By Rick Warren

“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

In the book of Philippians, Paul uses the word “joy” 16 times in just four chapters. As a prisoner in a Roman jail, awaiting execution, it’s pretty amazing to think that he was able to write the most positive book of the Bible during one of the darkest times of his life.

You, too, can have that same kind of joy. In Philippians, Paul gives us six joy-builders to help us live joyful lives, no matter what our circumstances are. To make them easy to remember, I’ve made them into an acrostic — JOYFUL. Today, we’ll look at the last three joy-builders.

F: Focus on what’s good.

Life is filled with ups and downs, but you have a choice: Which are you going to focus on — the good or the bad? Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). Where do you get a list of things like that? Talk radio? Not likely! Television? No. The newspaper or magazines? No.

But there is one place you can count on: God’s Word. The more you fill your mind with this book, the more positive and joyful you’re going to be. God’s Word is true, it is right, and it is admirable. It is worthy of value. Spend some time reading God’s Word every day.

U: Use your life to help others.

Paul was joyful because he was unselfish. He invested his life in others. If you want to have continuous joy in your life, here is the secret: Give your life away. Stop focusing on your puny problems and aches and pains, and start focusing on helping others. The more you give your life away, Jesus said, the more you find it. The more unselfish you become, the more joyful a person you’re going to be.

“I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work” (Philippians 4:1b). Paul’s joy came from serving the people in whom he had invested his life — the people he had led to Christ and discipled.

L: Learn to be content.

This is the bottom line: Joy is a decision. You are as joyful as you choose to be.

We get caught up in “when and then” thinking (“When ‘this’ happens in my life, then I’ll be happy”). You are as joyful as you choose to be, because joy is a choice. Philippians 4:11 says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (NIV). You can always be joyful — no matter what happens — because God is in control.

You may think that joy is some kind of characteristic for a naturally upbeat and cheerful person, and you’re “just not the joyful type.” You’re wrong.

You have a chance to determine your destiny. Change right now the priorities in your life. Change right now what you’re going to live the rest of your life for. If you will begin to yield yourself to God’s purpose, get to know God’s Son, and use your life to help other people, then you will have more joy than you could ever imagine.

Talk It Over

  • What are the honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable truths that you discover in your Bible reading? How can you remind yourself to focus on these things today?
  • What are the circumstances that are keeping you from being content and joyful?
  • How will serving others help save you from focusing on your circumstances?