Philippians 4:11(b) (NIV) 11 . . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

There’s no book in the New Testament written as much about joy or the joy-filled Christian life as the Book of Philippians. All through the book, Paul is speaking of inner joy. He’s speaking of rejoicing in the midst of our circumstances. In fact, he references it sixteen times in four chapters. So, an average of four times a chapter, Paul is bringing up having joy or rejoicing in the midst of our circumstances.

Paul’s joy came solely out of his ever-increasing relationship with Christ. The presence of Christ gave him rest for his soul. The depth of the love of Christ gave him peace in his life. Not his circumstances! And God took him through some pretty serious circumstances in order to prove that to us.

And yet, we set those things aside, and we say, “God, make my circumstances joyful so I can be joyful.” And God says, “Why should I do that for you if I didn’t do it for the Apostle Paul – the guy who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament? He didn’t get that.”

Why do we demand that from God? “God, I’ll be joyful as soon as you make all my circumstances joyful.” It’s awful. It’s contradictory to the Bible.

Paul’s relationship with Christ set his joy, and so his circumstances could never change his joy. In fact, the worse the circumstances were, the more he was motivated to deepen his relationship with Christ. Which, through an ever-deepening relationship with Christ, his rest, his peace, and his joy were deepened. Right?

If your vision is a screen, how much of the screen do your circumstances take up? Are they fullscreen, where you see nothing but circumstances in front of you? What God has been showing me is that as my heart deepens in my love for Christ and his presence, those circumstances become almost see through. They’re there, but I’m looking through them. And I’m seeing beyond the circumstances into what Christ has for me. It’s not that the circumstances go away; it’s that they take a back seat. They’re not in the driver’s seat. They don’t have top billing. But instead, our relationship with Christ does. His purpose in our life becomes more and more on the forefront, on the front burner, and our circumstances become more and more opaque. They become almost see-through, and we see Christ instead.

Our circumstances don’t take up our focus. They don’t take up our thoughts. They don’t take up our effort – but Christ does. And our circumstances come, and they go. And sometimes they’re abounding, and sometimes they’re abasing. And sometimes, we have plenty, and sometimes we’re suffering need. And they’re always changing.

But Christ never changes.

And that’s the secret. You'll see it over and over throughout the Book of Philippians. The number one secret to a joy-filled Christian life is looking past those circumstances to Christ and his presence and his deepening, ever-deepening love for you.

The Apostle Paul’s focus on Jesus Christ in his life far outweighed his focus on any of his circumstances. All you have to do is read any of his Epistles, and you’ll see that Christ takes up his focus. In the first chapter of Philippians, the name of Christ is referenced seventeen times in thirty verses. In thirty verses, seventeen times, Paul references Christ in some way. That’s one out of every two verses. He was so consumed with who Jesus Christ was in his life and what Jesus Christ was doing in his life that he couldn’t write more than two verses without referencing Christ.

Paul was living through some terrible circumstances, probably worse than the ones you’re living through. Unless you’re chained to a guard waiting for trial and execution, Paul’s circumstances are probably worse than yours. But he couldn’t write a sentence without saying Christ, without naming the name of Christ.

Christians, please listen. We were meant to be filled with Christ. Not to be filled with good circumstances. We were meant to be filled with the Person of Christ. We were meant to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of our circumstances. We were not meant to demand from the Spirit that he fix our circumstances. Never, never!

We were meant to produce the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of our circumstances. And we can’t do that if our vision is totally consumed by our circumstances. We have to see through them to Christ.

One of my favorite clichés is an appropriate cliché for now. God is not as interested in making your circumstances right as he is in using your circumstances to make you right.

There’s nowhere in the Bible that says God will make your circumstances right. But page after page, text after text, says that God uses your circumstances to make you right. Because, guess what? Your circumstances aren’t eternal. They’re fading away. They’re going to change tomorrow. They may get better. They may get worse. It doesn’t matter – but they are changing. But your relationship with Jesus Christ is eternal.

Which one should we be putting more effort into? Which one should we see more? Which one should we be consumed by? That circumstance that’s going to change tomorrow? No! Not that one.

The eternal one. The joy-filled one.
Prayer: Thank you Father for providing a way for us to walk victoriously in the midst of our circumstances. No matter what our fleeting circumstances are, Lord, good, or bad, allow us to look through them to the joy that is you, Jesus, the joy that comes from our steadfast, guaranteed relationship with you. Lord, our contentment is truly in you. Thank you that you never change. It's in your name we pray, Jesus, amen.

Listen to entire message from Philippians series

No Comments