just a focus that’s intellectual or traditional, but it is this rejoicing element of my glorying in, boasting in, running to Christ.

0:28:36.2 Jim Lovelady: So it seems cyclical to contrast the kinds of folks who are like the everything is awesome theology, where they’re not able to actually engage with the reality of suffering. Similar to your accountant friend who his wife was suffering, but he could not, like he didn’t do the Philippians 2 thing.

0:28:57.5 Josiah Bancroft: No, no.

0:28:58.7 Jim Lovelady: He did not humble himself.

0:29:00.4 Josiah Bancroft: No, and you couldn’t interrupt him, because his idea of what it meant to be spiritual was to be there.

0:29:07.5 Jim Lovelady: So when you tell someone like that, rejoice, they go, well, I could do that. I’m gonna rejoice.

0:29:13.5 Josiah Bancroft: I’m doing that.

0:29:14.3 Jim Lovelady: But his wife and anyone who suffers, when you say rejoice, it almost feels like, ugh.

0:29:21.5 Josiah Bancroft: And that’s what caught me with the book. And why I have to go back to it with my suffering now is because Paul was not ignorantly or foolishly ignoring the fact that he was in prison to die. So he talks about that very openly, I don’t know if I’ll ever die. You know he talks about their gifts and his guards so I mean, this is a man who is in the middle of a terrible loss. Paul, the greatest missionary outside of Christ the world has known, is in jail and can’t pursue his calling, you would think. But then he rejoices, because the gospel is going forward and he rejoices, because the Praetorian guard is hearing, because everyone in chapter 1, he is still rejoicing, because he really is taking that view as a citizen of Heaven, as one who is with Christ, entrusting him and his use of what he sees, interpreting it all through the lordship of Christ and what a remarkable thing the guy is in Nero’s jail. And you remember the Caesars stamped their image on their coins and demanded worship. And so what does Paul say between Nero’s guards, in Nero’s jail, what he says is, Christ is Lord.

0:31:00.3 Jim Lovelady: Treason.

0:31:00.4 Josiah Bancroft: Rejoice in the Lord always, and so he is preaching spiritual treason.

0:31:07.9 Jim Lovelady: That’s interesting. So Caesar stamps his face on this coin and he goes, rejoice in this, rejoice in this money, rejoice in the one who made the money for you rejoice. And it’s kinda like this, going back to your Stalin analogy, it’s kinda like, rejoice in my money and rejoice in me taking care of you, or else.

0:31:30.4 Josiah Bancroft: And the rule of Caesar, the Pax Romana, a piece of the empire that I’m enforcing with a centurion.

0:31:39.5 Jim Lovelady: Right, through violence.

0:31:41.2 Josiah Bancroft: In your village of Capernaum and the spiritual way of doing that, the spiritual lordship of Christ subverts the method, it subverts the politics, it subverts the rule.

0:31:58.9 Jim Lovelady: Flips it on it’s head.

0:32:01.2 Josiah Bancroft: And Paul is all about it, he’s rejoicing in it.

0:32:02.3 Jim Lovelady: He laughs at that.

0:32:03.5 Josiah Bancroft: Yes.

0:32:04.0 Jim Lovelady: Because Jesus is exalted.

0:32:05.7 Josiah Bancroft: Yes, in a way that shames the earthly rulers and the funny thing about our world is that nationally, different nations make themselves as if they’re part of and the representatives of the Kingdom of God. England did, Britain did through the Anglican church. Spain did what were the three reasons they went? One of them was gold, one was glory and one was the gospel. And taking the, and so there is this tendency to see some earthly rule as the real, as the present manifestation of the Kingdom of God. No such thing. He doesn’t need your representation of him, that is off track. His methods are completely different. And so Paul recognizing that the rule of Christ is founded on things this world doesn’t value or want rejoices in the Lord rather than crying because of Caesar, rather than worrying because of Caesar, rather than dreading death because of Nero because he is rejoicing in the Lord’s rule and in His character. So in Christ, Jesus answers the question, “What would the rule of God look like on earth?” It looks like Jesus.

0:33:53.5 Josiah Bancroft: Who is the Lord come to earth? And what does He do? He serves, He doesn’t come as a king. He takes a low position. He humbles Himself even to death.

0:34:08.4 Jim Lovelady: Even to death.

0:34:10.1 Josiah Bancroft: For the sake of others, because that’s who God is, that’s who we were made to be and so, following Christ, subverts all the pomp, the parades, the circumstances, the bumper stickers, the loud arguments over policy and politics with a entirely different kind of rule and message. So the followers of Christ are meant to be subversively influential like salt or like yeast or like those things that feel insubstantial, indirect, but are.

