As we start this journey in writing about joy, if I am honest, it is something I have been lacking the last few weeks. Joy has been hard to feel and at times I have wondered when that whole ‘joy comes in the morning’ thing is going to kick in.
In my community group at church, we have been traveling through the book of Philippians. Now, it does not take you very long to learn after Saul became Paul, joy became an innate characteristic of Paul and also a major theme in his letters. At times, I read Philippians and was like ‘seriously, Paul…you’re showing off…’ because he ALWAYS finds a reason to rejoice.
He is rejoicing in Christ. He is rejoicing because he KNOWS there is something far greater than these earthly afflictions awaiting us. Check it out:
Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Paul is not saying that there will be no suffering if we have Christ and everything is going to be a bed of roses and frolicking through a dandelion forrest. But what he is reassuring us is that these hard times when joy is hard to come by, we must look beyond our circumstance and gaze heavenward. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstance, all of a sudden, we begin to realize how temporary earth is and how glorious heaven will be. My pastor recently stated it this way:
We either have citizenship in heaven or hell. This earth is not the end and when I think about where I am going to spend eternity, joy seeps through my pores and my heart slowly goes from gloom to joy.
In Philippians, Paul is writing a letter to the Philippians as he is chained up in prison…and writing about the JOY he has because the gospel is going forth.
Philippians 1:12-13: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become know throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
Now, I don’t know about you…but if I was chained up, most likely to a roman soldier, being beaten and persecuted, joy may be the last thing on my mind. I would be tempted toward anger, resentment, bitterness, wishing my circumstance was different. But Paul? No. He is still rejoicing…why? The gospel is going forth.
I could quote several other verses from not only Philippians, but all of Paul’s letters about how he rejoices in trials. But I want to bring this to a little more practical level. If we are honest, not many of us will be persecuted the way Paul was, most of us will never be chained to a roman guard in a prison cell 24/7, yet that does not mean we do not face hardships in our lives in which joy is hard to come by.
All of our trials are going to look different, some may be easier to find joy in than others. When we fix our eyes on the cross of Christ and off of our circumstance, joy seems more natural…why? Because in Christ is where we find true, genuine, and everlasting joy. I’ve heard it said many times, it is not our circumstance that needs to change, it’s our hearts. That can be a hard pill to swallow, but it is truth. God wants my heart to change and become more Christ-like and in order for that to happen, trials must come.
I’ll end with this illustration. When people make gold, they have to heat a fire so incredibly hot that it burns away the impurities covering the purity of the jewel. The same goes for us, we will be put under fire and hard times that will burn away the impurities of our hearts, bring sin into the light, it will hurt and it won’t be fun, but ultimately, we can rejoice in those times because we are being made more into the image of Christ, our Creator.
Friends, don’t lose heart because life may be hard, look to Jesus and find your joy in Him. Listen to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, Rend Collective called “Joy of the Lord” Joy of The Lord, Rend Collective
Until next time,