"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." (Philippians 4:6 NLT)
You have a fundamental need for joy in your life. Life without joy is overwhelming, overburdened, and oppressive. Studies have actually shown that the more joy we have in our lives, the more productive we are. I read an article in "US News and World Report" that said that corporations hire "joy consultants" to build up the joy in peoples' lives so that employees can be more productive. It is true that you have more energy, more creativity, and more productivity when you have joy in your life.
In the short book of Philippians - only four chapters long - Paul uses the word "joy" 16 times. The amazing thing is, Paul didn't write this book when he was on vacation in the Caribbean. He was in prison in Rome, waiting to be executed. In the darkest days of his life, he wrote the most positive book in the Bible.
In Philippians, Paul gives us six joy-builders that will help diffuse our discouragement and lift our depression. To make them easy to remember, I've made them into an acrostic - JOYFUL. Today, we'll look at the first three.
J: Jettison all regrets about your past.
"Jettison" means "to abandon as worthless, to discard, to eliminate, to get rid of." Paul says if you want to enjoy life, there are some things you've got to get rid of because they are wearing you down and overburdening your life. The Bible says to forget your regrets, because that's what God does - he chooses to forgive your mistakes once they're confessed. The starting point of joy is letting go of the past. Philippians 3:13 says, "One thing I do is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead" (GN).
O: Omit all worries about your future.
If you're going to enjoy the present, you must omit all worries about your future. Worry, hands-down, is the greatest killjoy of them all. You cannot be joyful and worried at the same time. Paul's antidotes are these verses: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done" (Philippians 4:6 NLT). You can either worry or you can pray.
Y: Yield yourself to God's purpose.
If you're just drifting, if you don't know where you came from or where you're going or why you're here, of course you're not going to have any joy in your life. We all need a cause greater than ourselves for which we live. That is what brings us joy. Living for yourself does not bring joy.
Even when Paul had literally lost everything, there was one thing that could not be taken away from him - his purpose in life. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (NIV).
If you want to have a joy-filled life, you need to get in line with God's purpose for your life. When you begin to live the purpose for which you are made, life makes sense, and joy is a lot more easily found.
Talk It Over
"Put your heart right, Job. Reach out to God .... Then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more." (Job 11:13, 15-16 GNT)
You can learn a lot by looking at your past. You've heard the saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." That's true - but it's only part of the story. You can't heal the most pervasive, costly wounds in your life by focusing only on your past. To defeat those giants, you'll have to look ahead.
Too often we try to find healing by looking in our rearview mirrors. When we do that, we're more likely to crash than heal.
In Job 11, God tells us clearly how to get rid of painful memories and move on with our lives. He says, "Put your heart right, Job. Reach out to God .... Then face the world again, firm and courageous. Then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more" (Job 11:13, 15-16 GNT).
First, put your heart right. You do what's right - no matter what the other person does. It's always right to forgive those who've hurt you.
Second, reach out to God. Invite Jesus into every room in the house of your heart. Often, we've invited him into the front room (accepted Jesus as our Savior) - but not the bedroom, kitchen, or garage.
Third, face the world again. Don't hide in a shell or withdraw so you don't get hurt again. Move forward. Learn to live again.
Your past is not your future. It doesn't matter what you've done, who you've done it with, or how long you've done it. Throughout Scripture, God forgives murderers, adulterers, and slackers, and he uses them to do his work in the world.
You, too, have a great future ahead of you. Put your heart right, reach out to God, and face the world again.
And then let God do something incredible through you.
Talk It Over
"Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2a NLT)
People really don't forget anything. Stored somewhere in your mind, you'll find the date of your anniversary, the score of the Super Bowl when you were 10, and the day your child lost his first tooth.
You may not recall those events, but the memories are there.
The good news is, your brain stores everything. The bad news is, your brain stores everything. Your brain can't distinguish between what's imaginary and what's real, truth or lies.
You have stored all kind of garbage in your brain. And, often it's that garbage that you're basing your decisions upon.
When you were a child, adults said things to you that you believed without question because they were adults and authority figures. For example:
They were lies then, and they're lies now. But you believe them!
You need to change the tape that's playing in your mind. Instead of playing tapes full of lies, you need to play the truth of God's Word. You need to hide the truth of God's Word in your heart.
Romans 12:2 says, "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (NLT). How do you change how you think? You play a tape of truth.
For years psychologists have told us that our self-esteem comes from what you think the most important person in your life thinks about you.
Make Jesus the most important person in your life, and it'll change everything. God's Word says you're lovable (John 3:16), capable (2 Peter 1:3), valuable (Luke 12:6), forgivable (Psalm 103:12), and usable (Ephesians 4:12).
Let that tape become the soundtrack of your life, and you will never be the same.
Talk It Over
"When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23b LB)
If you've been hurt by someone else, whether it's physical or emotional, you've got a decision to make. You can use your energy to get well or get even.
But you can't do both.
Jesus, too, understood pain and abuse. When he was crucified, he was wounded in every way possible - by his feet, his hands, and his head. They crushed a crown of thorns onto his skull. They nailed him to a cross. Roman soldiers gave him 40 lashes with a cat of nine tails.
Of course, Jesus' deepest wounds weren't physical but emotional. He was betrayed, rejected, and humiliated.
Yet 1 Peter 2:23 says, "When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (LB). Jesus could have sent a billon angels to annihilate everyone while he was on the cross, but he didn't.
He leaves the issue to his Father in Heaven. He says, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing." He refuses to let pain make him bitter.
To get through the pain and abuse of this life, you must release those who've abused you. You can't get well as long as you have resentment in your heart. For your own sake, you need to let go of your right to get even.
Getting even won't make you feel better. Even if you were able to get even, it wouldn't take your pain away.
Does the person who hurt you deserve your forgiveness? No. But neither do you deserve God's forgiveness. You offer forgiveness for your sake, not the other person's.
You can also be assured that God saw everything. The Bible says in Romans 12:19, "Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the Scripture says, 'I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.'"
God saw what happened when you were hurt. And he wept, just as he was doing when his Son was crucified. It's God's responsibility to get even - not yours.
The person who hurt you won't get away with it.
But you will. You'll stop paying for someone else's mistakes.
The Bible says in Hebrews 12:15, "A bitter spirit is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others" (Phillips).
Resentment is a poison pill you don't need to swallow. You are only as happy as you choose to be.
So what's your choice?
Talk It Over
- How does resentment hurt you as much or more as the person you won't forgive?
- Why is it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you?
- Who do you need to forgive?