Although the word “joy” appears as a noun in the dictionary, it is really a verb, that is in the sense I am describing here. What I mean is that we have a responsibility to make joy happen in our lives. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Paul said this in a context of tension. A strong disagreement had arisen between two leaders in the church. As Paul asks the leaders to work out their problem, he encourages the believers to rejoice. Then Paul gives a prescription of what we have to do if we really want joy.
The first thing we are to do is to maintain an attitude of gentleness, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Phi. 4:5). Simply by taking the initiative of maintaining a gentle and patient attitude, we can help create the environment for our own joy. We can refuse to allow the attitudes of frustration, anger and selfishness to dominate us. Secondly, Paul says we are to remind ourselves that “The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5). Knowing that Jesus is near us in all our situations changes us. There is no leaving him at church—he goes with us in all aspects of our lives. Knowing that Jesus is with us motivates us to have better self-control. Jesus is our highest motivation for living right.
The third step of action is prayer, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). First, develop the right attitudes, then pray about everything that comes up. Instead of getting mad, frustrated, fearful or discouraged, just pray. Paul says we should do it by presenting our petitions to God and then give thanks.
What follows next is exciting, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). With right attitudes and with the action of prayer, peace will become the sentries guarding our hearts and minds against intruding thoughts.
Jesus gave us a great illustration of what peace looks like. He talked about the things that seem to worry us the most, our food, clothes and how we look. Jesus said the key to having peace is to understand how valuable we are to God.
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
An anonymous writer penned these words:
Said the robin to the sparrow
I should really like to know
Why those anxious humans beings
Rush about and worry so.
Said the sparrow to the robin,
Well, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.