The key to a successful and victorious Christian life is having the joy of the Lord. The palmist said “the joy of the Lord is my strength” and that is true for all Christians. True strength to live for God comes from the supernatural joy that God gives to His people. We have, as the chorus says, “a joy that the world can’t give and the world can’t take it away.” So if we need this joy in order to have strength how then do we receive it? Why does our joy seem so easily dispelled when we are in the midst of trails and hardships? The truth is that before we can receive the true joy of the Lord and keep that joy as our strength, we must understand the foundation upon which this joy is built in us.
As with so many things in our lives today, we just want it to work! We don’t want to understand the basics. We just want the end result and we want it now! Please notice when we came to Jesus for salvation we did so at the most basic level. We had to put away all of our pride and humble ourselves to repent. Our worldly accomplishments, education, achievements and social standing could not change the fact that we had to kneel before God as sinners. The whole of our Christian life is built upon this most basic of foundation. You see, the basics are important. They are the foundation upon which all that we hope to become in Christ will be built. So then what is the foundations that we need to understand in order to have the strengthening joy of the Lord?
In his epistle to the Philippians the apostle Paul very clearly lays out the foundations upon which this joy is built. He deals with four distinct layers of the foundation that must be laid. At the time of this epistle Paul had been arrested and illegally taken to Rome for trial. His situation was far from a joyful experience!
The Church in Philippi, which was known to have a very close relationship to Paul was concerned for his safety. The apostle was concerned that in their worrying about him the Church might lose its joy and therefore lose it’s strength. Paul sets the theme for his encouragement to the Church by stating that he himself is rejoicing in his ministry in Philippians 1:15-19 “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” What will it take for us to have this ability to rejoice in trials and hardships? Below are the four foundations listed by Paul in this epistle.
The first layer of this foundation is to be mindful of your security. Let’s look at some of the evidences of Paul’s confidence and security of mind.
Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
Philippians 1:19-21 “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
Philippians 1:25 “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;”
In order to better understand what is meant by “security of mind” we must look at chapter 1 verse 28 which says “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” This verse is critical because it gives us a way to know when we have lost the joy and are therefore in danger of becoming weak. The word “terrified” can be translated as “worried.” You see, worry displaces joy and is the result of a lack of security. To worry goes against all of the words used by Paul in the above noted verses, (“confidence, earnest expectation, boldness, shall be”)
This then is the test, are we secure in our faith and confidence in Jesus or are we overcome with worry, fear and doubt. It is good to notice that these conditions are all fruits (whether good or bad) of our conscious mind. How many times does the Word of God speak to us concerning our minds? For the Christian, whose soul is saved, the battleground upon which Satan now wages war against us, is the mind. Prior to salvation it was a battle to move the truth of salvation from our minds to our hearts. After salvation it is a battle to move the security of our salvation from our hearts to our minds. A secure mind is one of the four foundations of a joyful life.
The second layer of this foundation we may call singleness of mind. In Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The key phase here is to “stand fast.” Although this verse speaks of physical action it is implies a state of mind. Steadfastness requires us to “make up our minds” to stand. James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” This verse explains why it is so hard for some people who have come to know God to live for Him in a consistent way. In today’s language we might say that our minds are multi-tasking just like our computer operating system. The world that we live in today requires this of all of us but look at the results. We have more divorce, more mental illness, more drug and alcohol addiction and more hopelessness then our world has ever known. “Unstable in all his ways” if we have ever seen the Word of God illustrated before our eyes it is this verse.
What then does it involve to have singleness of mind? The prophet Isaiah while speaking as the oracle of God said in Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” The verb that is translated here as “stayed” is also interpreted as “to put down or to lay.” What God is telling us is that the action (verb) way to use our minds is to lay them before Him. To have our minds and our thoughts steadily upon Him is the key to having a stable mind. In our personal life, in our work, and in our daily routine we must keep God in the foreground of our minds.
