Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: Summary – Part 8

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Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

I wanted to wrap up our series with an encouraging summary of the truths we have learned. I hope these will bless you and help you find a joy-filled life, good times or bad.

Here are some keys to a joy filled life:

  • A key to having joy in troubled times is a focus on Jesus and not our circumstances.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to focus on grace.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to choose to focus on others, praying and blessing them rather than focusing on your own circumstances.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is when we look for how God is using our circumstances to further the gospel and glorify Christ.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is when we remember “to live is Christ”.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember that we are not alone.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember that we have already won the battle.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is unity through humility.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is humbling yourself like Christ for the sake of others.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is pouring yourself out for others so that you may be a light in a dark world.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is to consider the example of other godly persons.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is having a spiritual mind and not an earthly mind.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is faith in Christ not faith in our religious works.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is putting the past behind and pressing on toward the ultimate prize.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is reminding ourselves of our future destination.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is thinking about our future glorified existence in heaven.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is acknowledging Christ’s presence and being secure in it.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is choosing to think about the right things which replace worry.
  • A key to having joy in troubled times is knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • I can have joy in the midst of troubled times because Christ strengthens me.
  • I WILL have joy in troubled times because Christ gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

Lord God, help us to have a joy filled life by remembering all these truths from Your Word and planting them in our heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:57)


Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: The Joy Killer – Worry – Part 7

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Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

Most Christians worry occasionally, if only briefly. Some Christians worry constantly despite abundantly clear Scripture that forbids it (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Peter 5:7). Worry, and its older brother “fear”, are sure fire JOY KILLERS! In fact, I would propose it is impossible to have a joy-filled life if you allow worry to be part of it. To worry means “to strangle” and that is certainly the affect it has on joy.

Philippians 4:6 – Be anxious [worry] for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (NKJV)

We are never FORCED to worry. Worry is caused by wrong thinking, poor knowledge, and a focus on circumstances or self. If you attain the keys to joy we’ve already discussed, then a worry free life is the next logical and attainable step. On the other, if you do NOT have the attitudes and perspectives we have already discussed, then a worry free life will be next to impossible. A heart that is focused on Christ, secure in the knowledge of salvation and our assured victory as well as our future home in heaven, is a heart that will not be overly troubled by the hardships of this life, nor robbed of the joy found in Christ alone. Paul gives us several reasons not to worry:

Philippians 4:5 – Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (NKJV)

The Lord is at hand, meaning that He is near, He is accessible and He is paying attention. Stop and think about that for a second. If we REALLY believe Jesus is near, why worry? If we REALLY believe we have access to Him, why fret? If we REALLY believe He watching over us carefully, what is there to be anxious about? To the degree that we worry, we reveal the degree to which we don’t truly believe those things, or are choosing to ignore them. A key to having joy in troubled times is acknowledging Christ’s presence and be secure in it. How can we do that? Verse six and seven tells us:

Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

We focus on Christ’s presence by talking to Him through prayer. It’s hard to think God is far off if you are praying because it is counterintuitive. Why would I pray to a distant Lord who cannot not hear me and is not paying attention. The very fact we are praying is an acknowledgement that He is listening and He cares. Worry is dissolved and replaced with the peace that surpasses human comprehension. Not only that, this peace then sets up a guard in our heart, and in our mind, protecting us from worry and anxiety. The opposite of worry is peace and we find in the next couple of verses if we get our mind and our attitudes right, it results in God’s peace being on us. We get our minds and attitudes right by choosing to meditate on those things which are Godly… whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure and lovely, whatever is good news… whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. These are the things which we should focus our mind on and by doing so, we open the door for the peace of God which will wash away all worry and anxiety. A key to having joy in troubled times is choosing to think about the right things which replace worry. All of this preparation of the mind and heart and attitudes leads us up to one of the cornerstone passages of the Bible:

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

This verse is far too often pulled out of context to simply mean that whatever we decide we want to do, Jesus will give us the power to do it. When we read the verse in light of the entire book of Philippians we find its true meaning: no matter what the situation, hardship, sacrifice or circumstance, when we have the right thinking, right attitudes, right praying and right living we will find that we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength to live both in joy and victorious power.

  • There is no need to worry because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • There is no need to get caught up in the cares of this life because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • There is no need to be insecure about the future because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  • There is no need to live even a moment without joy because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

A key to having joy in troubled times is knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Let’s put it another way for the sake of this series: I can do all things, including having joy in any circumstance no matter how difficult, through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things, and be joyful in the most troubling of times, through Christ who strengthens me.

