Philippians 4:4-8 teaches that a follower of Christ is connected to a limitless supply of joy. We can find joy in the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul writes (vs.4). Scripture urges us not to forget the benefits of our faith and lose the joy we are meant to have in Christ (Ps.103:2).
We can find joy with the Lord. “The Lord is near,” Paul writes in verse 5. Jesus’ desire is that his joy would be in us, and that this experience of joy would be full and overflowing (John 15:11). This joy diminishes anxiety, increases gratitude, and secures us with peace (vss.6-7).
Finally, Paul teaches that a follower of Christ will experience joy for the Lord. He says in verse 8: “Finally brothers, 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.”
What do we mean, joy for the Lord? Think about it this way: Is joy, in and of itself, a good and godly thing?
Not at all. Joy is just an emotion, pure and simple. Joy is the raw sensation of something giving you pleasure. God gave us bodies and minds for feeling pleasure, but that’s not to say that every pleasure our bodies and minds feel is from God.
There are some people who experience joy when they look at the images of unclothed children. It’s real pleasure that they feel. Others experience joy as a drug courses through their veins. It’s a real surge of endorphins firing in their brains. Serotonin levels rising in their blood. Does that mean it’s good and godly? Not on your life. There are some people who experience joy when they put the competition out of business, or when they climb the corporate ladder on the top of the heads of someone else.
God gave us bodies and minds for feeling pleasure, but that’s not to say that every pleasure our bodies and minds feel is from God.
It depends what the joy is for which shows whether it is good and godly or not. If the joy is for something that is consistent with God’s goodness and holiness, then that joy will be life-giving. If the joy you feel is for something selfish or evil, then you have a serious problem on your hands. That joy will destroy your life in the end.
“There is a way that seems right to a man,” the Bible says, “but in the end it leads to death”. The Bible has only one thing to say to the person like this – Repent! Recognize the sorry, damnable state of your life and fall at Jesus’ feet and beg him to have mercy on you. Beg him to forgive you and wash your sins away. Beg him to give you a new heart and mind that take pleasure in the right things.
What makes becoming a Christian difficult is there’s still this old, nasty part of you that’s very much alive and kicking, which wants nothing to do with God and takes pleasure in all the wrong things.
But the good news of our faith is that all this can be unlearned. With the Lord’s help we can train our minds to “take captive our thoughts” and focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure and lovely. As the mind of Christ grows within us, we then experience joy for the Lord.