Philippians 1:4 – always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, (NKJV)
It would seem from the correspondence that I get, the general feeling across the board is that the world is becoming a more troubled place. Economic times are hard, society is moving farther away from God, it seems overall Christianity is increasingly attacked and open aggression against believers is on the steep rise.
Even in good times people desire life filled with joy. When times are harder, that need for joy is even more magnified, and at times allusive. But it doesn’t have to be.
Of course “troubled times” is relative. It depends on our perspective and what we have experienced in the past. For the most part, we (Westerners) have enjoyed an unprecedented stretch of prosperity and ease, so it doesn’t take much for us to feel like times are troubled. God understands that. He knows that we can only relate to life based on what we have experienced. He does not expect us to have a perspective from which we have no foundation of understanding. So whether it is alarming developments in politics, increasing economic hardship, or the open assault on genuine Christianity, if we perceive it as “troubled times”, and it feels like “troubled times”, then indeed, it is troubled times for us and joy is all the more important.
Like any aspect of life, we should look to the Scriptures to find examples, principles and truth to help us maintain and grow in our Christian walk whether good times or bad. While troubled times are relative to our personal experience, it can also be stated with certainty from clear Biblical principle, that as time passes the Earth will indeed become increasingly more troubled as God is rejected on every level – individual to nationally – and men become more intense “lovers of self”. The Bible plainly tells us this will be the case:
2Timothy 3:2-5 – For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (NKJV)
We can look through this list and see the root of the troubled times that are occurring as politicians, media and false teachers fit the exact definition described in Timothy: lovers of themselves, lovers of money, blasphemers, slanderers, lacking self-control, lovers of sin rather than God, and the list goes on. We can see the increase on all levels: individual, national and global. Lest we think too highly of ourselves, these descriptions also are true for humanity in general, not just those with power, fame or money. The leaders and celebrities may have their “self-ishness” publicized for all the world to see, but it is no more sinful or destructive than our private love of “self”.
I would say that the feeling of “troubled times” extends past relative individual perception and does indeed give a truthful evaluation of what is occurring in our world today as a whole. Of course any generation or era can point to their own “troubled times” and it would be foolish to say that our troubled times are any harder or worse than those of the past (probably not “harder” at this point). What I would say though, is that I believe the increase of troubled times we are witnessing today is a direct fulfillment of what the Bible says will occur as we approach the return of Jesus Christ. Even if that were not true, it still leaves us, in this current generation, with the need to learn how to deal with our own version of troubled times. Dealing with adversity and difficulty is a lesson that must be experienced and re-learned anew with each generation.
Since dealing with troubled times begins with an individual effort and takes individual discipline, I have chosen to take a look at an individual who dealt with extreme “troubled times” and left us with a magnificent example to follow. It is the apostle Paul in the book of Philippians. In this series will take a look section by section of Paul’s example of how he continued to live in joy despite circumstances that would most likely leave the rest of us griping, complaining and lamenting over how bad we have it.
Introduction – Joy Through the Gospel
When Paul wrote Philippians his life’s circumstances were anything but joyful. He had been arrested illegally, imprisoned wrongfully and was waiting for trial in Rome. There was infighting and division among Christians and some were deliberately slandering Paul and questioning him as a Christian leader. It is amazing that throughout the book he never complains but presents a life of joy and contentment. His only concern was for Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation which he mentions over and over throughout the book. This fact alone gives us one principle that is paramount to having joy in troubled times:
A key to having joy in troubled times is a focus on Jesus and not our circumstances.
So how do you focus on Jesus? The first chapter of Philippians gives us three aspects: fellowship in Christ, growth of the gospel, the increasing of our faith.
In the next part, we’ll look at these three things.
- 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?