God wants you to be joyful! The devil wants you to be ungrateful, unkind, cold, distant, unfriendly, and unpleasant. God wants you to be full of joy, while the devil wants you to be full of discontentment, dissatisfaction, irritation, and anger. When you are in a state of joy, you are more aware, calm, and present for God and others. When you have joy, it is easier to care about others. When you have a lack of joy you are more concerned about you.

God has given you the seven practices of peace to combat your anxieties. We find these in Philippians 4:4-9. Let’s look at God’s Word and take a look at the practice of joy.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NASB)

If you are going to experience God’s peace you will need to practice joy. In verse 9, God’s Word says we are to practice these things. There are seven practices of peace mentioned in Philippians 4, one of them is the practice of joy. We are going to look at practice #1 today.

Before we get started with this, I want to address something. God’s Word says to us we are to practice these things. We spent four weeks on what that meant. One thing I did not cover is practice implies failure. When you practice something, you are going to fail at it, but you also will improve at the same time. If you are practicing piano you are going to fail, but improve at the same time. If you are practicing golf you are going to fail, but improve at the same time. When you are practicing peace, you are going to fail and improve at the same time.

I’m pretty confident that God gave many of you an opportunity to practice peace this week. I’m sure some of you did well, you remained joyful, gentle, and aware, and calm and thoughtful. You were able to manage your anxiety and frustration well.

On the other hand, some of you tried to remain joyful, gentle, aware, calm, and thoughtful but your anger, frustration, or fear got the best of you. Instead of hitting the ball straight, you sliced it. Instead of playing the right note, you hit the wrong note. That’s called practice. You are practicing these things. When you practice these things you will experience failure, it will feel awkward, and it will take time. You are learning how to put off the old self and put on the new one.

Let’s talk about the practice of joy. To experience God’s peace, you must cultivate an attitude of joy in your life. Paul begins this section of the power of God’s peace by saying, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (v. 4, NASB). This may sound unrealistic to some, especially the patient lying in a hospital bed, the unemployed dad trying to provide for his family, the single parent with a difficult child, or the person in a difficult marriage. Regardless of your situation, everyone can learn to rejoice in the Lord and muffle the voices of anxiety trying to control your life.

What does it mean to rejoice? What is joy? Let’s take a look at several key Biblical observations about joy.

Joy comes from the inside

Number one, joy comes from the inside. We are talking about the word rejoice and joy. Joy deals with your inner character, while happiness deals with your outward circumstances. Happiness depends on what happens around you. Therefore, we call it happiness. If what is happening around you is good, then you are happy. If your marriage is good, you are happy. If your health is good, you are happy. If your job is going well, you are happy. Normally if your marriage is failing, health is declining, and you have lost your job then you are not happy. If your happenings change, then so does your happiness.

Joy has nothing to do with what is going on around you. Joy has everything to do with what is going on inside you. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said of Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV). Jesus approached the cross with a deep inner joy, not happiness. When you looked at Jesus enduring the cross you did not see a happy man, but if you could see His heart and mind, you would see a joyful man because He was doing the will of His Father.

You see this principle also in some of the early churches. Paul wrote, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2, NLT). Despite their “troubles” and being “very poor” they exhibited “abundant joy.” This means that you can have joy in the middle of your problems and choose to be joyful when you don’t have a lot. Joy comes from the inside.

Joy is a choice

Number two, joy is a choice. Joy is a choice; happiness is a reaction. You can choose to rejoice. It’s a decision. You can choose joy ahead of time. You can premeditate joy. No matter what happens to you, you can always select the option of joy. As a follower of Jesus, you want to make the deliberate choice to rejoice.

This is what David did when he wrote, “I will rejoice and be jubilant in You” (Psalm 9:2, NASB). Notice he says, “I will rejoice.” That is a choice phrase. You hear the same thing again in Psalm 31, I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithfulness, because You have seen my misery; you have known the troubles of my soul” (v. 7, NASB). Notice carefully that David is experiencing both joy and misery at the same time. You can be both unhappy about your happenings, while being joyful in the midst of them. This is why Paul commanded, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! It is a command we can choose to obey or not. Joy is a choice.

Joy can be constant

Number three, joy can be constant. You can be joyful all the time, but you cannot be happy all the time. Notice we are told to rejoice in the Lord always.  I have already alluded to this, but you can be joyful even though you are going through troubles. God has always been upfront and honest with us about the difficulties of life.

