THINK: What makes you happy? The thing about happiness is that it usually depends on something else. But joy is different. Joy doesn't rely on circumstances or things - or even emotions. True joy is something you can have no matter what, simply because of your relationship with Christ. Nothing can undo what He's already done for you, and nothing can take away what He has in store for you. This is not to say that your circumstances will be ideal or that your sense of joy won't be tested. But ultimate joy is proven and perfected through persecution and suffering.
RESPOND: From the opening of the letter to the Philippian church, what can you tell about its main theme? How would you describe true joy, and why can Jesus' followers always have it? (See 1:4 note.) What confidence did Paul have about the Philippian Christians and why? (See 1:6 note.) How and why can you have that same confidence? How does it make you feel that God is still working in your life and will finish that work as you rely on Him? In what way is Christian love related to knowledge and insight from God? (See 1:9 note.) Why is spiritual insight vital for Christians? What does it mean to be "pure and blameless," and why should this be your aim? (See 1:10 note.) How did Paul's imprisonment help to advance the gospel? How and why does persecution often make people bolder in faith (cf. v. 14)? Why was Paul able to rejoice even though people were stirring up trouble for him? (See v. 18.) What were Paul's greatest sources of encouragement (v. 19)? Why is the Holy Spirit called "the Spirit of Jesus Christ"? (See 1:19 note.) What did Paul mean when he said, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain"? (See 1:21 note.) Why is it important for Christians to stand united for Christ and His message? (See 1:27 note.) What hope and encourage- ment can you have when facing opposition? (See 1:28 note.) Why is it a privilege to suffer for the cause of Christ?
PRAY: Ask God to help you adjust your perspective so that circumstances don't dictate your attitudes. Thank Him for the joy that is always available to you through your relationship with Jesus. Ask God for patience as He continues to work in your life, and thank Him for the fact that He will complete that work. Also, thank Jesus for the opportunity to suffer for His sake. Ask Him to help you face opposition and persecution with boldness.
ACT: If there is anything you've started for God but not completed - particularly because of difficulty or op- position - pick up where you left off and trust God to help you finish it. Let your joy show in all you do today.
THINK: The term "Christian" literally implies being like Christ. As His follower, that should be your aim - to consis- tently become more like Jesus in thought, behavior and character. Perhaps more than any passage in the Bible, this one tells what that means in the most practical terms. Having the mind of Christ (v. 5) means living with humility and putting others ahead of yourself (vv. 3-4). That's how Jesus gave us hope (v. 6ff ). If you follow Jesus' example, He can use you to bring hope to others who need to see what Jesus is like so they too can follow Him.
RESPOND: In light of the benefits of a relationship with Christ, why is it important for Christians to be unified in love and purpose? Why is humility vital for Jesus' followers? (See 2:3 note.) In what way does humility make us more like Jesus? (See 2:5 note.) How did Jesus demonstrate ultimate humility and how did that benefit us? What does verse 6 indicate about the nature and character of Jesus Christ? (See 2:6 note.) What does it mean that Christ "made himself nothing" and how did this impact us? (See 2:7 first note.) What is the contrast between Jesus as hu- man (vv. 7-8) and Jesus as God (vv. 9-11)? What does it mean to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling"? What does this process involve? (See 2:12 notes.) According to verse 13, how does God enable us to fulfill His purposes? (See 2:13 note.) According to verses 14-16, why should God's people avoid complaining and arguing? In what ways should your attitude and lifestyle stand out from those who do not follow Jesus? What does Paul mean that he was "being poured out like a drink offering," and what example does that set for you? (See 2:17 note.)
PRAY: Ask Jesus to help you demonstrate humility and to put others' interests ahead of your own. Thank Him for prioritizing your need for spiritual salvation and laying His life down for you. Ask God to help you avoid complaining and to keep a positive outlook on life as an example to everyone of the hope God has given you.
ACT: All day, practice putting others before yourself. Let them go ahead of you. Give them the best choices. Allow them to have their way. Meet their needs. If anyone asks why you do this, point out how Jesus did the same for us.