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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?

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