First Things First
When our forefathers confronted the English rulers with the declaration of independence, they wrote about “unalienable rights” which included “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Given that we take for granted life and liberty, for the most part, the American dream is about pursuing happiness. If you wondered where you might find a blueprint for such a pursuit in the Bible, the book of Philippians will do. The theme of the book is joy. As we go through the book we’ll find that you can find joy even when your circumstances aren’t what you want them to be. Find yourself in debt? You can still find joy. Find yourself facing a broken relationship? A lost job? The loss of a loved one? You can still find joy.
Now there is a catch. You can’t find joy by looking for it. This is what our culture would lead you to believe. Culture would have you find it, as though it’s unique to each person. But joy is not something you pursue, it’s something you experience when you pursue the things God made you to pursue. It’s really not a complicated idea.
Philippians is a great test case as Paul writes from prison, with little hope of getting out. He has joy in the midst of these dire circumstances. Even with no light at the end of the tunnel, no promise of rescue or real expectation of getting free, Paul not only has joy, but finds it to be the experience most on his mind as he sits down to pen this letter. Interesting.