The word happiness evokes visions of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, being surprised on your birthday, responding with unbridled laughter to a comedian, or vacationing in an exotic locale. Everyone wants to be happy; we make chasing this elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends upon our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, and the party is over? Often happiness flees and despair sets in.
In contrast to happiness stands joy. Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God's love and work in our lives, that He will be there no matter what! Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ!
Philippians is Paul's joy letter. The church in that Macedonian city had been a great encouragement to Paul. The Philippian believers had enjoyed a very special relationship with Paul, so he wrote them a personal letter expressing his love and affection. They had brought him great joy. But Philippians is also a joyful book because it emphasizes the real joy of the Christian life. The concept of rejoicing or joy appears 16 times, and the pages radiate this positive message, culminating in the exhortation to "Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!" (4:4).
In a life dedicated to serving Christ, Paul had faced excruciating poverty, abundant wealth, and everything in-between. He even wrote this joyful letter from prison. Whatever the circumstances, Paul had learned to be content (4:11,12), finding real joy as he focused all of his attention and energy on knowing Christ (3:8) and obeying Him (3:12,13). Paul's desire to know Christ above all else is wonderfully expressed in the following words: "Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, and become one with Himů Now I have given up everything else. I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the mighty power that brought Him back to life again, and to find out what it means to suffer and to die with Him" (3:8-10). May we share Paul's aspiration and seek to know Jesus Christ more and more. This is the secret of a joyful Christian life!
[Life Application Bible]