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How to Find Complete Joy

By Pastor Tanner Bezet

Table of Contents

Today we’re starting a new series in Philippians, a reminder that we are citizens of heaven, which means we can find a joy that only heaven can give. Paul writes the book of Philippians while he’s in chains, while he’s in prison. What’s so interesting about Paul in this chapter is that it seems like he wasn’t really affected by prison. He wasn’t really bothered by his chains. It’s because Paul had this life motto that we find in verse 21. 


I’ll read that in a moment, but while we’re in Philippians, we will give you one memory verse each week to get into your hearts. There’s just so much truth in Philippians! The only way to get it to live in your heart, though, is to memorize it. So, here’s Philippians 1:21:


For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


Today’s verse was Paul’s life motto; it’s why he could find joy in any situation. Paul was saying, “Whether or not I’m in chains, I’m going to live! That’s what allowed Paul to find complete joy, even in the most undesirable circumstances. 


Paul knew that joy is not rooted in our circumstances, but having this joy starts with godly obedience. In fact, that’s what Jesus said in John 15:10: 


If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.


So, today I want to talk to you about how to find complete joy. Paul taught us that regardless of the situation that we’re in, we can find a joy that is complete, even if we find ourselves weighed down by the chains that life will give us, even if we find ourselves in useless situations. 


Speaking of things that are useless, did you grow up on the Great Value version of groceries? Am I the only one? My mom was always looking for a bargain, so she would always buy the Great Value version, the useless version of the real thing. For example, we didn’t grow up on Oreos. Nah, we grew up on Twist and Shouts. These have never been a threat to Oreos because they don’t taste anything like Oreos! We didn’t grow up on Gushers. No, we grew up on Fruit Smiles, alright? Actually, these aren’t half bad. I kinda like Fruit Smiles. I’m not gonna lie. 


In our house, we didn’t have Doritos. Have you ever heard of Ranchitas? I still don’t even really know what a Ranchita is. That’s what we grew up on. We didn’t grow up on Dr. Pepper. We grew up on Dr. Thunder. Yeah. We never, ever had Cocoa Puffs. Mom brought home these cereal boxes called Puffins. But a puffin is some bird that doesn’t even look like a Cocoa Puff.


If you were to ask my mom for Fruit Loops, the last thing that she would hand you would be a bowl of the cereal that you and I are familiar with. Instead, she would probably put together some off-brand Cheerios and some cut up strawberries and hand it over to you. And you’d be like, “What in the world is this, Mom? This isn’t Froot Loops.” And she would say, “Yes, it is! It’s Fruits and Loops, just like you asked for.” And I’d be like, “No, Mom, this is absolutely useless.” 


You see, people have been trying to turn useless things into precious things for quite some time. We call them “knockoffs.” Obviously, there’s knockoff food. There’s such a thing as knockoff clothes. There’s knockoff money. There’s knockoff jewelry. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the smartest minds and some alchemists got together in an effort to make knockoff gold. It was their goal to try to figure out a way to turn lead into gold, knowing that if they could do that successfully, they could rule and own the world.


So, they tried and tried, but they couldn’t make it work. They wasted their money, their time, and their effort on an impossible idea. Why? You can’t just take anything useless and turn it into something precious, just like you can’t take off-brand Cheerios and turn them into Froot Loops. Mom, if you’re listening today, alright, you just can’t do it. 


Even the smartest alchemists in the world could not turn lead into gold. It’s impossible for anybody except for God, right? You see, God is a really good alchemist. God actually turns lead into gold for a living!


What am I talking about? Well, if you give God mourning, the Bible says, He’ll turn it into dancing. If you give God your tears, He’ll turn them into laughter. If you give God pain, He has a way of turning it into purpose. If you give God the chaos of your life, He’ll turn it into order. If you give God your sin, if you give God your past, He’ll turn it into a testimony.


