Joy at Philippi

Philippians is a book about joy in Jesus Christ. Written by the apostle Paul, Philippians successfully argues that there ought to be no such thing as a joyless Christian (Phil. 4:4). Jesus promises, “fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11) to those who love Him and obey His will. How can we have the kind of joy that Jesus intended?

Focus on the Gospel — Paul found himself imprisoned because of his faith in Jesus Christ, but that imprisonment actually became an advantage for the spread of Christ’s message into the world: “I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). It’s easy to look at problems and challenges in our lives and think that these situations could not possibly fit into God’s plan for our lives. However, Philippians teaches a vital principle to would-be followers of Christ: the joy of our service to Him ought to center on how the word of God goes forth into a lost and dying world! When we are discouraged at our lot in life, we need to look for doors of opportunity to glorify Jesus Christ through the gospel. Even in prison, Paul could still rejoice in the spread of the gospel and say, “to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).

Focus on Jesus Christ — At times it is easy to allow ourselves to become puffed up and proud, especially when we feel like our “rights” have been trampled. Philippians 2:5 commands us to, “have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus did not count it a thing to be grasped to be in the very image and presence of God, and yet He left His heavenly throne to come to earth and dwell as a man (Phil. 2:6-8). This humble, self-emptying attitude should characterize every sincere follower of the Lord. Humility is all about forgetting self and honoring God. That’s the path to real joy, and that’s the path to having the “mind of Christ” in us!

Focus on the Goal — We’re such frenetic worrywarts at times, and yet if we really understand our mission as Christians, we might behave differently. Paul had accomplished much in his life that he could be proud of, yet when he considered a life of hardship in service of Jesus Christ, his unfailing cry was, “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10). One poet wrote,

“Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; ‘Dust thou art, to dust returnest’ was not spoken of the soul.”

The goal of our lives involves making eternal things our ultimate priority. We will never have fullness of joy until we learn that success in this life is not so much measured by how much we accomplish, but by where our ultimate priorities lie. Paul said of his life, “one thing I do” (Phil. 3:13). Paul’s focus on his eternal citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20) reveals the true source of his joy!

Focus on God’s Blessings — It’s easy to lose sight of our blessings in a society that clamors for instant gratification. Paul said, “I have learned whatever state I am in, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). Christians need to learn the lessons of contentedness. God will not leave us destitute and hungry if we put our trust in Him (Matt. 6:33). Why, then, do we worry so much about worldly things? We serve a God who is able (and willing!) to, “supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). We lack for joy when we neglect to appreciate how much He’s really doing for us! May God help all Christians to manifest more joy in their lives! — JB