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Joy In Focus

Read This Week: Philippians 1

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. – Philippians 1:3-4, 21, 25 NIV

Prison is not a desirable place to be. Prisons are volatile and stressful and require a person to react and adapt at a high level just to survive the experience. The psychological toll that incarceration takes on the average person is immense and has a life long impact even for those behind bars a short period of time.

Being in prison for just two hours makes a bad day at the office look like a birthday party full of pony rides, bouncy houses, and award-winning cupcakes. Needless to say, prison is not an environment or experience that we often equate to joy, peace, and thankfulness. Unless, of course, you’re the Apostle Paul.

Paul wrote a letter to his friends in the city of Philippi while he was being held as a prisoner in Rome. Roman jails were brutal places where inmates were starved, tortured and if they were lucky, neglected. Paul was there not because he had committed a crime, but because he was preaching the good news of Jesus. His unwavering love and devotion to Christ and the Gospel had landed him in the most difficult of situations.

But in spite of his afflictions, Paul shared with his Philippian friends how much he loved them and detailed the circumstances of his time in prison while expressing his inner peace and gratitude. He wrote with conviction and filled his writing with hopeful joy. The word rejoice occurs eleven times in his letter and the word joy occurs five times. How could he do this while sitting in prison?

One thing is evident in reading the book of Philippians – the Apostle Paul was a focused man. He was focused on Jesus and living out and proclaiming the Gospel. Period. His focus allowed him to do life with a sense of expectancy; a confident hope and joy that he would be purposeful for the cause of Christ even if he died. In fact, he saw death as an ultimate purpose when he wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Nothing would deter Paul from the mission of loving and serving Jesus. Through his trials, temptation, attack and captivity, he remained focused and that allowed him to experience joy even when his circumstances suggested that he should be overwhelmed with sorrow. He lived with faith, intentionality, and embodied an expectant hope in God’s purpose for his life. His focus on the joy of knowing Jesus and not his place in life empowered his unshakeable satisfaction through the worst of times.

Could it be that we struggle with joy because we struggle to focus? We certainly don’t live in a world inclined toward focus. We can barely pay attention must less harness the power that comes from focusing on the right things. We give more attention to what drains and frustrates us than we do to a fulfilling relationship with God. We give more credence to our problems and feelings about them than we do to our Savior. We focus more on what we can do instead of on the One who can actually do something.

The more we lock into God, the more we’ll begin to understand His purpose for our lives and our unique place in His story. We will see our problems not as something to fear but as a necessary part of our ultimate good. The focus will change our self-centered perspective and points us toward the truth. The truth that life is to be rejoiced over simply because God created us for a grand purpose and Christ has set us free to experience it.

We need to adjust our focus in order to have joy. Paul states in verse 20 of Philippians 1 that his life would bring honor to Christ. In this context, honor means “a celebration.” Paul’s life did bring fame and glory to Christ because he was faithful to and focused on Him. A life focused on God always brings a celebration to the name of Jesus and a celebration in our heart. There is joy in focus.

8 Comments

  1. Ken on July 11, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    One of my great joys from God is partnering with Him and the family of God. It’s so awesome to share life with like-minded people, who are all on the same mission and love life with God. I really enjoy spending time with the fathers and mothers in the Lord, their wealth of experience grooms to know the ways of the Lord.

    God teaches that the joy of the Lord is our strength and not to let it get stolen from you. This deep joy only comes from God, the world does not have it to offer and the strength that comes from God is far superior to that of the word. God’s strength and His joy are for everyone in the family of God.

    Thank you, God, for who you are and all that you provide for your people. God says “I’m in you and you are in me, I give you my joy and strength.”

    • Jason on July 12, 2019 at 5:17 pm

      I appreciate this word and perspective, Ken. I think community with the family of God brings greater focus to our walk with the Lord. When we are with others who are challenging and strengthening us as well as expressing love to us, we are able to see the heart of God and what Christ exampled and designed for our lives.

      Therefore, we are able to focus more on who God is and what He has done leading to a greater understanding and greater joy. The joy of the Lord is truly our strength.