God alone specializes in taking useless things and turning them into precious things. That’s what the book of Philippians is all about. Paul is in this dingy prison cell. He’s chained up, he’s done everything right, but he still finds himself in a prison. But God will use that rather useless season of his life to turn lead into gold. God will use that useless prison cell to bring forth precious joy. 


You see, Philippians is known as the most joyful book in the Bible. It has a hundred verses written to the people of Philippi. And in those one hundred verses, the word for “joy” or “rejoice” is used sixteen different times, because Paul learned that with Christ, regardless of the situation, it’s still possible to find a joy that is complete. 


When I say joy, what am I talking about? Joy, according to the American English definition, is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” A feeling. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem with that definition because if joy is only a feeling, we’re in trouble! Feelings don’t last!


Isaiah 35, on the other hand, describes joy as “a gladness that is everlasting.” I don’t know about you, but I want a gladness that lasts forever! But then our joy daily gets tested. We call these problems “killjoys.” 




The first killjoy is pain. Maybe you’ve experienced this before, but it’s difficult to be happy and be in pain at the same time. 


I’ve always wondered how people with some type of chronic pain are able to walk around with life, with joy, and with a smile on their faces. Like, maybe somebody’s had four or five different major surgeries, yet they walk into church every Sunday with a smile on their face. Meanwhile, I wake up with a crick in my neck, and I’m like, “Lord, how could you do this to me?” And he’s like, “Just take some ibuprofen. You’ll be fine by tonight!” 


If anybody ever experienced pain, it was Paul. It says in 2 Corinthians 11:25:


Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was pelted with stones. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. 


Pain tends to kill our joy.




What’s another killjoy? How about this one: People. We all face different relationships and different people who have a way of causing us to lose our joy. People can be irritating. People can be demanding. People can be uncooperative. People can be arrogant. How many of y’all know somebody that just grinds your gears right?


A man one time was asked, “Do you wake up grumpy in the morning?” He said, “No, I let her sleep in.” 


We all have different people who grind our gears. Maybe it’s somebody you work with. Maybe it’s somebody you work for. There are annoying people everywhere! In fact, Paul actually ran into some people who were annoying as well. This was while he was in Philippi, in Acts 16:18. In this passage, Paul is going around with Silas on a ministry journey. He’s preaching the good news to people, yet the Bible says that this lady with an impure spirit was following them, yelling things all day long and disrupting the message they were trying to preach. Finally, Paul couldn’t take it any longer. He was so annoyed! Here’s what the Bible says:


She kept this up for many days. Finally, Paul became so annoyed that he turned around to her and said to the Spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her.”—Acts 16:18


Whenever people are annoying around me, I’m going to start using that, like, “Hey, in the name of Jesus Christ, stop smacking your food and shut on up!” You know what I’m saying? They may not have a demon, but they’re probably going to be quiet after that. 


People have a way of grinding our gears and making us lose our joy.




Last but not least, I think pressure is another thing that is a killjoy. Pressure. Pressure can cause you to lose your happiness. Sometimes anxiety, stress, and worry make our lives feel like a can of soda that’s just shaken up. And if one more thing drops, just like that can of soda, it’s like our life, our agenda, or our plans are just going to explode.


In 2 Corinthians 11:28, our boy, Paul, again faced pressure. He said: 


Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.


I love his definition here of pressure. Basically what he’s saying is that any pressure that you ever face is always rooted in some type of concern. For Paul, his concern was about the church, but for us, it may be the concern of spending yet saving. It may be the concern of tax day, leading well, being present at home, dating your spouse, caring for your kids, or balancing all the plates. And for me, it seems like my joy gets taken away when I feel like I’m dropping the ball in one of those areas. 


And so it’s when one of those problems—people, pressure, or pain—starts to pile up in our lives that it can feel like we’re in a prison. It can feel like chains are just tied around us all up in our lives. But remember, Paul is in prison. He’s tied up in chains with pain and pressure and people that he doesn’t want to be with.


He teaches us again that even in the midst of those things, you and I still have access to complete joy. And so, as we read through Philippians together, you’ll see exactly how. Let’s go to Philippians 1:3. This is the first thing he does while he’s locked up! Paul writes. 


