We are all drawn to people with genuine joy. They can’t hide it. Their joy bubbles over into their conversations and actions. We want whatever it is they have. Thankfully, for Jesus followers, it’s possible to be joyful – even when our circumstances suggest otherwise.
Unfortunately, people tend to allow their joy level to increase or decrease depending on what’s happening in their life. Pay raise? You’re filled with joy! Job loss? Your joy disappears. Sunny day? Rejoice! Rain ruins the parade? Joy drops.
It shouldn’t be this way. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to discuss joy by looking closely at Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi around AD 62 while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. The Book of Philippians is a joy-filled book! In just four chapters, Paul talks about joy at least nineteen times – while he existed in a prison dungeon!
For this series on joy, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 1:1-11.
The Importance of a Single Mind
While it sounds strange for us to imagine Paul being joy-filled even while imprisoned, he was! As Wiersbe explains, “In spite of his danger and discomfort, Paul overflowed with joy. What was the secret of this joy? The secret is found in another word often repeated in Philippians: It is the word mind.”
Paul understood the link between joy and what’s in our mind. The way we think influences our attitude. If we want a joyful attitude, our mind must think on things above. Paul’s mind was singularly focused on Christ.
Paul’s joy did not come from his circumstances; it came from living for Jesus – goals, ambitions, and purpose bigger than himself. When our mind becomes fixed on insignificant, self-centered, purposeless things, it’s easy for our attitudes to be swayed by our success with things, people, or circumstances. When we lose a thing, there goes our joy. When a relationship struggles, joy goes with it. When circumstances change, our joy turns to gloom.
What is True Christian Fellowship?
Much like how we begin letters today, Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi begins with a greeting. He is writing this letter to fellow Christians. For those who have grown up in the church, you have heard the word “fellowship” used often. Christians tend to use the term whenever they gather together.
If you are unsure of what the word means, it may be time for a refresher. The word fellowship means “to have in common.” The reason Christians use this term is they have a shared belief in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, overused terms lose meaning over time. Wiersbe explains, “Too often what we think is fellowship is really only acquaintanceship or friendship. You cannot have fellowship with someone unless you have something in common, and for Christian fellowship, this means the possessing of eternal life within the heart.”
This means true fellowship is more than simply being in the same place at the same time. For instance, Paul was physically separated from his friends in Philippi, but he still experienced Christian fellowship with them because they were close spiritually. This type of true fellowship can be a source of great joy for us just as it was for Paul.
You are in My Mind
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 1:3-5
Paul begins his letter to the Philippian believers by telling them they are always on his mind. Think about this for a minute. Paul is in jail, but he is thinking about others instead of himself or his circumstances. He remembers those in one of many churches he began because they are in partnership together. They are all invested in sharing the good news. Because they were of the same mind, this fellowship was a source of joy for Paul.
You are in My Heart
“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 1:7-8
As he moves forward, Paul tells his friends he has them in his heart. Do not be too quick to dismiss this as just a sentimental statement. Wiersbe says, “It is possible to have others in our minds without really having them in our hearts.” However, to be Christian is to love others.
In addition to Paul expressing love for his friends with words, he also demonstrates it with his actions as we are called to do. How do we know we have sincere love for others like Paul? We are concerned about them, and we are willing to forgive them. As we put love into action, we will always experience joy.
You are in My Prayers
“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.”
– Philippians 1:9-11
Paul also makes it clear that he is praying for them even though they are apart. His prayer for them demonstrates his love for them as he encourages them in their Christian faith, as well as his single-minded focus on glorifying God.
“Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the throne of grace, praying with and for one another.” – Warren W. Wiersbe
To find, experience, and keep constant joy in life no matter your circumstances, do the following:
- Have weekly fellowship with other believers at church.
- Instead of being self-focused, keep others on your mind and be others focused.
- Keep others in your heart and focus on their needs.
- Keep others in your prayers.