What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘joy’?
Happiness? Celebration? Christmas? Excitement?
Joy is perhaps one of the most misunderstood words. Merriam-Webster even defines joy for the most part as an emotion that depends on something else to bring it about.
Emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires“Joy (noun)”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary
My favorite definition is for the verb use of joy:
To experience great pleasure or delight“Joy (verb)”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Joy is not happiness, although the two can be experienced together. Rather, joy is the pleasure we find in something, whether it makes us happy or not.
Life is hard. Circumstances change. The world is in chaos.
But if you are a Christian and you are living in honor of your Savior, you will find joy…
In writing to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul exhorted the people there have joy at all times.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.Philippians 4:4, ESV
Paul uses the words “joy” or “rejoice” sixteen time in the short, four-chapter letter to the Philippians. Seems to me Paul thought it very important, this idea of joy.
Paul? Wait, let’s think about this. At the time he wrote this letter, Paul was in prison being threatened with execution. Imprisonment was not comfortable, but often dark, damp, and lonely.
I love what Dr. David Jeremiah says about Paul in his introduction to the Philippian epistle:
Paul’s joy — the kind that could not be snuffed out by legalism or circumstances — came from his trust in God’s provision; he could be happy in abundance or in scarcity, for he knew that Christ was his ultimate strength and resource (4:10-13).Dr. David Jeremiah, “Philippians Book Introduction: What It Means”, The Jeremiah Study Bible, p1654.
So being full of joy is not about our surroundings, life events, health, wealth, or even other people.
Being full of joy comes from God. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as part of the fruit of the Spirit. Only God can produce true and lasting joy in our lives, despite what is going on around us.
God never changes. When it comes to Him, there will always be something to rejoice about, even on the hard days, even when we don’t feel happy.
Rejoice with Others
The Philippian church was started by a woman, did you know that? Acts 16 records the conversion of Lydia, a Gentile entrepreneur in Philippi. Her home became the gathering place for the new Christians there (Acts 16:40).
This same chapter in Acts details the conversion of the jailer who witnessed Paul and Silas while they were imprisoned in Philippi. The jailer and his entire household were gloriously saved that night, and they joined the other Christians in Lydia’s home to worship.
Because of what God had done for Lydia, she was full of joy and opened her home to others. She could have kept it all for herself, but instead we find her sharing the joy with those around her.
Remember back in the beginning of this Vessels series, one of the characteristics of a vessel is that it can hold something.
I see Lydia as a dish (no, not the 1950s slang term for a pretty lady). You know, a serving dish. It might be the nicest dish you own, but how useful is it. Fill it with food, it fulfills a purpose.
But share it with someone else…that is even better.
True joy…inner joy that comes from God…being full of joy…that kind of joy cannot be hidden. You cannot hide it.
It pours over and refreshes others. Fellow believers are encouraged. It changes the atmosphere of our homes, work places, and yes, our churches.
Make a Choice to Rejoice
I used to think that was odd. I thought joy came from God, not from a choice I made.
But one day, it became clear.
Joy is the result. It is the result of my choice of totally surrendering to God and His plans for my life.
By choosing to give up all my own selfish desires and plans, I choose to let the Holy Spirit fill me. And when He fills me, one of the outcomes is joy.
Joy unspeakable. Full of joy.
I heard a sermon recently built on Philippians 4:4. “Always” literally means, Pastor Joe Arthur says, “all the way.” All the way through our life, from here to glory, we are to rejoice in the Lord.
Not sometimes. Not only when things are good.
Are you choosing joy today? Does God have full control through the Holy Spirit in your life, always?
Are you full of joy?
…we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.2 Corinthians 7:13, ESV