I thank my God every time I remember you. And all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 


When life is weighing you down, what’s the first thing you do to find a joy that is complete? Paul tells us. 


  • Remember what God has done. 


The first thing we do if we ever find ourselves in a place where joy isn’t coming out of us is to remember what God has done. If you’re ever in a place and you’re having a hard time finding joy, maybe you’re there because you’ve forgotten all that God has done in your life. 


Maybe it’s time you take a trip down memory lane to remind yourself of the faithfulness and goodness of our God. I don’t know about you, but I stand as a testimony and a witness that our God is good. I still remember in the 6th grade when I faced my first ever panic attack. I had just started public school.


I was homeschooled before that. I went to Ruth Doyle Intermediate School, and I remember the pressure of doing well, the pressure of having people like me, and the pressure of making my parents proud of me, gave me anxiety and panic that I can’t describe to you to this day, much more than an 11-year-old should ever face. 


I still remember going to the nurse’s office that day, calling my dad on the phone, and I still remember him praying over me. I still remember the words he prayed over me. And because there’s power in a father who is willing to pray, I still remember the peace of God flooding over me and taking that pressure away.


I still remember that prayer. And that same prayer he prayed then, I can pray now anytime that panic tries to strike me. That same prayer he prayed then, I can now pray over my daughters as well, anytime that they’re trying to face any type of pressure. 


I still remember what God has done when I was 19 years old. I still remember when I finally got right with the Lord. I turned away from the path I was going down and said, “God, I’m coming after You.” I still remember the instantaneous joy and peace, like Marcus was talking about, that started to spur up from the inside of me all because I told God, “Yes.” Whenever we remember that God has been faithful, then we’ll get thankful. 


And listen, thankful people tend to be the most joyful people out there, aren’t they? This is what Paul is doing. He’s remembering God’s faithfulness. In verse 3, he says, “I thank God every time I remember you.” Who is he remembering? Well, remember, he’s writing to the people of Philippi, in Philippi. 


Act 16 is when he visits Philippi, and so I think he’s remembering when he came across a few different types of people. There’s this lady named Lydia in Acts 16 who lives in Philippi. I think he’s remembering her. I think he’s remembering the day that this businesswoman, this influential and affluent woman, gave her heart to the Lord. And because he’s remembering her salvation, it makes him excited. 


I think he’s remembering when he and Silas got locked up in prison there. I think he’s remembering how at midnight, they were singing songs of worship. They were singing hymns. They were praising the Lord. And the Bible says that those prison doors came flying open, and they were freed the next day.


I think Paul is remembering that God has been faithful. I believe there are monuments in our lives that we have to look back on and remember as a way to return joy to our hearts. That’s the first thing we do. God has asked us to remember. We learned that from Paul.


What’s the second thing you do in order to find complete joy? 


  1. See things God’s way. 


It’s to see things the way that God sees things. The most joyful people are the people who have the ability to see things God’s way, even when things aren’t going our way, right? This is what Paul is doing. Verse 12, if you skip there, he says, 


Now, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains that the reason I am being held captive is for Christ. 


This mindset is amazing because, honestly, guys, if I were Paul, I would have been let down. And here’s why. Right after Paul came to salvation, it was prophesied over him that the purpose of his life would be to go to foreign lands and stand before kings. 


He knew it was his calling to get to Rome. He had been trying to get there for quite some time. And so if I’m Paul and I finally get my chance to go to Rome, I’d be like, “All right, so this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to book out the Colosseum. We’re going to get Maverick City Worship to come in there and lead worship. Then, I’m going to give the gospel presentation. The whole empire of Rome is going to come forward. I’m talking millions of people. The emperor is going to get right with God. Gladiators are going to get baptized. We’re going to call it Rome’s Revival. This is going to be amazing!”


And then God’s like, “Actually, I’m calling you to Rome in order to be in chains as a prisoner.” I would see those chains and think, “Defeat.” But Paul sees those chains and says, “Wait a second. This is an opportunity!” 