God’s Word says, “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!” (Job 14:1, NLT). Life goes by quickly and it will be full of one problem after another, but God wants you to handle all the disappointments with joy.

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). Jesus said life is going to be hard, but He will get you through it. No matter what the world throws at you, or what people do to you, you can handle it because of Him. You can be joyful all the time, but you cannot be happy all the time.

Paul was referring to this when he wrote, “I am filled with encouragement; I am overflowing with joy in all our afflictions” (2 Cor. 7:4, CSB). He was overflowing with joy despite his problems. Don’t confuse joy with happiness. If you do, you will not experience either.

James mentions this as well when he says in James 1, “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT). Troubles of any kind are an opportunity to demonstrate and experience great joy. One of the issues we have with joy is we see troubles in life as obstacles rather than opportunities.

What God’s Word is teaching you is you can always rejoice in the Lord regardless of your troubles, afflictions, trials, or sorrows. This is why so many people struggle with joy. They are trying to be happy thinking that being happy is being joyful. They have confused joy and happiness. They are working at the wrong thing. They are climbing the wrong ladder.

Enjoy the times when you are both joyful and happy. In a song of praise David wrote, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3, NIV). Did you see that? David said may God’s people be both “happy and joyful.” There are going to be days when what is happening around you is great and what is happening in you is awesome. You will be both “happy and joyful.” May you have many days like that, but when you don’t, choose to rejoice.

Joy is in a Person

Number four, joy is in a person. Your joy is in your Savior, not your surroundings. Paul says you are to rejoice in the Lord. In the book of Philippians, God’s Word has already said we are to “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1), “live in harmony in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2), and here we are told to rejoice in the Lord.

What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? This is what makes heavenly joy different from earthly joy. Earthly joy depends on your relationship with the world. If the world is treating you well, you will experience the world’s joy. But the world constantly changes which means your joy will constantly change. The world is temporary, which means your joy will be temporary. However, heavenly joy is in the Lord. The Lord never changes, which means your joy can be constant because He is constant. The Lord is eternal which means your joy is eternal.

If Paul would have simply said, “Rejoice!” That would have been silly and difficult. Instead, Paul said rejoice in the Lord.

  • To be in something is to be surrounded by that something or consumed by it. If you are in the water, you are surrounded by the water. If you are in a room, you are surrounded by that room. When you are in the Lord you are surrounded by Him and consumed by Him.
  • Another meaning of the word in is associated with dedication and commitment. We see this when we say, “We are all in.” When you are in the Lord you are surrounded and enclosed by the Lord, and you are all in with Him. To be in the Lord is to be in love with Him, committed to Him, and dedicated to Him.

You don’t rejoice in your situation, but your Savior, not your circumstances, but in Christ. Your joy is based on a Person. That Person is Jesus Christ.

Joy embraces God

Number five, joy embraces God. To rejoice in the Lord is to acknowledge that God exists. When you choose to rejoice in the Lord you are expressing a deeply rooted confidence that there is a God, that He is in control, and that He is good. What you believe about God is important. Your understanding and belief about God directly impacts how you view every problem, every trial, every difficulty, every set back, every relationship, and everything else in life.

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in who He is! This requires that you know who He is. This is why it’s important to study God’s Word because that is where He reveals who He is. I believe there are some key attributes of God that you need to know about that will help you manage your anxiety and experience joy.

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in His sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is God’s perfect control and management of the universe, including your life. To say God is sovereign means that God is the boss, He is large and in charge, He rules, reigns, and decides what will be. In addition, He has the authority and power to make whatever He decides to occur. He is sovereign! In regard to your anxiety, a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty is enormous. Anxiety is often the consequence of perceived chaos. If you sense you are a victim of unseen, chaotic, and random forces, you will be worried and afraid.

Anxiety wants to control the situation; joy understands God is in control. As your joy increases, your anxiety decreases. If your anxiety increases, your joy decreases. Anxiety has a way of making God look small, weak, and not in control. Joy has a way of making God look big, strong, and in control. So, rejoice in the Lord! Your anxiety will decrease as your understanding of God increases. God’s Word reminds you that God “will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, who thoughts turn often to the Lord!” (Isaiah 26:3, TLB).

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in His goodness. The goodness of God is the aspect of the Lord that causes Him to express His outrageous generosity toward His creation. What does it mean to say, God is good? When writing about the goodness of God the psalmist said, “You are good, and You do good” (Psalm 119:68, NASB). Simply put, God is good in His character and action. Because He is good, He does good. Your Lord cannot do anything that is not good in some way. This is why you can say with confidence, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, NLT).

