The Joy Choice
Updated: Mar 10, 2020
The extent of our free will is encouraging, and convicting. We choose, on so many levels, how to navigate through the muck and mire of life in a broken world--choosing our Savior's pathway and the walk of faith, or going it on our own. God gives us the spiritual resource of intention. We decide how to frame what we see, how to understand the circumstances we are faced with, and how to bend our knee to God's sovereignty--or not.
In Philippians 4, Paul lays out some keys to choosing joy as the foundation of our perspective. Our choice for joy rests entirely on the finished work of Jesus Christ--his death and resurrection. The Gospel gives us the WHY for joy--death has no victory and no eternal sting. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the righteousness of Christ that was imputed (think infused) to us at the point of our conversion, gives us the HOW for joy. Joy comes as we follow His lead in all sorts of situations.
In Philippians 4: 2-9, Paul presents three ways to choose joy:
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
First, Paul calls us to choose relational joy. How? By laying aside anger, offering volitional forgiveness, and working toward peace. Will a choice for relational joy make everybody happy? No, but it will please our Savior, who demonstrated each step mentioned here while He walked the earth. Jesus shows us how--through humility, as an act of faith, and by fully surrendering heartache, injustice, and pain to God. He alone is a truly Righteous Judge,
Then Paul calls believers to lifestyle joy. Lifestyle joy relies on remembering the incredible depths of God's grace to you in the past. It means not allowing fear or anxiety to rule your life. It requires that a deep understanding of God's infinite power and mysterious, miraculous ways pervades your thinking. Lifestyle joy involves prayer that unconditionally surrenders to God, who can do above and beyond what we ask or imagine. It involves trusting the Spirit instead of the flesh. There is great joy in knowing that whatever it is, God's got this.
Paul concludes with a call to perceptional joy. This necessitates choosing what we will think about instead of letting the brokenness of this world choose it for us. We are encouraged to be wise, proactive, and intentional about how we categorize our perceptions. If we think the right way we renew our minds by changing the cognitions that swirl through them.
Joy, like love and hope, is a choice. Paul chose it in a Roman prison. Wherever life takes us, we can choose it too.