Jun
22

Where is the Joy?

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Where is the Joy?

Originally I was going to write one Bible study about what the letter from Paul to the Philippians said about joy.  Then I got going, and each answer to where Paul found his joy was so rich, I didn’t want them lost in a long “three point sermon.”  So this is the first of three things I learned about joy.

Paul’s earthly circumstances were, to say the least, not good.  He was under arrest and in chains in Rome.  He implies rather strongly that this is a life or death matter.  Moreover, while he sat there, some people were out preaching the gospel in the hopes it would cause more trouble for Paul.  It wouldn’t give most people joy.

Rejoicing in the Lord

Paul repeats throughout the gospel that he is rejoicing “in the Lord.”  He has a different mindset.  I think “in the Lord” is something of a catchphrase that we say without totally understanding.  What is Paul rejoicing about?  How do I get it?

Paul has meditated upon, and come to have gratitude and joy for, these qualities of Jesus:  Jesus as our Messiah and Savior, what Jesus has done for us in His death and resurrection, what He is doing in our circumstances even if the present events are painful, and His promises that we will one day be with Him.  These verses contain Paul’s joy and hope very concisely:

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  – Philippians 3:10 & 11, italics mine

But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Philippians 3:21, italics mine

Paul knew what it was to suffer, yet he counted it joy when he meditated on the gospel of Jesus Christ and remembered God's promises.

Paul knew what it was to suffer, yet he counted it joy when he meditated on the gospel of Jesus Christ and remembered God's promises.

For me, at least, this joy doesn’t come instantly.  My current problems tend to crowd joy out.  This is why I believe Paul meditated upon them.  When we meditate on a passage we think about it over and over, letting the meaning and significance sink in, leaving the impression of God’s viewpoint instead of our own.

Look what Paul was able to say about his detractors:

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. – Phil.1:18

And Paul’s attitude in the face of death:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Phil 1:20 & 21

Or his opinion of suffering:

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him – Phil 1:29

This joy turns human thinking on its head.  How did Paul do it?  By looking at Jesus until the truth sinks in.  Jesus saved us.  He restored our relationship to the Father.  He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us.  No one could tell of all the things Jesus has done, and is doing right now.  This is the gospel, or good news, that Paul risked his life to tell others about.  It’s not a message to drop off and leave behind.  It is truth to be absorbed until our love and gratitude for Jesus grows, and it starts to change us.

When my daughter was very young she stepped off a drop off in a pond and sunk in over her head.  Neither my husband nor I saw the crucial split second.  A man named Ron did, and he immediately jumped in and rescued her.  Believe me, Ron has our undying gratitude.  No favor or request would be too big should Ron ever need something from us.  No passage of time dims how grateful I am that he saved my daughter.  If anything, now that she’s become a beautiful, accomplished young lady of 16, I value even more the precious gift he restored to us.

But in comparison, we can’t even comprehend the depth of what Jesus did for us and what it means for our lives.  When there is no joy in our hearts because of our problems, we need to keep looking, and looking, to the good news of Jesus.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

–         Helen H. Lemmel

Comments

  1. Anne Thank you so much for this. These last 4 years have been the most challenging of my walk with Jesus. Deaths, illness,uncertainty and no funds to pay bills. It was awful. However I would not change it for anything. I have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. I kept seeking my Saviors face and He did not disappoint.
    One morning it was so bad I did not even want to get out of bed. (My son was acting out at school and being sent home, my fibromyalgia was giving me so much pain, we could not pay the bills and my friend had just died unexpectedly) I just wanted God to take me. The Spirit spoke to me and said “You teach that the Word changes attitudes, go find a verse that will help change yours”. I looked and found Philippians 1:18b-21
    ” Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
    I knew that people were praying for me and that the power of the Spirit had raised people from the dead. I needed raising. I also knew that I needed to be delivered from self. I so desperately desired “to want” to be a shining light but did not have the energy or strength to even desire it. Have you ever been there?
    I began saying this verse to myself every morning until it became a part of my memory and heart. Boy did my attitude change. I actually stopped at “to live is Christ”, at first, because I felt so awful I wanted to die. No I would never take my life. That is Gods business.
    The joy of the Lord is truly my strength now. I know if I do not memorize the Word and write it on my heart I would be in constant self pity.
    Thank you Lord for your Word and examples like Peter and Paul. They were not perfect but your Spirit living in them gave them hope and power to choose the right course and change the attitude of their mind.

  2. Anne Goodreau says:

    Cherrilynn, thank you for sharing. For those of us whose lives have “all gone wrong” for a long time we know that we can’t just place our faith in Christ, we have to dig down and anchor it in Christ. Once I thought I was being a “shining light” and then for a while I’ve felt I was no example at all. You can credit our friend Michelle for encouraging me that even through the trials I still had something to offer. With my clinical depression in the mix, getting out of bed, feeling good and getting to work on something is never a “morning ritual” that I can take for granted.

    Memorizing the Word is a great part of the meditating upon it, and it gives you such confidence. Thanks for mentioning that part!

    Anne

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