Let’s face it; life is tough! Even without the numerous challenges that we are facing today, the pains and sorrows of life can be overwhelming. Adding on the increasing onset of political, social, and spiritual conflict has impacted every person worldwide. Not only have there been economic and social stresses, but dealing with these conflicts every day has negatively impacted people’s emotions.
I know that I am not the only one that has often felt overwhelmed with the troubles of this world. Every day, we are bombarded with the challenge of discerning the right response to difficult topics and societal viewpoints.
While we face many challenges, we have also had the privilege of experiencing opportunities to recognize God‘s faithfulness, love, grace, and provision. How do we become better at recognizing the good things that God is doing in our lives? Where do we find joy amid anxiety, fear, and sadness?
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:1–2 (ESV)
What is true joy?
Many people would define happiness as a natural response to favorable circumstances in their lives, which are typically out of their control. Their happiness is generally based upon whether or not the events of life lean in their favor. Therefore when it comes to satisfaction, they believe that it is uncertain and elusive to pursue.
For the believer, happiness is not dependent upon the circumstances that we face, but on the confidence that all is well in our relationship with the Lord. That despite the difficulty, pain, failure, and disappointments of life, these pale in comparison to the blessings of this heavenly relationship.
I plan to write several blog posts based upon the book of Philippians and cover some of the headings that I am listing below. For now, I want to give a brief description and scriptural reference to define where real joy comes from.
Real joy is a gift from God!
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalms 4:7-8 (ESV)
A believer must recognize that God is the real source of all that is good in our lives. This includes the blessing of joy. While the world may be in turmoil and chaos, a believer can rest in the relationship they have with God! All we must do is accept joy as a gift!
Real joy comes from believing the gospel!
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10–11 (ESV)
The fact that Jesus came as a gift from God is excellent news to everyone who believes! When the angels declared the good news, they described it concerning great joy! It is comforting to know that the payment for our sin has already been provided for. Peace and joy belong to those who believe.
The Holy Spirit produces real joy!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV)
While every characteristic of the fruit described in Galatians can bring joy to a believer’s life, the source is crucial. It is not something that we can develop solely on our power and strength but relies on following the Spirit’s leadership in our lives.
Real joy is experienced as we walk in obedience to God‘s Word!
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV)
Consistently staying in the Word through reading, studying, and meditation is only the starting point. We must walk in obedience to what the Word of God says. As we commit ourselves to follow the principles of scripture, we find that the turmoil of living life our way melts into a rest that we are doing things God’s way. Obedience produces joy!
Real joy grows deeper through difficult trials!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2–3 (ESV)
While this is easier said than done, difficult times in a person’s life can also deepen their joy. It is during the difficult times that we learn to lean into our relationship with the Lord and increase our trust in him. In so doing, we become increasingly convinced of His ability to care for our lives. Trust him during trials and find lasting joy!
Real joy has a foundation of hope in eternal realities!
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24–25 (ESV)
Knowing that this life on earth is limited in comparison to eternity is comforting for the believer. There are few things that can bring greater joy than knowing that when we pass from this life to the next, we will spend eternity in heaven with God. To look beyond this world creates anticipation for what is yet to come!
How did Paul express joy in the midst of anxiety, fear, and sadness?
1. Paul was joyful because of his calling.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:1a (ESV)
Paul was confident that he was operating every day in the calling that God had placed on his life. He knew that being a servant of Jesus first and foremost would be the foundation he needed in order to rest during difficult times.
Regardless of the circumstance that Paul was facing, he continued to move forward in reaching people with the Gospel. He never wavered in his calling which became a source of joy. Seeing people’s lives impacted with the Gospel through our lives will birth the same kind of joy!
2. Paul was joyful because he valued others.
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Philippians 1:1b (ESV)
Paul recognized after his conversion that his life was not his own. He was not only bought with a price but that his purpose was to pour himself out every day in serving God and others. His desire to plant what God had done in his life, into the lives of others, was all-consuming.
Anytime that we can look beyond ourselves and value people around us, we put our minds at ease. Joy is the natural reflection of not focusing on self, but valuing others.
3. Paul was joyful because he lived to be a blessing to others.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:2 (ESV)
Paul begins this important letter by pronouncing a blessing of grace and peace through God the Father and Jesus. This is an important element of joy in our own lives, being and pronouncing a blessing on others. Not only does it encourage the people whom we bless, but it also becomes a great source of joy.
In times that I have felt overwhelmed with feelings of discouragement, depression, anxiety, or turmoil because of the challenges of this world, I remind myself that there is a source of joy that I need to return to. Too often I find myself consumed with personal and world matters that only steal my joy and peace. I have to remind myself that this world is not permanent and my relationship with the Father is my source.
God has a great plan for your life, trust Him to walk with you today in preparation for your home in eternity!
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