(Philippians Study - Lesson 4)
As we move further into Chapter One of Philippians, we want to remember that Chapter One presents to us THE JOY OF CHRIST, OUR LIFE. While the words “joy” or “rejoice” or their counterparts appear 18 times in this epistle, Christ is referred to, either by name or by personal pronoun, some 70 TIMES!
Paul’s joy is the joy of Christ. Christ is the source of his joy. It is the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ that Paul longs for others to know and to share. Paul wants that joy to become real in their lives. Jesus Christ is the only dependable source of joy.
Circumstances change. People move into and out of our lives. Jesus Christ is the only absolute; the unchanging one who can make the promise to NEVER leave us or forsake us. He is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Paul had come to know this to the very core of his being. It had brought to his own life tremendous peace and strength and power. He knew the practicality of the truth that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Because of his own experience with the Lord, it was his passion to share his joy with others.
Another significant word in this books is “mind,” which occurs 12 times. WHILE CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF THE BELIEVER’S JOY, THE MIND IS THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH THAT JOY COMES. IT IS THROUGH MY MIND, THROUGH THE CHANNEL OF MY THOUGHTS, THAT THE JOY OF JESUS CHRIST BECOMES MY EVERYDAY EXPERIENCE. Whatever is happening in my life, whatever the action that is taking place, I CHOOSE THE REACTION. Always, the choice is mine.
Paul had the same choice that I have. He chose his responses, and Paul had made it a HABIT to keep his focus on his mighty God. That was his habitual way of living. It was his way of thinking about the things that were happening to him. It was his way of responding to the changing circumstances of his life. We find evidence of this over and over throughout his writings.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:4-9).
Actions are always taking place in my life. I cannot control the actions, but I can always choose the reaction. Let me illustrate this from my own life. When James and I were young, we moved through some times that were very hard for me. We had three babies in four years. During that time, James was working long hard hours to get ahead in the construction business. This combination of circumstances brought a lot of tension into our home; and usually that tension walked in the door with James.
I felt constantly criticized. I felt that I could not do or manage in a way that satisfied him. All day long, his job was to be the boss, to see what was wrong and see that someone fixed it. He definitely brought that mind-set home with him.
This was the action that was taking place. My instinctive reaction was to become angry and defensive, but it was quickly evident that this was a destructive reaction. Tension escalated. Things got harder. Over a period of years I struggled to find a reaction that would be constructive.
I tried silence, but the tension remained. I tried putting distance between myself and James. If he was in a bad mood, I tried to stay out of his way. I would take the children to the park. If he was reading the paper in the front of the house, I would iron in the back of the house.
One day he exploded over something he could not find; and I changed my reaction. I turned my thoughts to God and began to pray silently. “My loving Heavenly Father, this man is in real distress. He is full of impatience and anger. I look to You for help. Please come to us. Bring your peace to his heart. Quiet his thoughts. Strengthen me to hear what he is saying without ,absorbing it into myself. Come be with us, I pray. Bring your peace.”
Before I had finished praying that prayer, James had quieted down. He said, “Now I remember having that plan yesterday. I wonder what I did with it.” That incidence was a turning point for me, and for us.
You see, I had just discovered in a new way the joy of CHRIST MY LIFE. The incredible secret of joy lies in what my mind focuses on; in whether I choose to respond from my perspective or whether I choose to focus on THE ONE who can bring peace and strength and JOY.
THINK ABOUT IT: The mind is the channel through which the joy of Christ comes. Whether or not I experience it will be determined by my own choices; by my own focus.