“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13
The truth is that the world has always been a harsh place to live and, in case you haven’t noticed, it hasn’t gotten any better lately. When people are asked what they long for in this life, the answers are usually related to “happiness” and “inner peace”. The problem is that people do not know where to go to find these things. Even in the churches there is a lack of joy and peace. Some might even have the impression that being “religious” actually takes the joy out of ones life. As we were reminded yesterday, being religious can be seen as a burden of rules and obligations. It is true that many followers of Jesus have the mindset of just “getting through” this life with the hope that “one day” things will be better. But this is not what t he Bible tells us. Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and give you life abundantly!” (John 10:10).
I have some good news for you today, God wants you to be joyful! God wants you to be content! God wants you to life abundantly today…not just later when we all get to heaven! God did not design you to just barely make it in this world. God did not create you to simply survive, He created you to thrive! He desires for you to experience this life to the fullest. His goal is for you to become all He created you to be and to be fulfilled. Now I am not promoting some kind of superficial “prosperity gospel” that misleads us by promising some kind of worldly wealth. This is more! This is better. It is the promise of an internal contentment that all the riches in the world can never provide. This is a contentment that brings joy no matter our circumstances or our economic status. It is based on who you know not what you have or don’t have.
Paul had every reason to be grumpy and discouraged. He was writing this letter to the Philippian church from a Roman prison. This was probably the last letter that he wrote before being executed as a martyr of the Gospel. He had been ridiculed, beaten, pelted with rocks and left for dead. and shunned by his religious peers. He was imprisoned several times and, even once in Philippi (Acts 16:16-34)! But, through it all he maintained an attitude of joy and contentment. How could he do that? He shares with us in this letter “the secret” of this transformed way of thinking…of living. It is knowing Jesus. Paul shares that this is what gave him the proper perspective in good times and bad times. It was knowing that his strength came from Jesus Christ and because of Him he could get through anything! Therefore Paul could challenge the Philippians and us to rejoice! Let people see that your life is good because of Jesus no matter what things are like around you.
Blessed believer, there are enough “grumpy” Christians in this world around us. But, we should be the most joyful people on the planet! There is no getting around this in the Scripture. Yes, there are things in this world that should concern us and Paul directs us to pray about those things and not be anxious. The believer should be a living testimony to the life that can be lived when we are in a relationship with the God who loves us and that life is one of joy and contentment! This is a vital ingredient in our testimony! People are searching for it. The world all around us, people that you know and love, are looking for an inner peace and contentment that can only come through Jesus. Are you a living example of the joy we can have in Jesus?