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MINISTER'S MESSAGE > APRIL 2009
Paul's Keys to Joy - Part Three
We live in difficult times. As noted in our last two articles, it can be difficult to look at the world around us without becoming discouraged. But time and again God's children are told to be happy. Though the apostle Paul had many opportunities to be discouraged, he worked through his problems while maintaining a genuine joy and encouraging others to do the same.
Paul's keys to joy are seen in the book of Philippians. The words "joy" and "rejoice" appear 18 times in this marvelous little book. We have focused on the first nine verses of chapter 4 and the imperatives by which the Philippian brethren could find and maintain genuine biblical joy. Specifically, verse 1 Paul shows that steadfastness of faith produces joy. Verse 2 identifies unity of mind with our brethren as a source of joy. And verse 3 reveals the joy that comes through a knowledge that our name is in the book of Life. Verse 4 admonishes Christians to be joyful in every circumstance. Such is the very essence of true Christianity. Verse 5 says we should be joyful knowing the proximity of the Lord. Verse 6 gives the assurance of joy knowing the Lord hears our prayers.
In verse 7 we are admonished to find joy as we live in peace. We are to live at peace with God (Eph 2:13-15); with our brethren (1 Thes 5:13); and even with our enemies (Romans 12:17-19). Careful consideration and recognition of our previous six points will certainly help us to live in peace. Finally in this regard, the author of Hebrews gives the following admonition: "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see God" (12:14).
Verse 8 teaches us to find peace as we set our minds on worthy things. So many in the world are looking for peace in places where there is none. There is no peace in the bottom of a bottle of alcohol (Prov 23:22-23). There is no peace in pursuing another mate or one who is not your mate: "The lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb and her mouth is smotther than oil: but . . . her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell . . . . Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death" (Prov 5:3-5; 7:27). Rather, "let your fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . . always be enraptured with her love" (Provs 5:18-19). When set our minds on good things we will think good thoughts. And as Jesus taught us, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things" (Matt 12:35).
Finally, in verse 9 Paul teaches us of the joy that comes from finding a good example and following it. This marked the second time Paul admonished the Philippian brethren to follow his example (cf 3:17) This is similar to his statement to the Corinthians to "follow me even as I also follow Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). Ultimately, our example is Christ (John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21-22). We must follow Him in all things: "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be" (John 12:26). Johnny Ramsey used to provide his own explanation and commentary on this text saying, "If we'll follow Jesus wherever he goes, we'll end up where he is." What a wonderful thought to think that as Jesus was once where we are (Heb 4:15), we can one day be where he is (John 14:3).
May we always exhibit the real joy of genuine Christianity! TC
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