  2. Heidi on July 11, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Good Evening to all who read this,
    In Philippians, I love everything that Paul is sharing and teaching in this letter.
    One treasure that God gave me is even thou we have opposition in life, hurts, fears, we can go through those things with God, we can draw from His strength and enjoy life with Him.
    Paul spent a lot of time with God, Loving Him, listening to Him and then responding to Him. That’s where he found his strength from and his joy. He loved God so much that he knew he was God’s boy, and how much God loved him, that’s why he continued to do his very best at serving others for Jesus and with Him. Paul worked very hard, he loved to encourage others in their faith, and in everything they did with God.
    It says in Philippians 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.
    4 In every prayer of mine I always make my entreaty and petition for you all with joy (delight).
    5 [I thank my God] for your fellowship (your [a]sympathetic cooperation and contributions and partnership) in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day [you heard it] until now.
    That’s how I feel too!
    I thank God for all those who love God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I thank God for my brothers and sisters in the Lord who fellowship and partner with us to continue to spread the good news, Jesus who is our best friend and example of a servant, who loves us all so much.
    I pray for everyone that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight, that your love for God will increase and you’ll be able to hear His voice more and more and you’ll desire His will and plans for your life because that’s the best job you’ll ever have.

    I heard God saying to and I through this message, ” I began a good work in you, so continue to learn everyday to grow in My ways, seek My will, and do life with Me. When I prompt you to share the gospel, Jesus, My Love don’t be afraid because I am with you. Share My Joy that’s in you. Don’t let others steal My joy that’s in you.
    You will go through times when it’s hard, you feel like giving up, it may feel like your at the end of your rope, never give up because I am with you, I am your help.”
    I want to encourage you to never give up, God is with you all you have to do is Keep asking Jesus to help.
    the good news is Jesus is praying for you too! He knows what you need before you ask Him
    So keep seeking God and fellowship and grow with those who really love God, who God gave you to be a family, learn to get along with each other, and reach out to those who God puts in your life, pray for them and with them.
    Be thankful that God gave you the best Family, those who Love Him and Love you no matter what!!!

  3. Jeri Centers on July 11, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    In Philippians Chapter 1 verse 6, God is saying to me that He will never turn away from us. Sometimes we give up and turn away from Him but He will stay with us through thick and thin and give us whatever strength we need to complete the call He has for us.

    What that means to me is that we will find that when we are working for the Lord, all he wants for us is our willingness to use the ability that he gives us to his Glory.

    As you go through life, you’re always going to have people trying to lead you away from God. I have some friends that don’t accept Him and try to turn me away from Him, But I stay strong in Him and pray for them.

    • Jason on July 15, 2019 at 10:15 am

      I am blessed to begin my Monday morning reminded of God’s promises for you and me in Philippians 1:6, Jeri. Thank you for your words. I am thankful to know that God will help me finish what He started in me. He’s a finisher even when I’m not or don’t think I can be. Everyone starts well but I want to finish well with God’s help and stay on a mission no matter who tries to stop or dissuade me. I pray the same for you!

  4. almaschmidt on July 12, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    This week, I wrote a song out of Philippians 1 chapter 1:

    “Joy to the Lord”

    Joy to the Lord, joy to the Lord
    Joy to the Lord who gives us strength
    Strength through his power
    May we abound and be filled with his fruit
    Enjoy His tender mercy, his love, and understanding
    With Gods strength, he will help us to the finish line
    Joy to the Lord, joy to the Lord
    We have Joy in the Lord

    When we partner with Jesus, anything is possible. He gives us faith and strength. We should all have a fear of God only and not fear of the world. God can help us through anything as long as we talk and listen to him. He is our energy, hope, faith, and love.

    • Jason on July 15, 2019 at 9:08 am

      I love this one, Alma. My favorite line(s) were: “Joy to the Lord who gives us strength. With God’s strength, he will help us to the finish line.” It is an encouraging reminder to know that God’s strength and power will help us to the finish line (Philippians 1:6) and in doing so, we can have joy. Your song also reminded me of one I play on repeat all the time from Housefires called “Joy”:

      There’s beauty in my brokenness,
      I’ve got true love instead of pain,
      There’s freedom though You’ve captured me.
      I’ve got joy instead of mourning.

      You give me joy,
      down deep in my soul,
      down deep in my soul,
      down deep in my soul.

      I am thankful to God for His promises to get us to the finish line and for giving us joy down deep in our soul on the journey to getting there.

  5. Kathy on July 17, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    In reading Philippians 1, this is what I heard from God. The love I have placed in your heart for other’s should abound more and more. Your love should have knowledge and discernment. When you approve and receive the things that are excellent you become sincere and without offense. This is My work within you. Bearing fruit is always the result of abiding in My Son, and it glorifies Me. My work can and will continue as long as you stay in my will. I will never waste your time. You may waste it by not sensing my purpose for your life at the moment. You can bring glory to Me and I can use you in all circumstances. I can give you joy in the midst of your trials.

    I am being challenged to continue to let my Papa God work in me and quit fighting against him when I don’t want to stay in His will.

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