Man, talk about a heavenly joy in order to see things the way that God sees things. I don’t know about you, but for me, prison chains and joy don’t usually go together. But Paul saw things differently, didn’t he? 


I saw an illustration by a pastor that I like to watch from time to time, Rich Wilkerson Jr. He pastors a church called Vous Church in Miami, Florida. What he teaches in this illustration is that oftentimes we go through things in life like we talked about earlier whether it be pressure, whether it be pain, whether it be people, it could be a bad report, a health report. It could be anxiety, it could be insecurity, it could be a broken relationship inside of your life.


And whenever those things start to weigh down on us, like we were talking about earlier, it begins to feel like chains that just go with us wherever we go. Many of you know that whenever chains are on you in life, they seem annoying, they seem noticeable, and they seem loud, and even if you’re trying to have a good time, it’s like that insecurity, it’s like that killjoy, it’s like that pressure, it’s like that problem, it’s just with you wherever you are.


But Paul teaches us a different mindset. You see, Paul teaches us that when life weighs down on us, either chains can break our joy, or joy can break our chains. This is what Paul realizes. Paul realizes, “I may be in prison right now. I may be chained up, but because I’m chained up, guess what? I’m chained to another Roman prison guard!”


And it is expected that he was probably tied to about 4,000 different prison guards while he was chained up in prison. So what he realizes is, “I may be chained up to somebody, but now I have a captive audience, and because I’m tied to you, you have no choice but to hear the gospel.”


Maybe right now, you’re in a season of life where you have a job that you don’t think is your passion, that you don’t think is your calling, and maybe God wants to move you from that. But in the meantime, who has He chained you to that you cannot leave until you tell them about Jesus?


Paul is in prison. And just like my dad was saying, Paul is realizing that, “Man, I could be out there preaching the gospel. I could be doing my calling, but instead, I’m in here.” And guess what? When life gave him lemons, he made lemonade. He said, “I got letters to write.” And while he’s in that prison cell, he writes over half of the New Testament.


Why? Because Paul understood that “I can either let chains break my joy or I can let joy break my chains.” 


Look, He’s still breaking chains to this day! And the way that He’s breaking chains, the key that He uses to break our chains, is this tool called joy. Many of us are waiting for our chains to be broken so that we can experience joy again. But God is saying, “You actually have access to joy right here, right now. All it’s gonna take is you have enough faith to pray, ‘God, what would it take for You to turn this season, this lead-like season, into a season of gold?’


Verse 15 says, 


It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preached Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble from me while I’m in chains. 


Paul says, 


But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice. 


That’s so encouraging. I think the third thing that we can learn from Paul right here, and this one has to do with keeping your joy. 


  1. Don’t let others take your joy.


Don’t let others take your joy. What is Paul saying? He’s saying, there are people out there who are trying to irritate me. There are people out there who are selfish. There are people out there who are stirring up trouble. There are probably even people who are happy that I’m in chains. 


Isn’t it interesting that there will always be people who are more concerned about your failures than your successes? But Paul clearly says in verse 18, “What does it matter?” 


Man, that’s such a mature thing to say, isn’t it? Here’s how Paul had that kind of faith.


Paul knew that people weren’t perfect. And so, to keep my joy whenever people are acting up, I’m going to lower my expectations of them. After all, people say things they shouldn’t. People will let you down, lie to you, betray you, forget to call you back and forget to invite you. 


You’re gonna go to their wedding shower, and then they’re not gonna show up to your wedding shower. And this kind of thing makes people incredibly disappointed. But what did you expect, right? We have to remind ourselves that sinful people do sinful things. Paul actually warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:2 that in the end times, people are going to act a certain way. Then he warns us about what they’re going to be like. Many people believe we are in the latter days. Paul says right here, 


People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 


And then we get shocked when somebody doesn’t call us back. You know? Sinful people, remember, do sinful things. Paul didn’t let other people take away his joy because he learned that exact same thing from Jesus. Jesus, whenever he was walking this earth, whether it was the culture, whether it was his family, whether it was his friends, if somebody did something that was worthy of taking away their joy, instead of having his joy being taken away, Jesus was unaffected.


