This week our Bible study is on Psalm 100, which begins, “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.” One of the questions within the study asks, If joy is a choice, what are you doing to cultivate a joyful spirit? That took me to Paul’s epistle to the church at Philippi.

Paul is ending his letter from prison which is not a happy place. And yet Paul is joyful and advises them how to be also be joyful, no matter their circumstances. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (vv 4-7)

This passage clearly states that choosing joy is a choice. It is a choice that we make when we know the Lord intimately and choose to hand over our anxieties and troubles to Him thankfully as we seek the rest only He can give (Matt 11:28).

We’ve already been advised to rejoice in the Lord no matter our circumstances; to enter into His presence with joy. And if we have worries to make our requests to the Lord, leave our anxieties at His feet thanking Him for what He will do with the situation. We are told if we do that then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Paul has experienced praying to the Lord after taking His burdens to the Lord with thanksgiving. The next verse tells us how to continue in the peace of God and to guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (v8)

Here’s where the rubber meets the road — we know our Lord wants to remove the weight of our burdens. After making our requests to God with thanksgiving and handing over our anxieties, what will we set our minds upon?

As Christians, we have a been brought into a family relationship with God through our union with Christ – by faith. But we are expected to take responsibility for walking in spirit and truth, living as unto the Lord, trusting in the Word of God, depending on our Heavenly Father, submitting to the Holy Spirit, abiding in Christ, and appropriating all that is ours in Him – by faith.

But this can only be done as we focus the eyes of our heart on Christ and so throughout Scripture, we are directed to take control of our thoughts and our imaginations. We are told to take every thought captive to the Lord, to let the mind of Christ dwell in us richly, and not to allow the thoughts of our heart (which is wicked and deceitful) to control us.

Righteous living depends on right thinking, and God has promised to keep in perfect peace the one whose MIND is stayed on Him. He promised that He would garrison our heart, our mind, our emotions, and our innermost thoughts, as we focus our prayers and praises on Him – with thanksgiving!

It’s not sufficient to say that I can’t control my thought life, for in Christ we have been given all that we need for life and godliness, and He has promised to supply all we need according to His riches in glory. We are so designed, that taking every thought captive to Christ and fixing our mind on Him is a conscious choice, which we all have to make when problems and difficulties arise in our mind, or when life’s circumstances weigh heavily upon our hearts.

When anxious thoughts start to flood our mind or when we are tempted to sin, our immediate reaction should be to look to Jesus and to remember who we are in Christ. But too often, we allow anxious thoughts to drag us down into deep despair, but controlling our mind is a conscious choice. Controlling our thoughts is a deliberate decision of our self-will.

Paul reminds us that the best way to react to anxious thoughts is to cast all our care upon Jesus and to take all our needs, necessities, concerns, and cares to the Lord in prayer – but to do so with thanksgiving and praise. We are to set our mind on the things of God and to reflect on whatever is true and noble, good and praiseworthy.

Let us choose to focus our minds on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, for all these attributes are the fruit of the Spirit and point us to Christ, to whom we must seek true wisdom. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)