  • Because we believe that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us,
  • and because we know who wins,
  • and because we know where our future home is,
  • and because we have put the past behind us and are pressing on toward the prize,
  • and because we have counted all things but loss for the sake of Christ,
  • and because we know that to live is Christ and to die is even better,
  • and because we know that our willingness to be humble will result in future exultation…

…we come to the unavoidable conclusion that it is absolutely absurd to not have joy in our life, whether we have prosperity or want, health or suffering, peace or turmoil, it matters not. Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

Lord God, help us to have a joy filled life by remembering all these truths from Your Word and planting them in our heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:57)


Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: All for Christ – Keeping the Right Focus – Part 6

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Philippians 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (NKJV)

One of the primary reasons Christians have a hard time finding joy in troubled times is because they get wrapped up in the “things” of this world.

Paul uses the word “things” over and over and Philippians 3 to refer to the cares, concerns and pursuits of this world. He contrasts the believer who minds earthly things vs. the believer who minds the things of God… with the predictable result being loss of joy for the former, and overflowing joy for the latter.

A key to having joy in troubled times is having a spiritual mind and not an earthly mind.

First and foremost in your ability to have a spiritual mind, is the issue of salvation. A person who is not saved has no hope of either a spiritual mind or genuine effective joy. It is not religion or church or tradition that brings eternal life or joy but only a genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ.

The work of salvation is about what is DONE,
not what you can DO.

Paul warns us in Chapter 3, in the first few verses, to beware of those promoting religion which seeks to build confidence in the flesh. In other words, hope is placed in what man can do or perform rather than in the work of Christ. There is no joy to be found when our hope is misplaced in our own flesh. Paul reminds us that he has more reason to be confident in his extremely zealous and diligent religious (past) life than any person but then goes on to confirm that he counted all those things for loss for the sake of Christ. In fact he counted all those things as useless garbage compared to genuine faith in Christ found not in man’s righteousness (by keeping some sort of law or checklist), but found only via faith.

A key to having joy in troubled times is faith in Christ not faith in our religious works.

Through genuine faith in Christ, discarding our prideful religious efforts, we come to know the Lord and the power found in salvation as we join Him in taking up our cross and being conformed to the example Christ gave us through His own life. This is the start of the Christian life and is a prerequisite to the race, the path, the Christian walk that Paul goes on to discuss.

He reminds us that we never attain perfect power, a perfect life or perfect joy in this life but that we must press on day after day, taking hold of, getting a grip on, the very same attitudes, motivations and truths which Jesus Himself chose to take hold of for us. We should never get to a comfortable position where we think we have figured it out, or have “arrived” but rather we should press on continually, forgetting what is behind and reaching out or stretching forth to take hold of those things that are ahead, namely “the prize”, which is the call of Jesus Christ on our life.

Unity without Truth is man’s idea and
cannot result in real joy.

A key to having joy in troubled times is putting the past behind and pressing on toward the ultimate prize.

It is a test of maturity to have this sort of mindset and if you do not understand it, then pray and ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you abundantly (James 1:5). True unity in Christianity is all believers having this mindset, keeping our eyes ahead on Christ and having a single focus in life. Today we see much talk and effort towards unity but it is more the idea of dissolving all differences between us including the absolute truth of Biblical Christianity. This is man’s idea of unity and cannot result in true joy. Only unity in the truth focus solely on Jesus Christ can bring about joy in troubled times.

Philippians 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (NKJV)

One of the ways we avoid getting wrapped up in the things of this world is to continually remind ourselves of our future. One of the primary ways to keep a spiritual mind is to constantly meditate on our destination and look for the event that will mark its fruition: the coming of Christ. Paul warns us in verse 18 to be on guard against the enemies of the cross whose end is destruction, whose god is their flesh, and whose prideful attitude and self focus will end up being their shame. These types of people set their mind on earthly things and will seek to have us do the same. It is this very behavior, this exact mindset that we find being promoted incessantly today.

A key to having joy in troubled times is reminding ourselves of our future destination.