Not only will this action keep us stable but will also get us through the trails that come our way. Daniel in the lion’s den, the three children in the fiery furnace, Paul and Silas in the prison all had this one thing in common; they had their minds fixed on God. They were single-minded! It should be evident that without this singleness of mind we cannot and will not have joy or strength. The joy of the Lord is directly related to our willingness to lay our minds before him.
The third layer of this foundation of having a joyful life in Christ is to have a submissive mind. Philippians 2:1-8 “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. This verse tells us clearly that Jesus, in the form of man, had to submit the will of His mind to the Father.
Today it seems that most of us want the will of God to fit into our own plans and schedules. Our minds are set upon certain goals and courses of action and we don’t mind if God comes along, as long as He doesn’t get in our way. Hard statement? Yes it is but it is also very true. Church, prayer, worship and study of God’s word seem to be very low on the average Christian’s list of things to do. Our minds use catch phrases such as “I have responsibilities,” or “if I don’t do it nobody else will.” There are so many more excuses that we have come to know so well but they are all just a way to excuse yourself for not submitting to the will of God. Jesus told us in the Gospel of Matthew to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” We think that if we don’t get this or that thing done today then all will be lost. So we put off our prayer time or we miss church and yet how do we know what the result would have been if we had trusted in God and submitted to his will. Today we complain about the lack of miracles in our lives but why should we see miracles when we have everything under our own control.
How does a submissive mind bring us the joy of the Lord? The simple answer is that it relieves us of the burden of responsibility. You see Jesus told us that we were to come to God as little children and He meant that literally. We must become children in the sense that we trust the Father to take care of us. We put ourselves in His hands and allow Him to be responsible for us. He said. “Cast your cares upon me for I care for you” and once again he meant it. You see, the responsibilities of a child are different then that of the Father. A child is only responsible to sit at the table at the appointed time and to behave and eat that which is put before him. He is not responsible to provide or prepare the food. He trusts in his father! Well the sad thing is that as the old hymn says “Jesus has a table spread where the saint of God are fed,” but we are so busy providing and preparing for ourselves that the chairs around His table are empty.
Leave your will and submit to His. That is a state of mind and will ultimately lead to having more of the Joy of the Lord in your life. Sometime the food that is laid before us may not be to our liking but it will always be good for us. Jesus said that His cup was bitter but I thank God that he was of a submissive mind and drank it.
The last foundation that Paul mentions in this epistle is that of a spiritual mind. To be spiritually minded will bring the joy of the Lord into you life. Philippians 3:17-21 says “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” What Paul says here describes what it is to have a spiritual mind? He describes those who are not of a spiritual mind as those “ who mind earthly things,” and “whose god is their belly.” In other words those who are not of a spiritual mind concern themselves with the sensual appetites of this world. They would not drink a bitter cup because of its taste. They will not sacrifice comfort. They will always do what feels right and chose the path of least resistance in their lives. They have only an earthly view of life here and now and do not concern themselves with eternity.
On the other hand one who is of a spiritual mind looks for the reward at the coming of Christ. He realizes that his trials will be worth the end result. If we are of a spiritual mind then we are fixed upon heaven. We not only understand but we wholly accept the hardships that come our way in this life are a part of living for Christ. Our goal is to one day have God “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” This earthly life is not my permanent home but I am on a pilgrimage that will one day end in the wonderful presence of God. This is a state of mind that the Christian needs to develop in order to have the fullness of the joy of the Lord. I can endure the pain of today because I know who holds tomorrow. In the end I am assured of victory and that is a joyful thought. To be of a spiritual mind is to look up every day to the heavens and know that we have in store a new home, a new body, a new name and a new and wonderful life for eternity with Christ! What joy it is to let the Holy Spirit control my mind.
So now we must set our goals. Philippians 4:4-7 says “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This should be the pattern of our lives and we should compare these words to our daily walk. Have we been able to rejoice today? If not then check the foundation upon which your life is built. We can only gain true strength by having the joy of the Lord.
My prayer for you is that you may have “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”