Philippians 1:3-6 – I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (NKJV)
Today we look at the first of three aspects: fellowship in Christ, growth of the gospel, the increasing of our faith. It is these three things that help us focus on Jesus which in turn allow us to have joy in troubled time.
“Fellowship” primarily means thinking about, serving and giving preference to fellow Believers instead of ourselves. We have Paul opening the book of Philippians not complaining about his circumstances but thinking about his Christian family even though he had every human right to gripe about the unfair imprisonment and malicious criticism from other “Christians”.
No, instead he thanks God for other Christians, makes joyful requests in prayer for his Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and encourages them with one of the foundational principles of living the Christian life: God has begun a good work in you and he will complete it until the day you meet Jesus. That one truth alone provides an immeasurable amount of hope and confidence as we walk each day in both good times and bad. Knowing that it was God who STARTED the work in us gives us great confidence. Knowing that He has promised to finish it and see it all the way through to the end gives us hope even when hope seems hard to find.
Philippians 1:7-8 – just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. (NKJV)
Paul considers other Christians as fellow partakers of grace and it causes him to long for them with great affection. As a Christian, do you have great affection for your Christian family? Does your heart long for their company and fellowship? Do you long to bless them and communicate with them?
This grace and affection is a key to the joyful life. It is hard NOT to have joy when we focus on the fact that we have been included in the grace of God. It is doubly hard to be joyless when we affectionately recall that each of our brothers and sisters are also a part of that same grace that reached down to rescue us from our utter lost and helpless estate. No matter what is happening in this life, troubled times cannot reduce or quench the hope and joy we find when we consider God’s grace.
A key to having joy in troubled times is to focus on grace.
Give it a try sometime. When you feel a lack of joy and just cannot seem “choose” joy for the moment, think about the grace God has shown you. Think about where you were headed before God’s grace, both in this life and the next. Think of the genuine hopelessness that engulfed your life before God’s grace. Think about the countless lost souls God’s grace has rescued from an eternity of darkness then tell yourself you find no joy in that fact.
Philippians 1:9-11 – And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (NKJV)
Again you find Paul focusing on others and not on his own circumstances. We find this to be in stark contrast to the basic principles of modern humanistic psychology that would have us continually focused on ourselves and our own problems. Rather than being self focused, Paul looks to others and prays for them specifically to grow in knowledge and discernment, choosing only the most excellent things for their life, being sincere and blameless until the day they meet Christ, filled with all the fruits of righteousness which bring God glory. Now that’s a prayer. Have you ever prayed that for someone? How about for yourself? Look again as I personalize it for you:
I pray for YOU, dear reader that you would…
- Grow in knowledge (the things of God) and discernment (the ability to know what is truly Godly)
- Choose only the most excellent and Godly things for your life
- Be sincere (always honest in heart and mind) and blameless (free from willful sin) until the day you meet Jesus
- Be filled with all the fruits of righteousness for God’s glory (joy, peace, love, patience, etc.)
Do you think the fulfillment of that prayer would lead to a joyful life?
Stop and think about Paul’s attitude and responses for a minute. Paul didn’t say “life sucks. You wouldn’t believe what is happening to me. You guys don’t even know what hardship is. You need to be praying for me and hope that you don’t ever have it as bad as I do.” That is the type of response that WE are more conditioned to have when times get tough. It is the natural response of the flesh and human self focus.
There is nothing wrong with being tempted to feel that way, it is only wrong to actually follow through with it, and choose to remain in that mindset. When you find yourself with these types of feelings it should be an alarm, a red flag, a flashing warning signal that should alert you spiritually to make a willful choice to get your mind off yourself and think of others.
Again, it is a choice. It’s always a choice. That’s the hard part you don’t hear today. Your joy, your happiness, your content IS YOUR CHOICE. A choice. I keep saying it because I want you to lock it in.
Choose to pray for others. Choose to bless others. Choose to focus on others and not yourself. Choose happiness. Choose righteousness. Choose self discipline. Choose joy.
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.
Tomorrow we will look at the 2nd aspect of focusing on Christ (which brings joy to our life): the growth of the Gospel.
Lord God, help us to show our wisdom and understanding by living a good life, full of humble good works. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?