I have an example for you. What about the culture during Jesus’ time? I look at the culture of today, and for many believers, when they see the direction that our nation is heading, when they see the sin in our nation, that quickly takes away their joy. I don’t think it should make you happy when you see things a certain way, when you see sin in our nation.


But what we can learn from Jesus is that He was never shocked by immoral behavior. Remember when he went to the woman at the well? In John chapter 4, He finds this lady who had been with five different husbands, and now she’s sleeping with another guy who’s not even her husband.


When he met her and figured that out, he wasn’t repulsed by it. He wasn’t like, “Whoa, I didn’t know you were that kind of person. I’m gonna keep my arms length away from you, but listen, I’ll pray for you, though.” No, he didn’t say that. He offered her living water. He offered her an opportunity to receive him. 


He received her with joy. What about his friends? Remember the disciples? All day long, they just kept nagging about who the greatest was. Like, “Hey, who’s gonna sit at the right hand of the Father someday? Is it gonna be me? Can it be my brother with me?” And then eventually, I just would’ve thought Jesus just would’ve gotten so mad at them that He would just snap at them, you know? Like, “All you guys are are a bunch of sinners. Matthew, you’re a tax collector. That’s all you are. I’m the Savior around here!” 


No! He didn’t do that. He didn’t lose His joy. He kept on loving them. What about his family, his inner circle? Remember Peter? Peter was like a brother to Jesus, stuck closer than a brother to him. He was in his inner circle. Peter said, “I’ll never leave you. I’ll never deny you. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll never betray you. I’ll always be here with you.” And then what did Peter do? He denied him. He lied to him. What did Jesus do in response? He didn’t sever ties. He didn’t block him on Instagram. He didn’t say, “You’re dead to me.”


No, He found him; He forgave him with joy. I think Paul is teaching us something important here. There will be people who will mess up. People who love us are the ones who, when they mess up, it hurts the most. But what Paul is saying is that when people try to irritate me and take my joy, what does it even matter?


What if we started going around with that mentality? Man, you could try to take away my joy, but what does it even matter? Because it’s never really been about me anyway. It’s always been about Jesus. It’s always been about the King furthering his plan, not furthering my plan. So if somebody gets in the way of that, I’m not going to be affected. Just don’t get in God’s way. 


We can’t let others take our joy. And then number four, last but not least. 


  1. Keep on living for Jesus.


We’ve got to keep on living for Jesus.


What we’ve talked about is that when you find yourself wrapped in chains, when you find yourself in a season of life where it feels like you’re weighed down by life, we’re going to remember what God has done. We’re going to see things God’s way. We’re not going to let others take our joy. And then we’re going to keep on living for Jesus. 


We read this verse earlier, but a little bit more to it. Philippians 1:18 says, 


Yes, and I will continue to rejoice for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 


And if you go to verse 21 again, he says, 


For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 


What Paul is saying is that the key to living with the joy that is eternal is to live for Christ, to live is Christ. Now, I know that seems extremely Sunday school-ish, but the thing is that many of us don’t really live it out this way. For many of us, the issue is that we believe that to live is hobbies. To live is pleasure. To live is my career. To live is a relationship. To live is the weekend. 


Some people almost get it right. Some people are like, “Yeah, to live is faith, to live is family, but most importantly, to live is Razorback football.” So some people are so close, right? They’re almost there! “To live is just to get to the thing that I’m excited about.”


Many of us are waiting for those things to fulfill us. Like, “I can’t wait for vacation because then I’ll have joy.” Or, “I can’t wait for lake season. Just get me on my boat. That’s my happy place.” Or, “I can’t wait for Friday night. Just get me to Friday at 5 pm, and I’ll have joy all weekend long until about Sunday at three o’clock, and then I’ll get worried about Monday again.”


