Archive for Bible Studies on Joy

Jun
24

Where is the Joy? Part 2

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I’ve been examining Philippians searching for the source of Paul’s joy.  Joy doesn’t come easily to my personality.  I wanted to know where Paul found joy in the midst of his difficult travels.  In the first part, we looked at what Paul had found in Jesus that caused him to “rejoice in the Lord.”  Part 2 is a second source of joy that I discovered Paul had.

Rejoicing in Fellowship

Paul makes many references in his letter to the Philippians that they themselves cause him to rejoice.  Paul shares a special bond with these believers because they’ve accepted the gospel of Jesus that Paul himself taught them, and now they have their own faith in Jesus.  The opening of his letter is so heartwarming:

One of the greatest sources of joy is found in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the greatest sources of joy is found in the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now ….Philippians 1:3-4

But the Philippians are more than converts and partners; Paul considers them his friends and brothers in Christ:

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! Philippians 4:1

Paul cares for them and rejoices not just in their salvation but in every step of growth they make in unity.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.Philippians 2:1-2

He is so concerned about disharmony that he even mentions a personal disagreement between two women:

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Philippians 4:2

About their growth in Christ likeness, he gives many instructions of the joy, gentleness, peace, renewed thinking and many other qualities that should characterize their new lives in Christ.  An especially loved section of this letter is the teachings in Philippians 4:4-9.  Again, Paul encourages unity with God and among believers in striving toward a Christ-like lifestyle.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.Philippians 3:15-16

Paul mentions how deeply we should care for others, and his joy when the Philippians show this concern, in these verses:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

I have no one else like [Paul’s co-worker, Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:20-21

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.Philippians 4:10a

That depth of caring comes from considering the attitude of Christ:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!Philippians 2:6-8

Paul is building on the “joy in the Lord” that we looked at in Part 1.  The sacrifice of Christ brings ever deeper joy the better we understand it.  Now that joy is teaching us to have love and concern for others as we do for ourselves – and experience even more joy in the process.

Paul encourages the Philippians in their giving and in the  help it has brought him. He also makes them aware of God’s response to their generosity.  This passage does not specifically have the word “joy” in it, but if you have ever been privileged to give to someone in need, you know the joy that comes with giving.

I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.  They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.Philippians 4:18

Before looking into Philippians in these last weeks, I had never noticed how the Bible mentions the joy that God gives us in each other.  Many of my friends, I notice, have found this source of joy.  But I am thinking I could do more to take joy in all the brothers and sisters around me (not just my close friends), their faith, their prayers, their sharing of time and talents, and how they fill a role in the local church, whether they worship where I do or elsewhere.  The joy of appreciating my fellow Christians and encouraging them in their walk is out there for the taking.

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