0:34:53.4 Jim Lovelady: Fly under the radar, no one pays attention to those things.

0:34:56.9 Josiah Bancroft: Yes.

0:34:58.0 Jim Lovelady: So how do you do that in the midst of long COVID, doctor’s appointments, not wanting to wake up in the morning, or having a hard time sleeping or whatever? 

0:35:09.7 Josiah Bancroft: Oh no, I didn’t say I didn’t wanna wake up.

0:35:11.6 Jim Lovelady: Or what…

0:35:13.0 Josiah Bancroft: I’m glad to wake up every morning.

0:35:14.8 Jim Lovelady: Okay, not wanting to get outta bed, maybe, or being in pain when you wake up, or just whatever hardship is so easily tangible, it’s like those things are tangible while you’re talking about these things. The way of the kingdom flies under the radar, and it’s so easy to fly under our heart’s radar as well. So how do you keep that at the forefront of your heart in the midst of all these hard things? 

0:35:37.4 Josiah Bancroft: Those struggles present a different opportunity to my heart, the opportunity to believe. Do you believe that all things work together for the good of those who are called? Do you believe that Christ is on the throne? Do you believe that this world is not the end of things? Do you believe that God will care for your wife? Do you believe that? Do you believe it or not? And my answer is yes.

0:36:13.6 Jim Lovelady: I believe, help me in my unbelief is my answer.

0:36:16.3 Josiah Bancroft: Well, and that belief is the growing edge of sanctification. That’s what it means to be sanctified, is to learn again with the lordship, the rule, the death, resurrection, justification of Jesus means again in this moment. And that’s messy. Now, if I go back and give you something that happened a few years ago, we know how it ends. And I can tie it up when you asked me about today boy, it’s the struggle, it’s the struggle.

0:36:52.8 Jim Lovelady: Oh, that’s so good.

0:36:54.3 Josiah Bancroft: To take hold of what I already know, to be true and to translate it into this moment. And sometimes I’m a good translator, And other times what comes out is, pretty sad.

0:37:08.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Oh, man. There were a lot of things going on in my mind, but one of them is one of the first things your voice said to me back in the sonship material.

0:37:19.4 Josiah Bancroft: Way back.

0:37:21.1 Jim Lovelady: Way back was the first steps of faith feel like death.

0:37:23.8 Josiah Bancroft: Yes.

0:37:24.4 Jim Lovelady: And that’s what it seems like.

0:37:29.3 Josiah Bancroft: Yes.

0:37:29.4 Jim Lovelady: Where I’m going to function as if Jesus is victorious, I’m going to function as if His humility that led to death and His servant heart that brought Him to this place where God exalted Him is so true that it changed everything. And so since it has changed everything, I’m going to function in that…

0:37:51.7 Jim Lovelady: In this way.

0:37:53.0 Josiah Bancroft: That’s right. And I would say that, not only does it feel like death, but there’s this… I believe the spirit of God inhabits those moments to encourage faith in my heart to strengthen and encourage me to believe the gospel in this place for this thing. Now, a lot of time, the first thing he has to do is to grab me and shake me and say, wake up. It’s like Jesus saying to the disciples in John 4, he sent them, they went into town, to Samaritan town to find kosher food for the Rabbi. And so they’re on this food hunt. And they come back and, he’s talking to this woman…

0:38:43.3 Jim Lovelady: He’s not hungry anymore.

0:38:44.7 Josiah Bancroft: And he’s not that hungry. And it’s like, he’s saying weird stuff like, “I have something to eat.”

0:38:50.3 Jim Lovelady: Wait, did he get food? I love the disciples. Was he stashing stuff? 

0:38:54.9 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah, yeah. What is this about? And then the woman returns to town and the teaching continues. And she brings back this crowd, and Jesus said to them, “Open your eyes.” The fields were white under harvest, because they couldn’t see the spiritual dimension of what Christ, of what God, what the Spirit was doing in the moment. They were worried about sandwiches.

0:39:25.6 Josiah Bancroft: And a lot of times, the Spirit of God is saying to me, leave the sandwiches alone. Don’t worry about food, I got that covered. Open your eyes. Look at what’s going on in your life differently. That’s the struggle of the walk of sanctification.

0:39:47.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I feel like I need something. Just always. Okay, so one of the initial questions of the sonship material is what happened to all your joy? 

0:39:54.3 Josiah Bancroft: Oh yeah.