Okay, it’s not bad to look ahead and get excited about the future, but how many of you know that when you live for Christ, it’s possible to have joy on Monday, too? If you live life to the fullest and understand that to live is Christ, He’ll give you joy like no other.


What does living for Christ look like? I warned you this is extremely Sunday school-ish, but it’s the truth. What does “to live for Christ” look like? To live for Christ is to live with obedience. 


Live with Obedience.


You know, it doesn’t take a whole lot of faith to live with obedience, either. Some people believe, “Man, if I obey God, that means He’s going to ask me to sell my house and all my possessions and go move to the mission field.” And even though that does take an extreme amount of faith, the Bible says all you need is mustard seed-type faith.


And so instead of only saying Yes to the big things, obedience is you saying Yes to the little things too. Here’s what’s so cool about obedience. Remember John 15:10-11 says, 


If you keep my commands (meaning if you obey me), you’ll remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 


The reason God asks us to do little things and big things for Him is because when we say yes to those things, it’s our yes to God that completes the joy that He wants for us. 


A few weeks ago, I told you that we were about to have our second child, and we did! Now we have Blakely Bezet, and she’s adorable and precious and perfect…until nighttime! So we’re in the season of life that all of you parents and grandparents are familiar with, which is how to manage and walk through life with little to zero sleep. It’s good, but it’s just kind of exhausting. Me having to be the one to wake up in the middle of the night to the cry of the baby. Me having to be the one to roll over. And then me having to be the one to tell Emily to go fix that! 


I’m kidding, guys! No, I’m helping Emily. I’ve caught myself a few times saying, “God, I can’t wait to sleep again because then I’ll have joy, right?” And so I’m telling you that small acts of obedience can bring us joy. 


I was putting my two-year-old to sleep a week ago, and this was one of our most exhausting days. The baby just seemed to be crying all day. I just finished working all day. And so I come home, and it’s my responsibility to put our two-year-old to sleep, and I know that’s my last bit of responsibility.


And as soon as she got down to sleep, then I was able to go to bed, and I thought, “Man, I can’t wait for this.” I was rushing through my daughter’s bedtime routine, right? I brushed her teeth in four and a half seconds. I read her Cinderella in 16 seconds, like, “and then the prince went to the bed, and then there was a ball, and then the banquet, and then and then the end!”


And she was like, “What?” You know? And I remember I said, “Okay, Ella Jane, I’m gonna say my prayer for you.” And then I left the room, like, 45 seconds after I started the routine. As I was walking out, she said, “Please stay.” I thought, “Are you serious?” Of all the nights for my daughter to ask me to stay, it’s the night when I’m the most exhausted.


She’s never asked me to stay in my entire life. And right as I was about to leave, I heard God whisper, “Tanner, exactly. She’s never asked you to stay. She’s never asked you that. She’s never articulated that with her own words. She’s only two. Why are you trying to rush out of the one thing that’s probably going to bring you the most joy of your entire week?”


So, I just sat there for a little bit longer. And I was like, “You know what, Ella Jane, let’s read another book.” This time, I did it the right way. And then I just looked at her. I was leaning over her bed as she was falling asleep. And then she fell asleep right here on my arm. I just watched her sleeping for three or four minutes. It was one of the sweetest moments that I’ve had with my daughter since she was born. 


I walked out of that room with a whole lot more joy than when I walked in because saying yes to the little things in the season that we’re in can bring us joy. And that same joy I left that room with that day, you can have access to right now just by giving Christ a yes. 


Maybe God’s been asking you to do something for quite some time. To be a missionary at work for Him, or to serve, or to lead a life group, or to give. Or maybe you don’t have a relationship with God. And that would be the thing that will bring you more joy than you’ve ever been able to experience in your life.


You’ve been trying to do this alone, and God’s like, “Nah, just say yes to Me. Say yes to Me, and watch the joy that you can’t give yourself, that this world can’t give you, but I alone can give you, okay?” Our joy is made complete when we understand that to live is Christ.

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