“How do we stay encouraged in a world full of struggles and letdowns?” It is easy to become discouraged, if we allow the trials and circumstances of life to determine our outlook and our level of joy and peace in life. The devil would enjoy nothing less than to watch us wallow in the cares and troubles of life and avoid all the contentment and encouragement that the faithful Christian can enjoy.
So, how can the Christian stay encouraged in our world today? Many thoughts and principles could be shared, but let us limit our scope to the ones emphasized by Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi. If there was anyone who could have allowed the “struggles and letdowns” of this world to get him down and keep him down, it was the apostle Paul. Nonetheless, writing from prison in Rome, Paul penned a masterpiece of encouragement. Let us examine some of the key principles set forth in this book to keep us encouraged.
Focus on others before self! Read the first twelve verses of Philippians. For someone who was suffering wrongfully at the hands of his enemies, Paul did not focus on himself and his problems. Thirteen times in those first twelve verses of the book, Paul used the pronouns “you” or “your.” Mediate further on verses 3 and 4 of chapter 2: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Paul was focused on his brethren more than he was on himself, and he stayed encouraged.
Focus on the gospel! When bad things happened to Paul, he looked for how good things might be forthcoming (not for himself) for the sake of the gospel. Paul emphasized the “fellowship in the gospel” that Christians enjoy (1:5), the work in which he was engaged in “the defense and confirmation of the gospel (1:12, 17), and how Christians “strive together” when they “serve” and “labor” in the gospel (1:27; 2:22; 4:3). He focused on how the gospel might be furthered more than on his own personal struggles and letdowns, and he stayed encouraged.
Focus on Christ! Paul was “hard-pressed between” life and death, for being in the custody of the Romans, they easily could have put him to death. While the threat of harm and death would monopolize our attention and worry our hearts, Paul set his focus on the Lord and His cause. “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:20-23). To focus on Christ (and stay encouraged) includes:
– Bearing fruit for Christ (1:11, 22- 26). This will help you stay encouraged.
– Learning to think like Christ (2:3- 5). This will help you stay encouraged.
– Remembering the sacrifice of Christ (2:6-8). This will help you stay encouraged.
– Rejoicing in Christ (3:1, 3; 4:4, 10). There are too many to enumerate, but find these principles of personal encouragement:
– Focus on working for Christ (2:12-13).
– Focus on being positive rather than complaining (2:14-15).
– Focus on shining as a light in the midst of darkness (2:15).
– Focus on the future reward rather than the past (3:7-14).
– Focus on living as a citizen of heaven (3:20-21).
– Focus on trusting God and praying to Him about everything (4:6-7).
– Focus on the strength that Christ provides to do all things for Him (4:13).
True encouragement in life comes when one refuses to allow his level of joy to be set by the world and chooses rather to “rejoice” in his relationship “in the Lord” (3:1, 3; 4:4, 10).