As Christians our future is heaven. Our future citizenship is the kingdom of God, in the presence of Jesus for all eternity. This is the thing that all believers should eagerly be waiting for which brings us to a soul-searching question: are you eagerly waiting for heaven? If not, have you considered what is lacking in either maturity, knowledge or understanding that causes you to have no (or little) eagerness about your future citizenship in heaven? Maybe you just haven’t spent enough time thinking about it. Or maybe you have not considered that your sin cursed body will be transformed into a glorious, perfect, sin free, uncorrupted body, guaranteed by the work of Christ who holds all things in his hands.

A key to having joy in troubled times is thinking about our future glorified existence in heaven.

Taken together, we have this thought from Chapter 3 that helps us attain a joy filled life even in troubled times:

We count everything as loss compared to the blessing of salvation which is obtained only by faith in Jesus Christ that we may know the power of the resurrection and through suffering for the gospel be conformed into the image of Christ forgetting what is in the past and continually pressing on to the prize which is an eternity in heaven and a glorified and incorruptible body.

If we really believe that, and choose to focus on it, how can we even have one moment that does not result in joy once we get our mind firmly fixed on that truth?.

Lord God, help us to have a joy filled life by not focusing on ourselves, but on others and especially on Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:57)


Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: Joy Through Humility – Part 5

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Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: Joy Through Humility

Philippians 2:1-3 – Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (NKJV)

Again we find Paul being contrary to the popular thinking of today. The path to true joy is found in humility and focus on others, not on self. The unity of Christians is cemented through putting others first, being humble and thinking more highly of others than we do ourselves. These are keys to finding joy in all circumstances.

A key to having joy in troubled times is unity through humility.

Just in case we can’t figure out what all that means, Paul gives us for examples to learn from. The first and most important is the example of Christ. In one of the greatest passages in the whole Bible, we find the ultimate example of humility as Jesus Christ willingly took on the form of a servant and became a man, humbling himself even to the point of enduring the humiliating death on the cross (Phil 2:5-8). Because of that:

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NKJV)

Jesus is the irrefutable definition of ultimate humility. He willingly lowered himself so that we might have joy through salvation. If Jesus was willing to give up his very privileges as God on our behalf, how much joy should we have in the privilege of humbling ourselves to our fellow brethren and esteeming them higher than our own self?

A key to having joy in troubled times is humbling yourself like Christ for the sake of others.

We also see that humility results in exultation. Christ was exalted for the ultimate act of humility and likewise God will always exalt us for our sacrificial acts of humility (always spiritually, sometimes publicly). When we find ourselves in troubled times, choose to be humble and focus on others, it will always result in God’s blessings and Him exalting us for that choice. There is never any joy to be found in self-seeking pride and likewise God never fails to give us overflowing joy in our submission and humility.

We then see in the next verses calls example of humble submission:

Philippians 2:17-18 – Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. (NKJV)

Through Paul’s suffering and imprisonment he was being poured out as a sacrifice for the purpose of being an example for us. He did not regret it or do it grudgingly but to the contrary, was glad and rejoiced in it. He then encourages us to do the same and like him, find joy in it.

We find in verse 12 the “work of salvation” which in context we see as the process of learning to be humble and submissive. This verse is often taken out of context, and is difficult to understand when read superficially. At this point you should see it is clearly talking about the process of living our Christian life (humbly) and in no way means that we work to merit our salvation. Paul goes on to say that this “work of salvation” is to be done without complaining or disputing so that we may be blameless, shining lights in a world that is crooked and perverse. In all of these things we see the clear source of joy, no matter what life throws at us.

A key to having joy in troubled times is pouring yourself out for others so that you may be a light in a dark world.

The example of Jesus Christ and Paul would be more than enough to consume a lifetime of consideration but he goes on to give us the example of Timothy and Epaphroditus us as well. Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith” and had proven over time that he lived for Christ and not for himself. Paul presents Timothy as an example of humility for us to follow declaring his proven character and his attitude of service for the gospel.

Likewise, Epaphroditus is called “my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier”, a selfless minister to Paul’s needs. He had come close to death for the cause of Christ with no regard for his own life and so Paul commends him encouraging us to hold such a person in high esteem.

A key to having joy in troubled times is to consider the example of other godly persons.

When we are facing difficult situations in our own life and having trouble finding the joy Christ has promised us, it is helpful to look at the lives and examples presented to us in God’s word such as Paul or Timothy, as well as the lives of faithful Christians that are alive today. It is a great encouragement and motivator to consider the examples of other joyful and steadfast believers who prove to us that the joy filled life is not just a concept but something that each of us can attain.