How does this impact your anxieties, fears, and worries? Sooner or later, you will face situations that are out of your hands. Someone you care about will get seriously sick, you will lose your job, or a relationship goes bad. You will find yourself helpless, angry, and wanting to take control of it in some way, but you can’t. It’s too big. How does God’s goodness help you in these situations? If you know and believe that God is good and that He is working out everything for your good then you know that what is happening, no matter how bad it may seem, God is somehow in His sovereignty is going to work it out for good and for His glory because He is a sovereign good God. That is where you find your joy. It’s in the Lord, not in what is happening around you.

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in His presence. Sometimes God’s presence is referred to as His omnipresence. The word omni means all. The omnipresence of God means that His complete essence is fully present in all places at all times. God is not broken or divided up into parts where you have part of God over there and part of God over here. Instead, the totality of God is everywhere at the same time. No matter where you are, all of God is there. You may not be aware of it, or He may not be revealing Himself as such, but His complete essence is present. This is why the Psalmist said, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me” (Psalm 139:7-10, NLT). Don’t miss this. The Psalmist knew that no matter where He was or how bad the situation, God’s presence was available to guide him and strengthen him. The presence of God is a weapon against anxiety and worry and fear. Are you anxious or concerned about your finances? The writer of Hebrews said, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NLT). Part of the answer to combatting dissatisfaction (a form of anxiety) is knowing that God will never abandon you. That’s talking about God’s presence. Something similar is happening in Psalm 23 when David wrote, “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (v. 4, CSB). He didn’t say there would be no danger, David said would he would not fear it. Why? Because God was with him. Aware of God’s presence makes all the difference between peace and fear. This is another reason why Philippians 4:5 says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…” (NASB).

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in His power. This is also known as God’s omnipotence, meaning all-powerful. God’s power is comprehensive. It has no limits, because God has no limits. God can do anything He wants. The Psalmist wrote, “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!” (Psalm 147:5, NLT). He has strength in abundance! He has great power! He has limitless strength! This is why the angel of the Lord could tell Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NLT) and Jesus could say to the disciples, “Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27, NLT). God’s power and might and strength is comprehensive. There is nothing nor no one that it does not cover.

How does this relate to your stress or anxiety? Because God is all-powerful, He is able to keep His promises. Whatever God promises you, he can and will do it. Look carefully at what Paul wrote, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises” (Rom. 4:20-21, NLT). When God promises he will do something, he will do it. It will be done. When God promises to comfort you, he will bring comfort to you. When God promises to guide you, He will guide you. When he promises to strengthen you, he will strengthen you. What God promises, he provides because He has the power to do it. Does the knowledge and belief in God’s power change how you see your problems, situations, and troubles? It should.

Notice how the Psalmist connects God’s strength and his own peace during times of catastrophe, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!” (Psalm 46:1-3, NLT). Even though the world may fall apart all around you, your God has the power and strength to help you through it. Since God is all-powerful, he has the might to handle all of your problems.

To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in His grace. The grace of God is His inexhaustible supply of goodness by which He does for you what you could never do for yourself. God’s grace guarantees God is going to bless you. Some of those blessings directly impact your anxiety. For example, God’s grace is going to bless so you can get through whatever it is you are going through. Paul put it this way when he wrote, “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8, CSB). This means that God can pour on the blessings in amazing ways so that you are ready for anything and everything that comes your way. Whatever kind of grace or blessing you need to do what He wants you to do or to get through what He wants you to get through, He has. He has the power to make every kind of grace and every kind of blessing overflow to you.

Paul had what he called a thorn in the flesh. It was causing a lot of problems for him and stressing him out. Paul asked God to remove it three times and God said no, but God also said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, NASB). God basically told him that He would not remove the problem, but that He would bless him in order to deal with it in such a way that God would receive glory and he would remain humble. I’m confident you have a thorn somewhere in your life. Maybe your thorn is physical or maybe mental or relational. Whatever shape your thorn is God’s grace will bless you while you live with it. Grace does not simply remove problems that create anxiety, sometimes it helps you plow through them. 

I think you get the idea. To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in who He is. Not only can you apply this to His grace, power, presence, goodness, and sovereignty but you can and should also apply this to His love, wisdom, knowledge, faithfulness, sufficiency, holiness, and justice to name a few. The better you intimately understand the character, nature, and attributes of God the more difficult it is for your anxiety to control your life. When you know God, you will be immovable. This is why God’s Word says things like, “The people who know their God will be strong and take action” (Daniel 11:32, NASB). 

