It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

The Believers JOY: “Repeat That Sounding Joy”

Well, the weather has definitely changed; from about three weeks of summer to fall in the Northwest.  While working on this blog this morning, I found myself sitting at the laptop with a sweatshirt on and barefoot; I can’t seem to let go of summer altogether.  And yet, the joyful Christmas season is just around the corner; “Joy to the World!”  “For unto you is born this day…a Saviour… Luke 2:11.

In my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I began pouring over biblical verses on the words joy and happiness. If I couldn’t explain JOY, how could I sing “Joy to the World”?  I wanted to know if there was a difference between the two-word meanings.  As I was sorting through my small but extensive library, a note fell on the carpet, from the inside of a Tommy Tenney book, The God Chasers.  I had forgotten I ever wrote this note after reading the book in 2004.  Let me share my written thoughts on that note with you all:

A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers”  (John 4:23).

This book has had an effect on my spiritual life, for I had so many questions.  As a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, “Why am I so dissatisfied?  “Why am I so hungry for God’s Word?”  “Where is my  joy that is supposed to be inside of me?”  I wasn’t a new believer, but “there has to be more than this!”  Have I become a part of the Matrix without realizing the absence of my joy?” 

These divine heart cries were calls from the Father to truly find Him!  He wasn’t hiding from me; He is hiding HIMSELF for me. 

In this note that had slipped to the floor, I read this introduction again from my notes:  Cindy Jacobs, co-founder of Generals of Intercession said, “I must warn you, this is a dangerous book if you are comfortable and complacent and want to stay that way”.  I definitely didn’t want to stay in a state of joyless complacency.

The more I read in The God Chasers book, the more I felt a shift in my spiritual life.  My past focus on the Father had been on the anointing.  Now, my attention was being drawn to a different dimension; shifting to the glory of His presence; the calling for me to enter–beyond the veil into His manifested presence.  I had found a new meaning of joy in my spiritual life and I was not going to let it just lie there.

After reading those notes this morning, I seemed compelled to address the believers JOY.   ALL of our lives are affected by how we relate to others.  If believers are not joyful, how on earth’s creation can we ever “Repeat the Sounding Joy” to the world around us?  At Christmas time or any other time.

WE HAVE GOT A HEAVENLY GIFT

JOY is God’s gift to every believer by the fruit of His Holy Spirit living inside of each one of us (Galatians 5:22).  We have a choice before us; the “ifs” and the “do’s”.  The evangelist Billy Sunday once said, “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”

“If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the spirit].  Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited [NO JOY here!], competitive and challenging [NO JOY here!] and provoking and irritating one another [NOJOYhere!], envying and being jealous of one another [NOJOYhere!]”  (Galatians 5:25, 26).  I inserted the “NO JOY here!” for emphasis.

From the moment you receive the gospel;  “I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing” ~ Jn. 5:11.  The JOY increases as you study and obey:  “And we are now writing these things to you so that our joy may be full [and your joy may be complete]” ~ 1 John 1:4.

Even severe trials shouldn’t rob you of your JOY!  You might be thinking as I once did, “How can I be happy after losing my job or no food in the ‘Fridge?”  JOY is something entirely different from HAPPINESSHappiness is associated with:

–Happenings

–Happenstance

–Luck

–Fortune

Joy, in the biblical context, is not an emotion.  Joy is an attitude of the heart; your feeler, your thinker, your doer;  a firm confidence that ALL is well, regardless of my circumstances

HAPPINESS versus JOY; THE DIFFERENCES

I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a car as I approached a red signal light, and it read, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

The Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about thirty times.  While “joy” appears over three hundred times.  The word To Rejoice definition comes from the word “joy“; “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad“.  In the book of Genesis 30:1-13 we run across one of the first times the word “happy” is used.

In Genesis 29:32-35, we see that Jacob’s wife Leah named her first three sons for the way she felt at the time.  Her fourth son, Judah meant to praise.   Now Zilpha, Leah’s handmaid, bore Jacob [her] second son and Leah said, “I am happy”  and she named him Asher.  Happy is the Hebrew root word, “Ashar” which means “to set right or be blessed“.

Now being happy in severe trials, isn’t going to make us laugh out of happiness but your circumstance shouldn’t rob your joy.  What do I mean here?  The best way for me to convey that thought is through God’s Word:

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations”  (James 1:2).

I like the Amplified version and the King James wording ‘whenever you are enveloped’ “in” or while you “encounter trials“.  Being “joyful” in trials and being joyful ‘because’ of trials is different.  Why? Because in verse 3, James continues in saying:

“Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.”

Now turning to 1 Peter 1:3, 5 ,6, and 8 , he goes on to say that as believers, we are “born again to an ever-living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” and that we are “being guarded by God’s power through your faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready [for you] in the last time”.  And because of that faith in God’s power in your dire circumstances,  “for a little while you may be distressed and suffer…”; your trials are but for a little while, and “Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not [even] now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) JOY”  (verse 8).  Where is my JOY now and where should my JOY be?  That my friends is where ‘The Believers JOY’ comes from!

If you are not convinced of your joy at this point, turn to The Letter of Jude:

“Now to Him who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]—”  (verse 24–Amplified version).

THE WORD “BLESSED” IN THE BIBLE

The word “blessed” in the Bible includes being “happy, happy, happy” and “joyful”.  So the next time you read in  Matthew 5 and read the word “Blessed“, read the Amplified versions “Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions)…”

Old Testament verses:

–Deuteronomy 12:7

–Nehemiah 8:10; 12:43

–Job 5:17-18

–Isaiah 58:5-12; 61:1-3

–Jeremiah 15:16

–Habakkuk 3:18, 19

The Book of Psalms is loaded with being “happy”, “joyful” or “Blessed”.

A great two verse found in Psalm 51:7-13 to pray when joy and happiness seem to be absent in your spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, preserving, and steadfast spirit within me”  (verse 10).

Restore to me the JOY of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit”  (verse 12).

New Testament verses:

–Luke 2:10-14; 10:17-20; 15:4-7; 15:10

–John 15:5-17; 16:21-24

–Acts 2:22-28; 13:52; 20:24

–Romans 5:11; 14:17-19, 22; 15:13

—2 Corinthians 7:4

–Galatians 5:22-26

—1 Thess. 2:19, 20

–Hebrews 12:1, 2

–James 1:2, 3

—1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12, 13

—1 John 1:4

–Jude 24, 25

These are but a few verses I found in the Bible in reminding me of my joy planted by God in my heart; my feeler, my thinker, my doer.  I also found the words to a Hymn of Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven, adapted by Edward Hodges (verse two):

“All Thy works with joy surround Thee,  Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,

Stars and angels sing around Thee, Center of unbroken praise.

Field and forest, vale and mountain,  Flowery meadow, flashing sea,

Chanting bird and flowing fountain,  Call us to rejoice in Thee.”

JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE THEE 

How is your JOY working for you right now?  Lift your head and eyes and look around you and Rejoice!