But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
One of Paul’s great concerns was that he might finish his course with joy. Paul had been through many battles, and becoming a bitter old man would be easy. Many had turned on him in the ministry, and it would be easy to carry the bitterness of what those he invested in did to him by turning on him. It would have been easy for Paul to become angry and bitter at God for “making” him go through the trials he endured because of his boldness and passion for preaching the Gospel of Christ. However, Paul found out that the secret to finishing his course with joy was to count the ministry as more valuable than possessions or life.
The longer you serve God, the more bad things will happen to you. I don't intend to be a prophet of doom, but you cannot serve the LORD faithfully without enduring heartaches. In the New Testament, Jesus showed that your family will turn on you. If your family turns on you because of the Gospel, certainly others you have invested in will turn on you. One thing you must guard against is keeping your joy despite all that may happen to you for the Gospel’s sake. Now, what does it mean to keep your joy?
To keep your joy means that you must guard your joy. In other words, there are many joy robbers that will steal your joy, so you must guard against those things that would take it. I cannot control what others or life may do to me, but I can control what I allow to affect me. In other words, I control my joy if I control what I let influence me. You can let the external influence you, or you can choose to let the internal influence you. You can always be joyful despite what happens on the external if you let the internal influence you. For instance, if I let my church attendance influence my joy, I will only be joyful when I have a good attendance. To keep from not being joyful on a day that is not attended well, I must look at the privilege that God has given me to preach His Word, and I can keep my joy whether the attendance is up or down. You can let this mindset influence your whole life. Look at the joy of salvation, and it will not matter what life brings your way; you can always be joyful because the external cannot take your salvation from you. You can keep your joy by getting it from the inside and not the outside.
Moreover, you keep your joy by keeping your priorities right. You will lose your joy when you lose your possessions if you get your joy from possessions. If you get your joy from the present condition of your life, you will lose your joy when trials come. You cannot let possessions be your source of joy because you can lose possessions, which will result in losing your joy. Possessions cannot be your source of joy, but what you do for Christ must be that source.
Furthermore, you keep your joy by looking to the eternal instead of the temporal. Paul was not afraid to die for serving the LORD, and that is how he kept his joy. It mattered not what others did to him; he focused on the eternal rewards and kept his joy. When your life is not dear to you, but eternal rewards are what are dear to you is when you will keep your joy when others hurt you. You can choose joy over bitterness by letting your joy come from the eternal and not from how others treat you. Protect your joy by letting eternal rewards be more important to you than the quality of your life.