Did you ever try to make a chronic complainer happy?

Take him to a Caribbean beach, where the ocean glows luminous blue from the white sands reflecting the sky—and listen to him gripe about the water plugging his ear. Or invite her to a critic’s choice restaurant that specializes in her favorite food, and get a real critic’s take.

Imagine what they would say about spending time in jail.

That’s where Paul wrote this letter to a small congregation he started in Philippi, in what is now northern Greece. Not only is there no trace of complaint, this letter is the Bible’s finest essay on joy. Paul talks about where joy comes from and how we can have it, too.

In short, Paul says his joy comes from knowing this: “because I believed in Christ” (3:9 NCV).

Joy that comes from God’s acceptance can overpower and outlast all our tough circumstances in life: water in the ear, indigestion, and false arrest.

And so from jail Paul is able to write with a straight face and a steady pen: “I am not telling you this because I need anything. I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough” (4:11–13 NCV).

Now that’s the kind of person we want to be around. That’s the kind of person we want to be. Best of all, that’s the kind of person we can be, with God’s help.

Miller, Stephen M. 2006. Everyday Relevance: Your Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Check out our Bible Study on the book of Philippians, using David’s Jeremiah’s book, Count It All Joy as a guide. It is on Amazon as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.