0:39:55.2 Jim Lovelady: Where did your joy go? 

0:39:56.6 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah.

0:39:58.0 Jim Lovelady: For me it’s what happened to all your contentment? Where did your contentment go? Like, discontentment is so close a “friend” I don’t know how to…

0:40:09.9 Josiah Bancroft: The capitalist society is built on encouraging discontent so that you respond socially and economically in ways that help the system move forward. We live in a very discontent society. It is the undertow of our lives. I’m really looking forward to the 15th. Because by 13, it’s looking a little dodgy now. And Apple is a masterful of building this anticipatory discontent, and that’s true economically, but it’s also just true in my heart. And one of the things I’ve been mulling over, it’s funny you would ask that, but now, when I’m discontent, the word that I substitute a word for it. Unbelief, unbelief, unbelief, unbelief. And the reason I say that is, the book of Philippians ends on contentment. It does. And when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” He’s talking about being content, because that’s a big old thing. And I’m taking a hold of that and learning to be content with my moment.

0:41:41.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:41:42.7 Josiah Bancroft: And that’s part of what brings a smile to my face. Do you know why I have long COVID? Because God is good. Because He loves me, cares for me, meets me in it, teaches me through it, uses me, despite my weakness. And shall I be content with Paul in his prison to say, “rejoice in the Lord?” Or am I going to chase something else? Now, do I go to the doctor? I do. Do I take the test? I do. And the question is, where’s my trust in those things? I do those things, engage them really and truly, but not as a substitute for the grace of God at work in my life, whether the test result as this or that. And for me, the fear, the discontent, the worry of my life, now, I really have to battle. That is spiritual warfare for me, the believer. What am I gonna believe in this moment? And about the time I think I’ve got it licked, the pulmonologist calls and says, “I want you to have another CAT scan.” Well, I’ve got this cough that won’t quit. And when your pulmonologist says another CAT scan, what the heck does that mean? And then she doesn’t get back to you and say, “that’s all clear.”

0:43:30.2 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:43:31.2 Josiah Bancroft: You talk to her secretary. She said, “She wanted someone else to look at this.” And it’s like, now, that’s the moment.

0:43:39.6 Jim Lovelady: Be anxious for nothing? 

0:43:40.4 Josiah Bancroft: Be anxious for nothing. Rejoice in the Lord. All this. But that’s not like a static moment that’s like, I have to go back to that in a loop again and again. And so the worry, and the discontent, and the fear pieces drive me to God again and again to believe the same thing I’ve always believed. But to believe it here for this, for this moment.

0:44:06.6 Jim Lovelady: Amen. That’s so good.

0:44:07.5 Josiah Bancroft: So I don’t wanna shortcut that by refusing to engage the reality of my life.

0:44:16.9 Jim Lovelady: That’s really helpful, because I think that there’s a certain amount of stoicism or blind optimism that we can extract from Philippians without actually going to the depths of following Jesus to humbling himself, even unto death. Even like pick the worst thing, death on a cross. And our inability to go to that level makes us go, “Well, to live is Christ to die is gain.” And it’s just like this stoic kind yeah to… It almost turns into a stoic throwaway line.

0:44:54.1 Josiah Bancroft: It does.

0:44:54.2 Jim Lovelady: But you’re talking about something more visceral, and I’m gonna…

0:45:00.5 Josiah Bancroft: It is dirty, gritty, struggling. It’s not pretty. I’m not the happiest person to be around when I’m having that kind of struggle. I have to deal with my emotions, deal with my responses. It’s almost like I need help from the Holy Spirit.

0:45:23.2 Josiah Bancroft: Almost.

0:45:24.3 Jim Lovelady: Almost.

0:45:25.4 Josiah Bancroft: Almost.

0:45:25.6 Jim Lovelady: Not to be overly facetious.

0:45:28.7 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah, and I would say that Philippians has been foundational in my life at many times. I would say a second book I go to again and again is 2nd Corinthians. Because Paul says, “We despaired of life.” Is he joking? Is that a report that wasn’t really true, that he wasn’t afraid and worried and pestered and harried? And is that just a throwaway, or should I believe him that he found mercy and grace in the time of need when humanly, all he can see is giving up? Well, that has some strength to it, that has some power behind it, that’s worth doing. And then to hear him hear the progress, I would say in his life as to how he’s dealing with a similar moment is just unbelievable. And I would say, I am now working on 2nd Corinthians, so we’ll see what happens. But 2nd Corinthians, the word is, we comfort people with a comfort…

0:46:43.2 Jim Lovelady: Comfort of God.

