In 1980, when I was a sophomore in high school, Johnny Lee topped the charts with his catchy song, “Lookin for Love in All the Wrong Places.” That is still true. Mankind is still looking for love in all the wrong places. But what is also true is that we are lookin for joy in all the wrong places. People are looking for joy; everyone wants to be happy. Prescriptions for mood enhancers are at an all-time high, and Amazon now offers over 23,000 book titles on the subject of happiness. People are looking for joy in the midst of a negative, complaining world.
One example of the epidemic of negative thinking is found in the workplace. Recently, Forbes magazine published an article entitled Why Complaining Is Killing Your Reputation At Work. The author writes, “In today’s typical workplace, disengaged employees are the norm. In fact, research conducted by Gallup shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. And as we all know, where there are disengaged employees, there’s usually complaining, gossiping, and griping that follows.”
The author then gives six conclusions people make about the negative person, all of which hurt their reputation, and then concludes with these words for all of us: “When you complain, you’re not endearing yourself to anyone. Whether you occasionally struggle with a victim mentality or have had your fair share of true bad breaks, it’s reassuring to remember that when it comes to your own behavior, you hold all the power and you always have a choice.”
“You always have a choice.” That’s counsel from a secular magazine. How much more should the admonition of Philippians 2:14 grab our attention and convict our conscience? “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Though complaining exists in epidemic proportions in today’s world, this is not a new problem. From the Israelites in the wilderness, who complained about the food that God gave to them, to the 10 spies who believed there was no way the nation could possibly conquer the land God had promised, a negative spirit has always been part of our sinful flesh. And we all battle with it to one degree or another.
Yet, what an opportunity God has given for our gospel witness to shine brighter if we would daily make the choice to rejoice. This is what the apostle says, Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
If you are a business owner, or in any level of management in your workplace, you know this to be true. People with positive attitudes are rare. They shine brightly in a negative world. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should be the most positive people in the world. Yet, too often, we are the ones moping around, whining about how things are sooooo bad.
You may remember the theme of Philippians is Rejoicing in the Lord. The key verse is found in 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Fifteen times we find the words Joy, rejoice, rejoicing. The repetition of these words means…
- Rejoicing is intentional work. It is a discipline. It is a choice.
- As believers, this is not what some religious people call “The Power of Positive Thinking” where one’s reality is created by their thinking.
- No, the Lord is the object of our joy. Rejoice in the Lord. Every moment of every day we are given the opportunity to either focus on our life’s situation or to focus on Christ.
- Christ-centered thinking is the key! We must choose to rejoice in the Lord.
A quick survey of the book of Philippians reveals four results of the choice to rejoice. Rejoicing in the Lord…
Prioritizes gospel preaching above our personal differences (1:15-18)
While the apostle was in prison he received word that others were preaching the gospel, but some had less than worthy motives and methods. But rather than becoming angry and resentful, the apostle chose to rejoice that Jesus was being preached. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord when the gospel is preached, even if all of my personal preferences are not satisfied.
Preserves our soul while we suffer (2:17-18, 27-30)
Though he suffered, the apostle could honestly say, “I am glad and rejoice with you all.” How did the apostle get to this point? Did it happen overnight? No, he practiced the put off/put on principle of Scripture. He put off complaining (vv. 14-16), and put on rejoicing (vv. 18, 27-30). And we must do the same.
But how? How do we rejoice in suffering? By focusing on the Lord and His promises. For example, meditate on Romans 8:18 or 1 Peter 1:6-7. Scriptures like these will help you to consciously shift your focus from your trial onto the Lord. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord, knowing God can be trusted to use suffering for my good and His glory.
Protects unity in our church and peace in our hearts (4:1-7)
After exhorting the believers to help two women be reconciled, the apostle exhorts them to rejoice in the Lord (v. 4). Whatever issue separated these two ladies, one thing is clear. They took their eyes off of the priority of Christ and placed them onto something of lesser importance. The choice to rejoice in the Lord protects the unity of our churches, which is so dear to God.
Also, rejoicing in the Lord is evidenced by prayer with thanksgiving (vv. 6-7). As a result of this discipline of prayer, our hearts are guarded from the anxiety that constantly threatens to overwhelm us. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord while working to preserve relational unity, and praying for inner peace.
Produces contentment in our changing circumstances (4:10-13)
The key to the apostle’s contentment was learning to rejoice in the Lord regardless of whether he had abundance or was in need. In Christ, he was strong and, therefore, able to learn to be content even in difficult times. The personal takeaway is this: I must choose to rejoice in the Lord, knowing the Lord desires for me to learn contentment.
The more we choose to rejoice in the Lord the more we will walk in a manner pleasing to Him. We will maintain gospel priority, preserve the health of our soul when trials threaten us, protect peace in our church and hearts, and learn to be content. May the Lord be pleased to change the attitude of our hearts so that we will become people who habitually make the choice to rejoice!
[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon]