Do you have true joy?
Jan 26, 2023 |
The secret to joy
Are you tired of listening to shallow positivity in the midst of life's hard realities? What if there was a way to have genuine joy, no matter your circumstances? The Bible tells us the secret, and it's one that might surprise you.
What is joy?
Joy leaks, doesn’t it?
One minute you can be on top of the world, and the next minute feeling like your happiness is diminishing in some way. You grasp to hold on to it, but it sifts through your hands like sand.
However, the Bible commands us to “rejoice always”—and that book never gives us a task that’s impossible to do. Biblical joy is a deep sense of well-being in Christ that does not go away, no matter what circumstances may bring our way, or what emotions we may be feeling (like distinctively non-happy ones like anger, sadness, fear, or guilt).
Some secular and religious philosophies tell us to detach from life’s desires—and by doing so our suffering will cease. But if you detach from joy it dehumanizes you. It hardens you. Part of the problem is that the world believes joy is getting my circumstances in the right place. I’m happy if things are going well, if my circumstances are favorable. But the reality is that most people, in most of history, in most of the places on earth have never had favorable circumstances in their lives. And the question becomes are they doomed to live without joy? Are they doomed to live in unhappiness?
The sad answer to that, worldly speaking, is YES, as the culture defines joy the answer has to be yes. But while Paul is sitting in prison, and he’s asking, what if I told you that lasting joy is actually available to everyone. What if I told you that you could have joy in this world that was not based on circumstances at all. It is rooted in something altogether different.
What we are going to discover in this series this is that Joy is the deep confidence that regardless of your circumstances in life, all is well between you and God. No matter what difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure, rejection, or other challenges you are facing - you and God are good.
In this series called When Life Gives You Lemons, we’re tapping into the book of Philippians in the New Testament to learn from early Christians how to thrive in and through hardships. We’re unpacking wisdom to not only thrive, but to find joy in our circumstances because of the wisdom of God that instructs and empowers us to live differently in the world we live in.
Finding my joy in pain
Some people are actually born with more grit, or their upbringing trains them with a unique determination in life; they simply have an overdeveloped sense of survival.
That being said, I also believe that all of us can learn through our lives how to develop resilience. The ability to face hardships is a learned skill for most of us and we can learn from the few uniquely hardwired people how to press through the “lemons” of life and not only survive, but live joyful lives.
In this series on the book of Philippians, we have the opportunity to learn from the life and perspective of a uniquely resilient man, the author Paul (once known as the Saul).
As Saul grew into a young man his devotion for his Jewish faith grew. He got the best education possible and obsessively committed himself to the practices of his faith.
Saul’s first encounter with Christianity that is recorded in the Bible was when his faith system conflicted with the message of Jesus. His answer? Eliminate the problem.
The first time we see Saul he is overseeing the public murder of a Christian in the streets of Jerusalem. Saul goes on to meet Jesus, changes his name to Paul, and goes on a personal journey discovering that everything he believes and loves about God is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus isn’t an obstacle, He is the complete fulfillment of everything Saul thought he believed.
The FIRST lesson we learn from Paul is to
Develop a perspective on eternity- Live for the long game.
Paul shows us how seeing the bigger picture in our lives allows us to make better sense of a specific scene we find ourselves in.
The SECOND lesson, Paul teaches us to: Develop a perspective on community- Live for others
In this Paul teaches us to see others around us and how our life, can affect and bless other people.
The FINAL lesson we learn from Paul is to Develop a perspective on reality- expect the lemons.
Life is hard for nearly everyone. Trials, illness, and tension are a part of life because of the cascading effect of sin and brokenness in the world.
Paul’s point is this: You’ve got to know God to trust God.
We have to know the God who has your eternity on lockdown to actually trust him in our trials today. If we know God and his track record of love and faithfulness, it gives us perspective on today with joyful anticipation and hope.
The trials we face in life are hard, but not really knowing the God who is our anchor in the storm is what makes the trials unbearable. That might be exactly why you struggle with anxiety and finding joy. If God is some squishy spirit force in the universe, or a list of rules to follow, it’s hard to find hope in that. Contrast that with knowing the stories of God’s faithfulness and cultivating a friendship with God through prayer and seeing Him working in your daily life!
