walk in the word
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
We’ve been learning the last few weeks that joy is a choice. Honestly, as hard as it is to accept, I much prefer the opposite. I like the idea that people and circumstances steal my joy. I hate the idea that on one level, it’s all me. I’m the reason that I don’t have joy. But that’s the truth.
I don’t know how your joy thing’s going, but I can tell you on the authority of God’s Word that if you’ve lost it, if you’ve needlessly given it away, you can find it again in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. You can choose the joy of Jesus Christ.
This week, I’m going to give you two very practical ways you can choose joy on a daily basis.
Here’s the first one: you’ve got to be hungry. The followers of Jesus Christ never arrive in this life. None of us will. When Paul wrote Philippians, he had been doing the Christian walk for decades, and he knew some things. Listen up to Philippians 3:15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…” to which we should reply, “What way?” Well, the way that he was just talking about (read Philippians 3), the way of pressing on, and straining forward, that aggressive I-haven’t-arrived-yet mentality. Paul urges us to keep that mindset.
If you’ve known the Lord for a while, continue to think aggressively about all the growth ahead of you and all that is yet to be done for Christ. Are you doing that? The typical Christian has set the cruise control. They think, “the big changes are behind me. Oh, there might be a little tweeking to do over the next few years, but for the most part I’ve got the major stuff in place.” How tragic! We have not yet begun to plumb the depths of all that is ours in Christ. We must maintain the same hungry mentality we had when we first came to Christ.
Hungry followers never arrive. Let me be the first to say, I haven’t. Say it about yourself out loud right now if you believe it. “I have not arrived.” Do you believe that or do you mean, “Well, I’ve not exactly arrived, but I’m pulling the train into the station”? The mindset we’re supposed to have is, “I have so many miles of track ahead of me that I can’t even see the destination!”
It’s like this—the number one complaint of people struggling in their marriage is the lack of fervency and focus. Women are like, “Man, what happened to you? When we were dating, you were so thoughtful. You just couldn’t do enough for me. Where did that guy go when we got home from the honeymoon?” And men say the same thing. “Girl, you could not keep your hands off me when we were dating! What happened to all that?” (Good questions that we’ll save for a separate series.)
But here’s the point. The very same thing can happen in your relationship with the Lord. I wonder if He would say to any of us, “Man, those first days were so great. You loved Me and you loved My Word and you were so fervent; you wanted to grow. So what happened? Where did that person go?”
Then I love this part of the Philippians’ passage. “And if in anything you think otherwise God will reveal that to you” (v. 16). If you’re reading this and going, “I don’t agree with you, James. I don’t think you have to be spiritually hungry all the time.” Well, you’re wrong about that. If you haven’t figured out yet that you’ll never “arrive” in the Christian life and that the further you go, the more you want to go further and that the fervency level is supposed to go up and not down, I don’t have to be the one to worry about it. God Himself is going to show you, this Scripture says. God will reveal that to you. I love that picture of hunger.
Here’s the second practical way you can choose joy on a daily basis. Hold. Our dependence on Christ should never end. Look Philippians 3:16: “Only let us hold true to what we have obtained.” Sometimes there can be a danger with hunger. Sometimes people who have known the Lord for a while get bored and they take the input that I just gave you for hunger and it leads them away from God’s Word. “There’s gotta be something more, something better, something different.”
While it’s great to have a hunger for God, listen, “Hold fast to what we have obtained.” Instead of longing for more or better or different, God calls us deeper and stronger into the things that we have already obtained. Paul’s like, “Don’t let your hunger get you out there over the edge in some kind of unbiblical extravagance. Stay rooted in God’s Word.”
If you want to choose joy, then hold fast to God. Keep depending on Christ. Do you still lean on Christ as completely as when you first came to the cross, every step with God a step of total dependence in faith? Think about the big challenge that you’re facing right now. What uncertainty lies ahead? What obstacle are you being called to conquer right now? What step is God asking you to take? And what is your mindset as you face that? Is it equivalent dependence to the heart that Christ won at the cross? Want joy in that uncertainty? Say—I can’t do it, Lord; only You can do it.
So what do you need to do today to regain lost joy? Do you need the Lord to re-ignite your hunger for Him? Do you need the reminder that you’ve not arrived spiritually? Or maybe you need to stop trying so hard in your own strength to be what God wants you to be and move back into that dependent, Christ-centered approach to life transformation. Do you need to hold on to the truth that the same way you came to the Lord is also how you’ll grow?
Get back on the track of abiding faith and deeper joy. Two words to remember from this week to guarantee that supernatural delight in the purposes, person, and people of God are: Hunger and Hold. Hunger after God. Hold true to Christ.
For more on these practical ways to get and keep your joy, listen to the message, “The Joy of Following Christ” on Wednesday and Thursday.
brought to you by change partners