0:46:43.4 Josiah Bancroft: That God comforted us with. There’s a second translation of the word comfort. The word in Greek is Parakaleo.

0:46:53.4 Jim Lovelady: Oh, really? 

0:46:53.7 Josiah Bancroft: It means.

0:46:53.8 Jim Lovelady: You came alongside…

0:46:55.1 Josiah Bancroft: Comfort, come alongside, encourage, to bring courage into a person’s life. So it’s not just a they’re there. Do you feel better yet? It is the strengthening of the Holy Spirit and the gospel, so that my heart is comforted by these spiritual realities, and I’m able to speak them. Not deny what I’ve been through, but to take a view that includes the spiritual dimension of my life. And so much of what we see in the US is methods. What’s your method? What’s your six steps to inner peace? Let me just tell you, type in steps and inner peace in Google.

0:47:44.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, yeah. Tons of stuff.

0:47:47.6 Josiah Bancroft: Tons of stuff, or thankfulness, tons of stuff. Thinking a lot about thankfulness is, they left out the person. Paul doesn’t talk about thankfulness. In Philippians 4, he talks about giving thanks to the father. In other words, it’s a personal exchange is going on.

0:48:06.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Versus conjuring some emotion of…

0:48:08.3 Josiah Bancroft: Versus feeling.

0:48:10.0 Jim Lovelady: I feel good about. Yeah.

0:48:10.9 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. I need to feel thankful for no good reason. I’m just…

0:48:15.1 Jim Lovelady: And in general.

0:48:16.5 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. And that may be progress for people, so I’m not going to…

0:48:22.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, we can’t poo poo that completely.

0:48:23.8 Josiah Bancroft: No. No, I’m for people being happy and thankful.

0:48:28.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Especially as opposed to like resentful and bitter.

0:48:29.9 Josiah Bancroft: That’s right.

0:48:31.4 Jim Lovelady: So there’s a trajectory here.

0:48:35.4 Josiah Bancroft: On the whole, I’d rather be around a thankful person than just someone who’s grumpy and mean, so.

0:48:42.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:48:43.7 Josiah Bancroft: But we’re talking about something more here that recognizes that we are more than physical, emotional, social, economic beings. That it really is a spiritual reality because of Christ, because of God that I am included in, brought into, that affects my physical life, my emotional life here and now. That’s moving in front of these polls, rich or poor, Democrat, Republican to…

0:49:21.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. To this vertical thing that’s…

0:49:24.2 Josiah Bancroft: Yeah. To God and to all the things that oppose Him in His life. Flesh, the world, the evil one, the elemental spirits, all those things. And so when Paul looks at the world, when he looks at the Philippians, he sees friends who know Jesus, who suffered with him for Jesus. He names them and says he loves them because from the beginning, they haven’t left what they found in Christ and stood fast. I just love the fact that he’s able to be so honest with that group of people, especially when you read Acts 16, when you read the founding of that church was on a miraculous release from jail.

0:50:16.4 Jim Lovelady: Oh, I never thought about that. The irony thing being…

0:50:18.6 Josiah Bancroft: And that doesn’t happen.

0:50:20.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, The irony of… The church founded on a miraculous release from jail, and now here he is. He doesn’t need to be released from jail.

0:50:28.5 Josiah Bancroft: No.

0:50:29.2 Jim Lovelady: For the victory of God to move forward. And he’s content with that. And since he’s content with that, he’s… What else is there to have but joy.

0:50:39.7 Josiah Bancroft: Yes. And unashamed. He doesn’t make excuse for it. He doesn’t say the angel will come at any moment, the earthquake will happen again. He doesn’t have to return to that for the Philippians to understand grace and joy.

0:51:03.1 Jim Lovelady: It reminds you were saying that there’s so many things going on in my mind. The story of Lazarus, just like zooming in. But not at John 11 of the raising of Lazarus. It’s John 12, where I imagine it says the Pharisees, where they’re like, okay, well Jesus has gotta die, we’re gonna kill this guy. And Lazarus.

0:51:26.8 Josiah Bancroft: Him too.

0:51:27.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. And so I find that so wonderful. I imagine Lazarus sitting there almost like a not crowned in glory yet, but he died, and Jesus brought him back to life. So…

0:51:46.4 Josiah Bancroft: What is that? 

0:51:47.2 Jim Lovelady: What are they gonna do to him? You know, the Pharisees wanna kill him. He’s like, been there done.

0:51:53.3 Josiah Bancroft: They’ve been doing that.

