I am a joy junky! If you could have more joy in your life would you want it? I know I would. I love life. I love the people that I live it with. And I love the people I encounter along the way. But if someone is offering more joy, count me in. How about you?
I invite you to come along with me on a study of a letter from the Apostle Paul to his dear friends in Philippi. The letter is found in the New Testament titled Philippians. In this letter we will discover the secret to a joy filled life!
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to consider some joy sucking twins that threaten to steal the joy from our lives.
- Grumbling & Gossip ~ Complaining about others or our circumstances is at best sideways energy and at worst backwards energy. They both suck the joy from our lives as they drain the energy we need to find positive solutions.
- Procrastination & Broken Promises ~ These twins open the door to a familiar tactic by our enemy, shame. The enemy will accuse you of your inadequacy. Then as the shame advances, you will isolate yourself believing the lie that others will be disappointed and no longer want to be your friend.
- Living in the Past & Fear of the Future ~ We find ourselves stuck when we hang out with either one of these twins. The real culprit here is fear. Joy accompanies the faith that takes calculated risks based on God’s faithfulness.
- Attachment to Circumstances & Lack of Prayer ~ When we begin to focus on the situation around us, we forget to look up to our Father whose plan is always for our good and His glory!
Any one of these twins can suck the joy from our lives. Overcoming them is imperative to discovering the joy God desires for us. The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10 that the joy of the Lord is our strength. So what is the secret to a joy filled life?
Embrace the Tension Between Love & Truth
Many people believe the myth, “I cannot tell someone the truth and keep them as my friend.” Jesus debunked this myth as He lived in the tension of love and truth with everyone He encountered. Take a quick journey through the gospels and notice how Jesus loved everyone, even His enemies, but didn’t draw back from the truth they needed.
Paul shares this same commitment. We see Paul doing the same thing in the book of Acts from his confrontation of Peter to his prayers for his persecutors. Both Jesus and Paul modeled how to wade through the messiness of human relationships. And here in his letter to the Philippians, Paul shares how to navigate this tension.
Listen to what he writes in chapter one, verse nine:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,” (emphasis mine)
The Joy Filled Life Is a Continuum
Back in verse six, Paul writes about his confidence in God to complete a work that He had began in them. Can you see the continuum. Joy is a journey not a destination.
Here is verse nine, Paul is praying that the Philippians experience the journey. Let me break it down:
- Abounding Love ~ This isn’t just merely a growing love. Paul desires for them to enjoy a love that is exponentially expanding. It is not just a warm and fuzzy love, though certainly it will be accompanied by deep emotions. It is a love entrenched in truth.
- Knowledge ~ We might wonder, “Knowledge of what?” Knowledge of the holy. Knowledge of God. Knowledge of what is right and true. The ability to think like Jesus, to have His mindset.
- Wisdom ~ Depth of insight is the ability to apply truth to life.
Love is ever growing, ever increasing as we gain knowledge of God and His truth and the wisdom to apply it not only to our lives, but to the lives of those we encounter every day.
Let’s keep on going to verses ten and eleven:
10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (emphasis mine)
With the words, “So that,” Paul lays out what the results of this exponentially growing love will do in your life.
#1 ~ You will have improved decision making. We will begin to make better decisions in our relationships, in our jobs, and even in our finances.
#2 ~ You will begin to enjoy increased purity. The temptations will not go away. But God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He will always provide a way of escape when we are tempted. As we make better decisions, we will begin to look for and find God’s way of escape.
#3 ~ You will experience multiplying productivity. There are two kinds of fruit in the Bible:
Fruit of the Spirit ~ Paul mentions “righteousness” here but gives a longer list of these inner qualities in Galatians: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” This is fruit of the transformation of our character as we allow God to call out His image in us.
Fruit of Multiplication ~ This is ministry fruit. It is the fruit of God’s work through us in the lives of others. We will see more and more people taking steps towards God, following Jesus, making more faith-risk decisions, experiencing more joy.
#4 ~ Ultimately God will be glorified and Praised.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. But notice joy is a conditional promise. God gives joy, but we have a responsibility to abound more and more in knowledge and wisdom.
Let me give you a challenge. I would challenge you to read the letter to the Philippians four times. Here is a reading plan for you:
First, read it through in one sitting using your favorite translation.
Second, read it through a chapter at a time.
Third, read it again a chapter at a time.
Fourth, read it through in one sitting using the Message.
Each time you read, answer the following questions:
- What does this say about God?
- What does this say about me?
- What is God saying to me?
- What am I going to do about it?
This is the first of several installments on our journey to discover the secret to a joy filled life. My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s for his friends:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” ~ Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:4, 9-11