Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Do you remember our key theme for Philippians? Joy. More specifically, joy that is irrepressible. While we have not done too much studying of joy specifically, we have looked at a lot of things that help us grow in joy, and also things that can suppress it. For example, strife suppresses joy. It’s hard to be joyful when we’re fighting with someone. On the other hand, having our minds set on eternity and our citizenship in heaven fills our hearts with abundant joy.
Joy cannot coexist in our lives if we’re harboring anger or bitterness. Therefore, throughout our day, we must choose joy over anger, joy over discouragement, joy over bitterness, joy over hurt, joy over depression, and the list goes on. But the one thing that we’re going to study today is that joy cannot exist with anxiety.
You’ve probably discovered this already in your own life. When worry creeps in and the stress levels increase, you’re probably not the most joyful person. However, did you realize that joy can eradicate anxiety? It’s true. Today, we’re going to look at how joy is the antidote to anxiety’s powerful toxins.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Rejoice always. That’s a tall order. But it’s important. In fact, it is so crucial that Paul repeats himself. But if you think that rejoicing always is tough, the second command Paul gives is even harder to follow: do not be anxious about anything. And these aren’t just suggestions; they are commands.
Paul isn’t giving the Philippians or us any wiggle room here. He didn’t write rejoice in the Lord most of the time or when you feel like it; he said rejoice always. Period. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re going through or what you feel like, our call is to rejoice in the Lord no matter what. The same is true with the second command. We are not to be anxious about anything. Not declining health, the loss of a job, or a down turn in the economy. Nothing.
But how can we do this? How can we live our lives anxiety-free? The answer is simple. If we’re obeying the first command to rejoice always, we will automatically be obeying the second, to be anxious about nothing. Because our hearts can’t have joy and anxiety at the same time. They are two opposite attitudes.
Joy remembers all the ways God has provided in the past and shows gratitude for those things. It also praises God for who He is and never forgets His greatness and sovereignty. Joy is a posture of trust. On the other hand, anxiety does the exact opposite. It worries about the future, wondering if and how God will show up. Anxiety focuses on the situation or circumstance rather than the greatness of God. It makes things so big that it can no longer remember how God has proved Himself faithful in the past.
This is a dangerous place to be in. And a position that can cause a lot of havoc in our lives. We serve a God who has all things in control from the greatness of space to the smallest detail of our everyday lives. He’s got it all. As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:25-27:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Jesus encourages us to look at the birds of the air. Have you seen how they swoop and swerve to and fro? And their song…how beautiful it is! They seem like very joyful creatures, and they don’t worry about where their next meal will come from. They merely live out their lives, day by day. So the next time you’re feeling anxious about something, go outside, find some birds, and watch them. Ponder the words of Jesus, and remember that you are of much more value than they are.
Anxiety and worry never helps us in life. It doesn’t add time to our lifespan--if anything it will shorten it by high blood pressure! So let’s not worry about the future or the present but trust in His sovereignty and rejoice in Him always.