0:51:53.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. So what would he do? So it’s similar that Paul has this, what can you do to me? Oh, I’m in jail. Ooh, I died. My life is hidden in Christ. To live is Christ, here I am, living to die is gain. What are you gonna do? 

0:52:11.0 Josiah Bancroft: He says, I don’t know which should be the better.

0:52:13.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, which is not a stoic thing. It’s way more sophisticated. But then for him to go into, in Philippians 3, the parallel… Philippians 2 is the story of Jesus humbling himself and exalted. Philippians 3 is the story of Paul as he imitates Christ. I wanna know Christ, and the power of His resurrection. But this one, the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings becoming like him in His death. I mean, that’s the… It’s the Philippians 2 trajectory. And I go, okay, well, it’s only in a Lazarus kind of confidence of like, what are you gonna do to me? I died and a Paul in kind of, well, I died, and a Josiah kind of, well, I died. And a Gen kind of, I am dead because my life is hidden in Christ. You know, for me to function in that, I feel like that’s the first steps of faith. The irony is, the first steps of faith moving in that direction actually feel like death. But that the promise is, okay, “follow Me, take up your cross, follow Me and I will raise…” You will somehow attain to the resurrection. I don’t know. The Philippians …. is amazing. And so I’m so thankful that you have not only written the book, but have been meditating on it for so long that every time folks are around you, what you have gleaned from wrestling with Jesus through the book of Philippians has been such a blessing to all of us. As you come in and give a lecture or whatever.

0:54:02.6 Josiah Bancroft: You’re very kind. Thank you. The real hope would be not just that people would buy and engage the small book I have, but they’d be pushed back, encouraged to allow the gospel, and the spirit to build those things in their lives through Philippians or whatever else in the Bible he brings to ’em. You can find it most places.

0:54:33.9 Jim Lovelady: It’s all over. Yeah.

0:54:35.0 Josiah Bancroft: It’s all over. So.

0:54:36.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, man. Well, yeah. Again, thanks for hanging out.

0:54:41.0 Josiah Bancroft: Well, sure. Thank you, Jim. Could I pray for us? 

0:54:47.4 Jim Lovelady: Absolutely.

0:54:51.9 Josiah Bancroft: Father, when we think about grace, when we think about the life and death of Christ who reveals Your heart to the world, we’re humbled and we would ask that You would hang on to us, teach us those things step by step. Help us with Your love to welcome others into the safety, the contentment, the joy of the gospel, pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.

0:55:29.6 Jim Lovelady: Amen.

0:55:36.6 Jim Lovelady: In this conversation with Josiah, it struck me that the book of Philippians is actually about how to be invincible. Is there a better word than invincible? For someone who’s learned to be content and joyful in all circumstances. To live is Christ. To die is gain. Death can take nothing away. If life is found in anything else, death would be a threat. If to live is wealth, death is a loss. If to live is success, and successful and well-balanced kids, death is a loss. If to live is comfort and pleasure, then the encroachment of death is a loss. But if Christ is your life, death in its shadow is powerless against you. You’re invincible like a tree planted by streams of living water. You’ll bear much fruit. And I think that’s what Psalm 1:3 means. When it says that those who are planted by streams of living water, then in all they do, they prosper.

Well, the book of Philippians is about being planted in Jesus. And when He’s your focus, the byproduct is joy, no matter what comes your way. So let me encourage you to pick up Josiah’s book on Philippians “Finding Joy when life is hard.” Go to newgrowthpress.com to get that and lots of other resources from Serge. And if you wanna follow more of Josiah’s work, his blog, his sermons, and other resources from him, go to josiahbancroft.com. And Josiah is speaking at this year’s Sonship Week at Park Road Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, Florida from October 22nd through 27th. And look, it’s the stuff that he’s gonna talk about here that when I heard it back in 2006, it changed my life. Sonship Week is life-changing. But I wanna leave you with a question that we started this episode off with, because I want you to keep talking with Jesus about it. What do you lack that if you had, would make you happy? And what if you didn’t need that thing anymore? The pursuit of joy misses the whole point.

Seek after the one who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. And what was that joy? Man, that joy was you. You beloved are His joy. So as you go into a world that longs to know the invincible joy of the Lord, go with the blessing of a joyful God. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to smile down you on you. May the Lord be gracious to you and turn His bright eyes to you and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.


Josiah Bancroft

Josiah Bancroft is Senior Advisor at Serge and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. A church planter, pastor and missionary, he now oversees all the ministries, mission work and publications of Serge. Together with his wife, Barbara, they trust God’s grace at the fray.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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