Your anxiety needs to encounter the greatness of God! Listen carefully, I’m trying to help you in a very practical way to combat your anxiety. Get to know your God. Learn what His Word says about Him. Deeply believe what it says. Learn to worship your incredible God. Abandon yourself to the praise of God. Tell God how great He is and say it out loud! Expose your worries to worship. Let your anxiety rub up against the awesomeness of your great Lord. What you believe about God is extremely important in your battle against anxiety. I’m convinced that your anxiety decreases as your understanding of God increases. This is why Isaiah 26:3 says, “He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord” (TLB). Anxiety has a way of making God look small, weak, and not in control. Joy has a way of making God look big, strong, and in control. So, rejoice in the Lord! Your anxiety will decrease as your understanding of God increases.

Joy is an expression of trust

Number six, joy is an expression of trust. Rejoicing in the Lord is a form of trusting God. Jeremiah put it this way, “Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NKJV, emphasis mine).

For many believers, it takes growth to move from rejoicing in their circumstances to rejoicing in the Lord. If your joy is tied to your circumstances, then when your circumstances change so does your joy. Keep in mind when Paul wrote the words, rejoice in the Lord, he was in prison. I’m glad Paul didn’t get his joy in his freedom, because, if he did, he wouldn’t have joy when he was in prison. If your joy is connected to your finances then you feel joyful when you have enough, but depressed or worried when you think you don’t have enough. If your joy is connected to your health, then your joy will leave you when you get a serious illness.

It helps me to see joy in the Lord like a thermostat, rather than a thermometer. A thermometer registers conditions, a thermostat controls them. The thermostat of joy in the Lord sets your heart and mind on Jesus so when the weather changes outside the spiritual temperature remains the same on the inside. The pressures of the world may be heating up around you, but on the inside you’re spiritually calm because your joy is in the Lord. The freezing winds of disappointment may be blowing against you, but you’re spiritually present because your joy is in the Lord. The Old Testament Habakkuk had learned this when he wrote,

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Hab. 3:17-18, NLT).

That’s what Paul is saying to us from his prison. They have locked me in, but they have not locked my joy out. Joy in the Lord is not determined by your personal prosperity or how well things are going around you. Joy in the Lord is determined by the Lord who is in You, surrounding you, behind you, with you, and in front of you. Circumstances change, but the Lord never does. Anchor your joy onto Jesus, because He is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Consider Him! Contemplate Him! Praise Him! Love Him! Enjoy Him! Don’t rejoice in circumstances, rejoice in Christ!

Your load in life may be heavy, but you don’t rejoice in your load, but in the Lord. There may be no joy in your situation, but there is joy in the Savior. To rejoice in the Lord means that you rejoice in your unassailable, unchanging relationship with your Sovereign Lord and in His qualities, gifts, promises, and attributes (Deut. 26:11; 2 Chron. 6:41; Ps. 9:14; 31:7; 89:16; 119:14, 162; Isaiah 65:18; Jer. 31:12; Rom. 5:2). So Paul tells us that the first step to overcoming the stranglehold of worry in your life is to make up your mind to rejoice in the Lord always. Paul’s prescription for anxiety begins with a call to rejoice.

Joy has no expiration date

Number seven, joy has no expiration date. Your joy has no expiration date. God’s Word says Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice. A few quick thoughts.

  • The word always implies at all times and on all occasions. If that makes no sense to you, then that means you don’t understand joy yet. So there is some growth and understanding that needs to be developed, but God will get you there if you listen to Him and pay attention.
  • The word again implies that you will need to be reminded of this again and again. Your old self does not want to rejoice in the Lord, it wants to complain and worry and fret and get angry in your circumstances. Your old self likes to worry and be anxious and try to control people and situations, your new self wants to trust God, do what He says, and rest in Him. You will need to be reminded to rejoice in the Lord over and over.

Conclusion

I’m sorry for the hurt you have experienced through life. I’m sorry if your parents were not there and didn’t seem to care. I’m sorry people were mean and unkind to you. I’m sorry if you were abused, laughed at, neglected, and ignored. I’m sorry that your life is not going the way you thought it would. However, you have a choice before you today. You can clothe yourself in your hurt and pain, or you can dress yourself in God’s goodness, God’s sovereignty, and God’s love. You can choose to rejoice starting now.