A Letter of Joy

A Broadcast with Ligonier Ministries

It was from prison that the Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Today, Steven Lawson begins his in-depth study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, revealing what it takes to have joy amid even the darkest circumstances.

Spiritual Joy

Focusing on Jesus is the key to joy, even during times of distress.

Philippians 1:1-18

This letter is from Paul and Timothy. We are servants owned by Jesus Christ. This letter is to all who belong to Christ Jesus who are living in the city of Philippi and to the church leaders and their helpers also. May you have grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God for you whenever I think of you. I always have joy as I pray for all of you. It is because you have told others the Good News from the first day you heard it until now. I am sure that God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. It is right for me to feel like this about all of you. It is because you are very dear to me. While I was in prison and when I was proving that the Good News is true, you all shared God’s loving-favor with me. God knows what I am saying. He knows how much I love you all with a love that comes from Jesus Christ. And this is my prayer: I pray that your love will grow more and more. I pray that you will have better understanding and be wise in all things. 10 I pray that you will know what is the very best. I pray that you will be true and without blame until the day Christ comes again. 11 And I pray that you will be filled with the fruits of right living. These come from Jesus Christ, with honor and thanks to God. 12 Christian brothers, I want you to know that what has happened to me has helped spread the Good News. 13 Everyone around here knows why I am in prison. It is because I preached about Jesus Christ. All the soldiers who work for the leader of the country know why I am here. 14 Because of this, most of my Christian brothers have had their faith in the Lord made stronger. They have more power to preach the Word of God without fear.

15 Some are preaching because they are jealous and want to make trouble. Others are doing it for the right reason. 16 These do it because of love. They know that I am put here to prove the Good News is true. 17 The others preach about Christ for what they get out of it. Their hearts are not right. They want to make me suffer while I am in prison. 18 What difference does it make if they pretend or if they are true? I am happy, yes, and I will keep on being happy that Christ is preached.

 

The apostle Paul demonstrated that spiritual joy is possible even during times of adversity. In fact, his epistle to the Philippians, written during a time of imprisonment, is known for its repeated references to rejoicing. But have you ever felt as if you’ve lost your joy? This can happen for several reasons:

Wrong focus. By centering on Jesus, Paul was able to praise God despite harsh trials. Concentrating on difficulties can cause delight to vanish. Refocus through praise to bring it back.

Disobedience. Sin steals our joy because it disrupts our fellowship with God (The Lord will not hear me if I hold on to sin in my heart. Ps. 66:18). As we receive His forgiveness and obey Him, joy returns.

Regret. We crowd out gladness when we dwell on past mistakes. The Lord has forgiven us (If we tell Him our sins, He is faithful and we can depend on Him to forgive us of our sins. He will make our lives clean from all sin. 1 John 1:9). He wants us to choose to live in His grace and move ahead.

Fear. Joy and fear cannot coexist. We are called to live by faith, asking God to meet today’s needs and trusting Him with the future.

Others’ suffering. How can we rejoice when others hurt? Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. Romans 12:15says we’re to weep with them, but we are also to offer the hope of God’s presence, power, and provision.

A consistently downcast spirit is a poor witness for hope (Why are you sad, O my soul? Why have you become troubled within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my help and my God. Ps. 42:11). Fix your gaze on the Savior and let His joy become yours. Then it can overflow to those around you.

The Empowering Emotion of Joy

True joy comes not from circumstances but from our relationship with Jesus.

John 15:9-17

I have loved you just as My Father has loved Me. Stay in My love. 10 If you obey My teaching, you will live in My love. In this way, I have obeyed My Father’s teaching and live in His love. 11 I have told you these things so My joy may be in you and your joy may be full.

12 “This is what I tell you to do: Love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one can have greater love than to give his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I tell you. 15 I do not call you servants that I own anymore. A servant does not know what his owner is doing. I call you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you. I have set you apart for the work of bringing in fruit. Your fruit should last. And whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.

17 “This is what I tell you to do: Love each other.

 

Jesus promised us His joy, but at times it can evade us. There are some important things to understand about this spiritual fruit. As we saw yesterday, the Holy Spirit is its source. And being supernatural in nature, divine joy exists independently of our circumstances. Happiness, on the other hand, comes from external causes, is an earthly in character, and increases or decreases as events change.

Holy Spirit-developed joy comes when we:

Focus on our relationship with the Lord. Because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we are forever His. Nothing can separate us from our Savior.

Observe His transforming work in others. Notice what God is doing around you: rescuing people from bondage to sin and transforming them into His likeness.

Serve those He sends to us. Our obedient, loving care for others brings spiritual joy.

Meditate on God’s living Word. Through Scripture, we receive an outpouring of His love and precious truths on which to build our lives.

