The Christian life is a journey. While there are times when the journey is easy and the path is smooth, there are also times when seemingly insurmountable obstacles loom before us and threaten to steal our joy. God allows trials into our lives that often seem overwhelming, and the apostle Paul had his share of them. When he wrote the book of Philippians, he was sitting in jail—imprisoned for preaching God’s Word—yet he wrote about joy. There is not one sentence of complaint in the entire book of Philippians in regard to the hardships Paul was facing. Paul had the proper focus.
God wants our hearts to be focused on Him. The person who is focused on God can have joy through life’s entire journey. Let’s examine Paul’s focus to find instruction as to how we, likewise, can keep a proper focus.
Paul Kept a Proper Focus through Prayer
In Philippians 1, Paul details his prayer for the Philippian Christians. He prayed for their fellowship and in his prayers he rejoiced because he knew God would finish His work in their lives.
Christians who lack joy often lack time in prayer. There is something about communicating with God Himself that lifts the spirit and refreshes the soul. As we spend time in prayer, God lifts our burdens and replaces them with joy.
We often allow the joy-killers of worry, stress, or fear to dominate our lives and rob us of our joy. Many of the things we worry about never happen, and we stress out over circumstances we have no power to control. Unsaved people often deal with their troubles by drowning them in alcohol or numbing them with drugs, but that can only compound their problems.
God’s children have a Father in Heaven who is ready and waiting to help them. As Paul shared with the Philippians, God does not always remove the problem, but He does give grace that is more than enough for every trial.
Paul Had a Proper Focus in Providence
The word providence means God’s intervention over the world, and particularly in our lives. There is no such thing as luck. God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and He providentially orders circumstances in our lives for our benefit. God does not cause bad things to happen, but Romans 8:28 tells us that He does make sure they work together for good to those who love Him.
Paul wasn’t blind to his dire circumstances in his prison cell, but he looked at them through eyes of faith, knowing God allowed them for a reason. He did not get bitter, but rather he wrote about his joy!
If we believe in the providential workings of God in the world and in our lives, then we must believe there is a purpose for everything God allows to touch us. As a boy, I learned many valuable lessons about work, morality, and ethics. I was not always appreciative of the way I learned those lessons, because there were times when I learned them through an uncomfortable backside. Today, however, I am very grateful for parents who took the time to teach me. They did not bring pain into my life to hurt me; rather, the chastened me because they loved me. God, our perfect Father, allows difficult circumstances into our lives to help us.
Hudson Taylor said, "God gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him." God’s people would have multiplied joy in their lives if they would simply trust Him to work through the difficult circumstances He allows.
Paul Had a Proper Focus in Purpose
Paul said it would be better for him to die and go to Heaven than to remain in prison. Yet, for the sake of the Philippians, he said he knew it would be better for him to live in order to help them. Paul’s focus was on others, rather than on his own desires, pain, or discomfort.
Many Christians wonder why they are not experiencing joy in life while they are living a carnal, fleshly life. They don’t realize that God doesn’t give joy to those whose lives revolve around themselves. It’s not His way.
Life is about serving God—it’s not about us. When we choose to live a life of service and obedience to God, we will be amazed at how much Joy He will give us.