There’s no promise that life will be easy. We will all lose people, experiences, and things that we wanted. We will also fall short of our own expectations, and others’ expectations as well. So, when we feel utterly hopeless, helpless, and imperfect, how do we feel joy?
Well, perfection isn’t promised on Earth, but love is: unconditional, complete, and irrevocable love. Love that is there when we are at in our most difficult times, and at our most helpless. Love that brings us joy. And thankfully, there are many lessons on joy in the Book of Philippians.
The Book of Philippians was written by Apostle Paul around 62 AD, when he was on house arrest in Rome. During this time, Paul was chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. But, he was free to receive visitors, write, and share his faith with his guards. Paul could’ve easily succumbed to hopelessness in Roman prison. He could also worry about his external circumstances, but knew who he was, and where he was going. He knew that God loved him and sent his only son, Jesus, to die for our sins.
“Joy is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of Christ.”
– William Vander Haven
How can the world truly pollute your heart when you know there’s a divine God who loves you, who longs to have a relationship with you, and who will forgive you if you seek His forgiveness?
As Christians, the world may be difficult. It may throw things in our path. It may lead us astray. But we can always look up, take a deep breath, and through our tears, tell God our concerns, and ask for His forgiveness.
We are truly, deeply loved for who we are in the present moment, regardless of our sins. So, when you are feeling hopeless, helpless, unlovable, unworthy, or confused, remember who you are: who God sees you as. He chooses at all times to be by your side, comforting you. He wants to give you joy, and if you lift your eyes and look to Him, you will feel it.
Joy isn’t a dopamine hit; it’s not fleeting. It’s something that’s freely given to you by the Holy Spirit when you care for and seek God in all circumstances. Joy is a long-lived gift from God, and one of the best gifts at our disposal. Keep reading for lessons on joy from the Book of Philippians, which will apply to all aspects of your life.
Finding Joy in Your Relationships
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
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.
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.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 1:1-11
Start by giving thanks to Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross! Then, turn to your community. God gives us Church so people can be together to experience joy in relationships. All relationships can bring about joy, even the difficult ones. Try to be patient with people’s progress, and see their future potential. Most of all, love people like Jesus loves you. Positive praise (words of encouragement) can go a long way!
Finding Joy in Your Circumstances
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 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, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 1:12-30
God uses your circumstances to advance His plan. He is in control, so it’s always possible to rise above our circumstances. The Romans locked up Apostle Pual for his faith. His friends betrayed him. His own life was in danger. Yet, he had joy. When we have Jesus, we have something bigger than us to live for. If we live only by earthly values – money, popularity, pleasure, prestige – we have nothing. Jesus shares your struggles, so you’ll get through whatever situation you’re in together.
Finding Joy in Your Attitude
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 2:1-11
The love of God, and your Christian friends, can provide a tangible comfort during difficult times. Remember that the Holy Spirit is on your team. When you have no strength, the Holy Spirit is with you and fighting for you. This verse gives direct instructions on how to complete your joy, such as having the (1) same mind, (2) same love, (3), full accord, (4) one mind, (5) no selfish ambition, (5) no conceit, (6) count others as better, and (7) look out for others.
Finding Joy in Your Work
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 2:12-30
Working in you is the working of God. Align your will and your work with His plan. We find joy when we live out—practice, demonstrate, and exhibit—our belief in Jesus Christ in our work.
Finding Joy in Your Spiritual Life
“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in [a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 3:1-11
Self-reliance can easily crush you, as can fear of following all the rules. Remember: you can’t earn your way to heaven, no matter how many times you read the Bible, perform good deeds, pray to God, or visit Church. God knows we are sinners, and in His eyes, our fleshly achievements count as nothing. God gives us the gift of salvation if we know and believe in Jesus Christ.
Finding Joy in Your Future
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 3:12-21
Pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ is what leads to significance, purpose, and joy in this life. Don’t set your mind on earthly things because your goal is different: citizenship in heaven.
Finding Joy in Your Conflict
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
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.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 4:1-9
Tensions between people are not a new problem. God encourages us to work side-by-side with those we disagree with to bring glory to God. When things get heated, turn all of your attention to God. He will relieve any anger or anxiety you carry, and replace it with peace. A peace that will “guard your hearts.” Isn’t that beautiful! Plus, this verse gives us direct instruction on what type of things to focus on in life. Specifically, whatever is (1) true, (2) noble, (3) right, (4) pure, (5) lovely, (6) admirable, (7) excellent, or (8) praiseworthy, which is one of my favorite biblical instructions!
Finding Joy in Your Finances
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
Lessons on Joy in the Book of Philippians 4:10-23
A generous person doesn’t need to fear for his or her future. God will take care of your finances accordingly. Be willing to share what God blesses you with, and always remember to show concern for the needs of others. When you set your mind on Christ, you find contentment.
I hope you enjoyed these lessons on joy in the Book of Philippians. God loves you so much! If you’re curious about my own journey to Christianity, please click here.