Take a few minutes to contemplate the wonder of your new birth, share someone’s spiritual joy, obediently serve another person, or receive guidance from God’s Word. Then check your emotional barometer. Are you singing hallelujah yet?

Joy in Worship

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.
Nehemiah 12:43 
In the history of the Church, a variety of forms and styles of worship have been employed—never more so than in today’s twenty-first-century worship services. Historically, some churches have sung only the Psalms; some have sung acapella, without instruments; some have had choirs, while some have not; some have used only a piano or organ for accompaniment. Today, many churches have worship teams that include singers and bands, and some have full orchestras.
The New Testament doesn’t prescribe how “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to be sung, but it does say there should be “singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Nehemiah 12 is an example of the extent to which songs of praise and thanksgiving can be offered: multiple choirs and instrumentalists marching around the walls of Jerusalem before settling into the temple.

Are you an enthusiastic worshiper of God? Whatever your church’s style, let your voice resound with praise to our God. Our praise should be the outward manifestation of our inner joy and gratitude to God.

What or whom we worship determines our behavior.
John Murray

– David Jeremiah

Finding Joy in Christ

The Apostle Paul’s prescription to both issues was for Christians to focus on Christ. Paul taught them from his example. He also spoke about self-centeredness in the congregation and its effect on the church’s unity there (2:1-4).

As Paul draws his epistle to a close, he shares about his friendship and offers thanksgiving. He also reasserts his call to courage and unity in the church, summoning every Christian to stand firm in the Lord. Further, he urges reconciliation among two influential people in the church (Phil. 4:1-3). In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul continues sharing a last-minute list of things he wants to focus on with the Philippians: Rejoice, be gentle, don’t worry, pray, think biblical thoughts, and do good deeds.

Two Ways to Deal with Life

Continue at: https://www.reformation21.org/blog/finding-joy-in-christ

Living Joyfully

 

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”1


Vance Havner used to say that, “Worry, like sitting in a rocking chair, will keep you busy but won’t get you anywhere.”

This reminds me of the “famous story of Jean Henri Fabre, the French naturalist, and his processional caterpillars. He encountered some of these interesting creatures one day while walking in the woods. They were marching in a long unbroken line front to back, front to back. What fun it would be, Fabre thought, to make a complete ring with these worms and let them march in a circle.

“So, Fabre captured enough caterpillars to encircle the rim of a flowerpot. He linked them nose to posterior and started them walking in the closed circle. For days they turned like a perpetual merry-go-round. Although food was near at hand and accessible, the caterpillars starved to death on an endless march to nowhere.”2

There are lots of people like this. They worry themselves sick over unfounded fears which all but paralyze them, not realizing that 95 percent of things they fear never happen, and the other five percent probably won’t happen either.

Other people wander aimlessly through life without a purpose and without any meaningful and worthwhile goals. Even more tragic are the millions who go through life without ever having made plans and preparation for life after death.

Similar to the processional caterpillars, these people not only spend their life going in circles, but go in ever decreasing circles until their life diminishes into nothing. A terrible way to live. A tragic way to die.

But for those who discover their God-given life-purpose and plan and live accordingly as well as living in harmony with the will of God, when they come to the end of life’s journey, they have the assurance of meeting God face to face and hearing his welcoming words at the entrance of heaven. “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” A joyous way to live. A triumphant way to die!

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you that you do have a divine purpose for my life. Please help me to discover what it is and, with your help, start working on it today. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

1. Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV).
2. From King Duncan http://www.sermons.com/.

From Actsweb

Andy Stanley: This Is What James Meant by ‘consider it pure joy’

Andy Stanley: This Is What James Meant by ‘consider it pure joy’
Why does James tell us to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials of any kind? Andy Stanley contends it’s because these trials will show us something about ourselves that nothing else can.
Watch Video »

Restore Our Joy

Psalm 51:12

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

I preached once on being rescued – restoring the joy of our salvation. I mentioned how God rescued us from sin and death. I asked folks to remember times when they had been rescued – like how I was rescued by the stranger at the beach (from drowning as the waves took my young body for a tumble). I asked people to remember their salvation – the moment God rescued them from sin and death. Do you remember the day you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

Read more: https://raymcdonald.wordpress.com/2021/04/13/restore-our-joy/

Psalm 67: Joy Loves Company

Have you ever encountered the guilt mongers, those people who want to make you feel guilty for enjoying something while someone else in the world is deprived of it? If your family is able to enjoy exchanging nice gifts and a feast at Christmas, the guilt-monger pounces, “How could you do such a thing when there are children around the world who don’t have but two grains of rice to eat per day?” In recent years this has happened around Mothers’ Day quite a bit. People publicly express love for their mothers and celebrate their relationship only to be reminded that all of their celebrations are hurting those women who can’t have children. If there is one person in the world who is miserable because of some sort of deprivation, then you have no right to be joyful and celebrate. You must be miserable.