Finding joy in faithfulness
Grumbling can be turn into a favorite thing to do. There are many different words for it: murmuring, secret talk, whispering, rumors. For some, it’s an inner turmoil that needs to be fed on a daily basis.
Of course, there are a lot of things to grumble about: taxes, relationship issues, politics, finances, gas prices, bad drivers, work issues, sports teams—the list goes on and on.
And so, Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells his readers to do all things without grumbling. By saying this, he’s not telling us to be happy about everything, to see the silver lining through all the gloom, or to pretend things are better than they actually are.
He’s just telling us to face these things without complaining.
Complaining usually assumes that somebody is dropping the ball, and if they would just get their act together, there’d be nothing to grumble about. But, of course, it’s never that simple.
And while there are things worth fighting for, we can do so in a spirit of kindness and respect.
What makes all the difference in this is what we’re holding on to. To use Paul’s words, to “hold fast.” If we cling to expectations that are unreasonable or always lean in our favor, we are prone to assume a posture of complaint, and even battle-readiness. If we hold fast to wealth, resources, money, health, success, popularity, and even life itself—we are just setting ourselves up for disappointment.
However, if we hold fast to the Word of Life, and allow our hearts and minds to be cultivated by the Spirit of Christ, our need to complain and grumble with slowly dissipate—which allows us to let go of that which is temporal in order to grasp that which is eternal and deeply satisfying to our spirits.
Finding my joy in loss
The word of God is filled with promises that bring hope and comfort to millions of believers all over the world. The Lord promised to never abandon us, to give rest to the weary, to renew our strength, and create plans for us for purpose-filled life.
The one promise that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but remains as a constant in the life of the believer, is the promise that we will encounter suffering in this lifetime—especially as a result of our identification with Christ.
Here are just a few of them …
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you (John 15:20).
Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12).
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)
However the presence of suffering in our lives does not mean the absence of joy.
Here’s the deal: See, when you become a Christian, what you are doing is writing “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Jesus, then when you lose those things, it is not entirely strange or unexpected. This is why we must prepare to suffer. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But you will be prepared. You will know that the value of Jesus surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Jesus.
And that becomes the basis of our joy, a deep sense of well-being, the unwavering assurance that we are good with God and he will be present with us, no matter what we’re going through
Paul says it is in the intimacy of suffering that we come to know the depth of Jesus’ love and compassion. One of the most intimate ways to worship Jesus is to empathize with Him in his suffering. (That’s all he wanted from his friends in the Garden). It’s not possible to do this without experiencing our own emotional pain. Do you want to know him? Do we want to be more personal with him? Do you want to go deeper with him so much so, that you count everything as loss to gain this greatest of all treasures?
Then you need to be willing to enter into Jesus’ suffering with him.
And then, in the midst of those trials, you will be reminded that true joy is the deep confidence that regardless of your circumstances, all is well between you and God.
There is no greater source of peace than that.
Rejoice all the time
We're focusing on anxiety in this section, namely how can we “rejoice always” when we’re worried so much. Lots of life’s lemons can cause us anxiety: tough job situation, relational stress, health concerns, financial burdens—the list can go on and on.
And here’s the scary truth: we have the power to exponentially increase the anxiety in our lives by how we respond to the lemons that get thrown in our laps.
What can make the difference here is the depth of our awareness of God’s presence in our lives. Look at this passage in Philippians 4 that is often quoted to us, especially the phrase, “be anxious for nothing.”
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How does this passage begin? On what basis, for what reason, are we to be anxious for nothing?
The Lord is at hand. The Lord is near.
When we become acutely aware of God’s sovereign presence in our lives, the worries of this world absolutely must diminish in their impact.
That doesn’t mean we’re not concerned, or we stop caring about potential losses in our lives. It only means that if they do happen, the Lord will not abandon us—and the security we seek in preventing one loss or another can only be found in God anyway.
The emotion of fear, as long as it remains healthy, exists as a signal to us that some potential danger lies ahead of us—and that we should prepare or protect ourselves accordingly. However, the presence of God throughout those preparations keeps that legitimate fear from becoming paralyzing anxiety—so that we can move forward with the tasks (sometimes dangerous ones) that the Lord puts in front of us.