Lord God, help us to have a joy filled life by not focusing on ourselves, but on others and especially on Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:57)


Having a Joy-Filled Life In Troubled Times: The Growth of the Gospel, cont’d – Part 4

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Philippians 1:27-30 – Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (NKJV)

Selfishness or self focus always breeds discontent and unhappiness. Since today’s method of counseling and therapy primarily encourages people to become self focused (self love, self esteem, once an addict always an addict, incremental recovery, etc) and linger indefinitely in that focus, it is no coincidence that the level of discontent and lack of joy is increasing. (I’m amused at times that people don’t see how self serving it is for an industry to claim that the “diseases” THEY define can never be “cured” and you rely on them for therapy perpetually… no conflict of interest there, huh?).

The Biblical approach to contentment, joy and happiness is always encapsulated in the idea of focusing on others, especially Jesus Christ, rather than our self or our circumstances along with the goal of “putting the past behind and pressing on”. This is one of the fundamental differences in modern psychology (including so-called Christian psychology) versus Biblical counseling. Keep in mind how diluted and blurred this distinction has become in Christianity as you hear the continual references to “self” this or that (self-love, self-esteem, self forgiveness, self-awareness, etc.) from the pulpit or espoused in the latest best-selling Christian self-help book.

A key to having joy in troubled times is remembering that our life is not our own, our future is not our own, our plans are not our own, and our reputation is not our own.

Whenever we put ourselves first (self focus) it inevitably leads to discontent and feelings of selfishness resulting in predictable misery. Whenever we choose to focus on others and on Jesus Christ with the mindset that no matter what happens it is Christ’s glory that matters, only then do we discover the secret of true joy in troubled times.

In closing the first chapter of Philippians, Paul gives us our third principle of focusing on Christ and that is to stand firm in our faith. He reminds us that we will suffer for Christ’s sake and that adversaries will attempt to cause us to fear but that no matter what, we are to stand fast with one mind, working together as a Christian body to glorify Christ and further the gospel.

Philippians 1:27-30 – Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (NKJV)

A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember that we are not alone.

When we focus on the fact that multitudes of Christians are standing fast in one spirit, with one purpose – to promote the gospel – it helps us to have joy in difficult times. We are not alone. We do not face troubles in a vacuum. All across the world, Christians of like-mind face the troubles of the day and the difficulties of our times with the same hope, the same faith and the same goals. We take joy in knowing that God is not left us all alone in our struggle.

Along with that, we can be confident that we are on the winning side. It is a tremendous motivation and blessing for us as Christians knowing that we are already victorious, that God has already won… giving us a pure joy that can only be found in the confidence of being sure of the final outcome. Paul reminds us that the enemy knows he is losing and we are winning, and it is through our unity and our shared faith that we present a token or sign to the whole world that the final victory is ours.

A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember that we have already won the battle.

Finally, Paul reminds us that it is a privilege to suffer for Jesus. It is hard for us in our modern way of thinking that it is ever a privilege to suffer for any reason. That is why as Christians we must keep a purely Biblical mindset that our suffering glorifies Christ because people can see what we’re willing to endure, sacrifice and live through for the sake of spreading the gospel and demonstrating a Christian life. It is a further privilege because we are granted the sole privilege of being able to live in joy no matter what the hardship. This is a privilege granted only to those who suffer for the sake of Christ. It is impossible for all others.

A key to having joy in troubled times is to remember is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.

If you think about the keys to joy we have discovered in this first chapter it may become clear why you have such difficulty in having a joy filled life despite troubled times:

  • Are you focused on yourself or on Christ?
  • Are you complaining about your circumstances or focused on and praying for others?
  • Are you having a pity party because life is so hard or are you choosing to remember that you are not alone and that our victory is already secured?
  • Are you choosing to believe that your difficulties can glorify Christ and further the gospel or are you just consumed and focused on the fact that you are unhappy and life is not going your way?

When you consider the keys to joy that we have discussed so far and evaluate your response to troubled times in light of them, it may become abundantly obvious why you are not experiencing joy as we see life all around us becoming more difficult and more troubled.
The good news is, now you know these truths and you can make a choice of your will to change your focus and apply these principles to your life.

There is no reason and absolutely no excuse for any Christian not to have a joy filled life no matter what circumstances they find themselves in… no matter how difficult… no matter how lengthy… no matter how unfair… no matter what: a joy filled life is available to all Christians regardless of troubled times.

Lord God, help us to have a joy filled life by not focusing on ourselves, but on others and especially on Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:57)