What brings you joy? Is it a blue sky with a certain song on the radio? Is it a road trip to anywhere at all? Is it the changing of the seasons, the start of a new relationship, or watching your favorite football team win on Saturday or Sunday? Maybe it’s watching your kids grow up, or spending time with family you haven’t seen for a while. My favorite things that bring me great joy are spending time with my daughter, the first part of spring when the trees are starting to get their leaves back and the grass is all turning green, Opening Day of baseball season (which should really be a national holiday, amen?), taking road trips without knowing or caring where I end up, the first time the weather turns cool in the fall (especially if that weather is cool enough to destroy my allergies), and reading a really good book.
A standard dictionary equates joy with happiness, and most of us tend to do the same. The Scriptures talk about joy as more than just happiness, though. Happiness is often based on happenings, meaning we are happy as long as things are going our way. Joy is completely different. Joy is not based on what is happening, but on how we approach what is happening in our lives. If our happiness comes from what is happening, then our happiness will always be fleeting. Finding joy requires a decision to not let an outcome change our outlook.
This week, we are starting a new series called Experiencing Joy. Over the next 5 weeks, we are going to be going through one of my favorite books of the Bible, which is the book of Philippians. Philippians is a book full of joy. Paul mentions the word joy or rejoicing 16 times in the book of Philippians, which is an amazing thing, considering that he’s writing this book to the church in Philippi from a Roman prison. You see, despite being in jail, Paul was able to find great joy, because he wasn’t focused on the fact that he was locked up. He was focused on Christ. The rest of this series, we will focus on one book of Philippians at a time, but today, we are going to bounce all around Philippians as we look at what it means to find our joy in Christ.
Paul starts this book with a greeting. Look at chapter 1:1 – 2 (NIV), which says “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus. To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He continues in verses 3 – 6 (NIV) by saying “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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” My first point is this:
1. We Will Find Joy In Any Circumstance When Our Focus Is On Christ
Paul begins this letter telling the church that he prays for them with great joy because he knows that God is going to continue to do a good work in them for all of eternity. Despite being in jail, Paul is excited about the people of Philippi and the things happening at the church there. He is encouraging them to keep their focus on Christ, and to continue growing in Him. D.L. Moody says “The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.” This is what Paul is saying to the church in Philippi, and it is just as true today. The Greek word for joy that’s used here is the word chara, which means delight or gladness. Paul is praying with joy because of the partnership that he has with the church in Philippi for the cause of furthering the gospel.
As someone who has spent most of my adult life living in the ways of the world, I can tell you that obedience to Christ brings about more lasting joy than anything the world has to offer can. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, more than 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. Antidepressant use has gone up 65 percent in the last 15 years, and 1 in 8 people over the age of 12 report having recently used antidepressants. Over the last 10 months, I have dealt with a great deal of trauma, and it has caused some major depression in me, but spending time in Scripture and prayer every day have helped me to remember who I belong to, and that has given me great joy.
Romans 15:13 (NLT) says “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” So many people look to other things to give them joy. For years, I tried to find joy in alcohol and meaningless relationships, but it always made me even more lonely. The truth is, true joy can only be found when we are constantly focused on Christ. In the book of Philippians, Paul uses the words joy or rejoicing 16 times, but he mentions Jesus 51 times. Paul is completely obsessed with Jesus, and it’s because he finds his joy not in his circumstances, but in exalting Jesus. This actually brings me to my second point.
2. Following Christ Does Not Mean That Life Will Be Easy, But It Does Mean That It Will Be Meaningful
Philippians 3:10 – 11 (NLT) says “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead.” Paul knew that his life only had meaning if he was pointing people towards Christ, and he found great joy in that. Following Christ will not be easy, but we should find the very same joy, even in the midst of our sufferings, that Paul did. Romans 14:17 (NIV) says “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When we see everything through the lens of Christ, we will find joy in any circumstance. Sam Storms said “Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.” You see, happiness isn’t really noticeable. It’s easy to be happy when everything is going right in our lives. That doesn’t really get anyone’s attention, but the ability to find joy in the midst of our struggles will always get the attention of others.
The last 10 months have been really hard for me. The accident that happened over Christmas last year, and the fallout from it, including the loss of a great job, loss of a relationship, and uncertainty over my future, have all taken a heavy toll on me. I said in a previous message that the realization that, when Christ is all you have, you find out that He’s all you need has been my strength through all of it, and it has given me a peace through all of it. It’s still not an easy thing to deal with, but through it all, I have found purpose and an unbelievable focus on making Christ known to people. That brings me to my last point.
3. Your Life Will Never Be So Bad That You Cannot Lift Jesus Up
Philippians 4:12 – 13 (NIV) says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Now, I know many of you know that last verse very well. We see it used by athletes. Those of you who are basketball fans have probably seen it on Steph Curry’s shoes, and plenty of other athletes have used it as motivation as well, but that’s not how Paul meant it to be used. He is not saying that he will be able to dunk a basketball because of Christ, or that he can win a tennis tournament. He is saying that he can endure all things because his strength comes from Christ, not himself, as does his joy. Romans 5:3 – 5 (NLT) says “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” 1 Peter 4:13 (NIV) says “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” We should be thankful for our sufferings, because they are a platform for the good news of the gospel. I have a friend who is battling cancer, and she has used her situation to reach so many people for Christ. It’s truly inspiring when someone takes a situation that would destroy most people, and they use it to exalt Christ. C.S. Lewis said “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” We all have sufferings. If you haven’t yet, you will. When they come, remember that nothing you go through is so bad that it cannot be used to lift up Jesus.
I thank You today for being our source of joy when it seems like our world is crashing down around us. Thank You for giving us strength to endure all things. Lord, I pray today for our friends in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolina’s. I pray that You would give them peace, and let them know that You are there in the midst of their struggles. I pray that Your love would be shown through our actions as we reach out to them. Most of all, Father, I thank You for Your love and grace. It’s in Your Holy Name I pray.
Next week, we will be continuing our series on Experiencing Joy as we look at Joy Through Purpose. If you have questions about what it means to find joy in Christ, have a prayer request, or would like to know what it is to have a relationship with Jesus, let us know. You can comment below, or send us a message, and we will be happy to get in touch with you and help you take your next step. Have a blessed week, everyone!!!!!