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).
First, I want to frame a little bit the idea of happiness and joy. Happiness for me are these things which are temporal, they are temporary, and the joy is eternal. Happiness tends to be so much circumstantial, but joy is something that is outside of circumstances, it actually takes the waves and storms of life and still handles it. In our society we have places like Disney Land, that is the happiest place on earth. But Disney, just like other places, just been feeding our addictions for a long time. I am not against happiness but it’s different than these deep-rooted idea of joy in our life. This ‘rejoice in the Lord’ is a much deeper thing than happiness.
Here are few rules for a joyful life. The First rule is in this first piece of Scripture, it actually says, “rejoice in the Lord always.” (vs. 4). The first rule is, find joy in the Creator of the universe, not stuff. This word Lord that we see here in the Scripture has some deep meaning. The word Lord encompasses the idea of the Creator of the universe, God owns the universe, there is dominion in this thing, there is lot of power, there is lot of majesty in this idea of Lord here. Paul is saying, rejoice in the Creator of the universe, He is big, He is powerful, He made all these. When I see the stars and the sea, the moon and the sun, I feel God’s creation, I feel rejoice in the Lord, I feel the weight of the majesty and the glory of God. The first step is to find our way back to the Creator, you are the Creator God and I am going to find my joy in You.
Second rule is, trust that the God of the universe is with you. Find peace. The Scripture says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is Near.” (vs. 5). The God that we just talked about, He is with you in the pain and in all that you are going through. We have to trust that He is with us. If you are reading this, He loves you and He is with you in whatever you are going through, even right now. Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. So, he is really getting persecuted for his faith and he is writing these things back to the church in Philippi, who actually is probably getting persecuted for their faith also. They probably going through difficult things, they probably seen some of their friends and family died for the faith. There was also disunity in the church. So, Paul writes these words, not from the places where there was lot of money and food on the table, he is in prison. And he is saying, the Lord is near, and He is with you. When those early Christians heard these words that the Lord is with them, it meant the world for them. When Paul says that Lord is near, its like him putting the hedge of protection around this idea of joy. Paul is saying that Lord is with you, you don’t have to fear, it’s going to be okay. God is saying to us no matter what I am with you.
Third rule is, focus on what is true. Scripture says, “Finally, brothers, 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.” (vs. 8). The most important thing about a man or a woman or a boy or a girl is what they think because ideas and thoughts are the building blocks of life. Everything you see around you begun as a thought, it was first a thought; the house you live in was first a thought in the mind of an architect, the car you drive was first a thought in the mind of an engineer. In Proverbs 23:7 Bible says, “as a man thinks, so is he.” Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Guard your heart for out of it flow all the issues of life.” What you think determines how you see yourself, how you see life, how you pursue God. Your mind is the command and control center of your life and what you do with your mind will determine to a large degree, the quality of your life. And that’s why you shouldn’t be surprised, that when we come to the Bible and that when we come to Philippians chapter 4 verses 2 through 9, we see a correlation between our experience of the peace of God and proper, right and healthy thinking. Anxious thoughts produce anxious people. If you meet someone who is all bind with anxiety and stress, you can be sure that there is something in their mind and in their heart that is troubling them. And they are thinking about it to a point of distraction and fear and anxiety and worry. Isaiah 26:3 says, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on me.” In fact, Paul is picking up in verse 8 with the mention of word mind in verse 7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” And Paul goes on to say, “think upon these things….”. The key to joy is the replacement of worried, anxious thoughts with the worthy thoughts, worshipful thoughts. Romans 8:6 says, “the carnal mind is death, the spiritual mind is life.” Max Lucado in his book, Anxious for Nothing, says this, “healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking, your challenge is not your challenge, your challenge is what you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem, it’s the way you look at it.” That’s insightful. And Paul is telling us here, along with other biblical writers, that path to joy is the elevation of our thinking. “…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….and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9). What Paul says to Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ.” Your thoughts need not to be roaming around your head, you need to guard your mind, you need to discipline your thinking. What is Paul saying in Romans 12:2, “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Worry is the product of a divided mind; peace is the product of a discipled mind. In Philippians 4:8, Paul commands Philippians to think on these things. It means to give weight to certain things above other things. Paul is saying to Christians in Philippi- you need to cultivate a Christian mind; you need to think Christianly. You need to have a script for your thinking because when you are born again, God gave you the mind of Christ, a new way of thinking. You were in darkness and now you are in light and that will show up in the way you think and perceive and look at the world. You will see something of God’s glory in everything He made. You need to go on developing it, you need to keep on renewing your mind and thinking thoughts after God, bringing every thought under captivity. Because it’s the training of your mind to think biblically and Christianly, that’s the key to your emotional health, that’s the key to your moral holiness. If you go back to the old Testament, is that not the pattern of the blessed holy man in Psalms 1? He is the man who doesn’t listen to the counsel of the ungodly, whether he finds it in newspaper, or in television or in whatever media outlet was going on that day, when he was confronted with the thought that exalted itself above God, it got booted. But he meditated on God’s Word night and day. That doesn’t mean he sat by his Bible 24 hours a day, this is David he had an administration and he had a government to run. It produced in him a life of stability and productivity, he was like a tree planted by the waters, that brought forth it fruits in season. You and I need to develop that kind of mind. Paul says to think about the things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. It will bring deep rooted joy in your life.
Fourth rule is, don’t let anyone, or anything steal your joy. This heavenly joy in your life is given by God, guard it and don’t let anything steal it from you.