Since there is never a time in which someone will not be deprived of something that he thinks or others think he should have, the world must live in misery. This type of guilt is not just about interpersonal relationships. It is used politically to create class envy, to foment racial tensions, and to manipulate the rich into playing the proper political games. This guilt is used in geo-political relations as well. Any country that has prospered should not be allowed to enjoy prosperity but must feel guilty and send money to irresponsible governments of countries whose policies and general culture have kept the citizens or subjects poor.

In contrast to these guilt manipulators stand the Scriptures. God chooses one family and nation out of the entire world, blesses them beyond measure, commands them to construct an ornate house for his name, and demands that they celebrate with feasts eighty days (at least) out of the year. God commands that his people indulge in the richness of his blessings, enjoying them to the fullest, while sharing with those who are less fortunate, not because of guilt but because of joy and gratitude.

God’s people are instructed and taught to pray for these blessings in Psalm 67. With echoes from the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6, the Psalm begins with the refrain that will be peppered throughout at every Selah: “God be merciful to us and bless us and cause his face to shine upon us.” From what we sing toward the end of the Psalm, these blessings for which they were praying were material things; the blessing of the Lord was the produce of the land.

Continue: http://kuyperian.com/psalm-67-joy-loves-company/

Joy

“Joy” is a word often heard during this holiday season.

Google “Christmas joy” and you will get 624,000,000 hits. You will learn that there is a movie, a novel, and a project all entitled “Christmas joy.”

Hallmark bills its many holiday movies as spreading “the joy of Christmas.” You will receive Christmas cards with a cheerful message of “joy.” Then, of course, there is the popular 18th-century song by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World.”

Joy, however, should not to be relegated to one season, one month, or one day of the year.

God’s people ought to be joyful people. Year-round. In fact, the spirit of joy is one of the great qualities that define disciples of Christ. Joy is among the nine traits identified as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22).

“There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy,” wrote William Barclay. “There is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illuminated with joy. A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the one constant in the recipe of Christian living.”

When Jesus was born the angel exclaimed, “I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be to all people” (Lk. 2:10).

In John 15:11 Jesus said, “these things I have spoken that My joy may remain in you.”

Following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Mary and Mary Magdalene ran “with great joy” to tell the disciples.

After the ascension, the disciples went back to Jerusalem with “great joy” (Lk.24:52).

When Jesus was preached in Samaria and people obeyed the gospel, there was “great joy in that city” (Ac. 8:8)

It’s little wonder that 18 times in the little book of Philippians Paul speaks of joy or rejoicing, a disposition predicated on the“joy of faith” (1:25).

There is a common thread in the Christian’s joy. Jesus! Jesus brings joy. The religion of Jesus is a joyful religion. Salvation gives birth to Joy. Receiving God’s grace produces joy. In fact, there is a connection between grace and joy.

The Greek word for joy is “chara.” It means gladness, calm, delight, or joy. Closely related is the word for grace–“charis.” Charis is “that which bestows on occasion pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard.”

When grace and truth came in the person of Jesus, so did joy. True joy. Real joy. Genuine joy. Not superficial feelings of happiness. While we may use the words interchangeably, there is a difference between joy and happiness.

Happiness is based on circumstances, but joy is rooted in substance. Happiness may be about things. Joy is about Jesus.

Happiness is external, but joy is internal. Physical and material things may make us happy, but joy comes from the heart. The soul. The inner person.

Happiness is based on chance, but joy on choice. The word “happy” comes from an old English word “hap” which means luck, chance or accident. Joy is a decision. A determination of the will.

Christians are too often guilty of allowing “joy killers” to rob life of its radiance. Worry. Unresolved guilt. Selfishness. Resentment. Fear. These sap our spiritual strength. Drain our spirits. Diminish our joy. Instead, replace these negative emotions with faith. Forgiveness. Unselfishness. Acceptance. And courage.

Even during this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s possible for us to find joy. Feel joy. And extend joy to others. In fact, the Bible admonishes us to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas. 1:2). How? And why? Because problems produce patience. Build our endurance. Mold our character. And provide an eternal perspective on life. No wonder, C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Jesus came to give us an abundant life. A meaningful life. A purpose-driven life. A joyful life. Even when we must endure pain, problems, or persecution. So, regardless of what happens, we can echo the words of the apostle Peter:
“…Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet 4:13-14).

“Joy” opined Carlos Santana, “is the cure to the sickness of the soul.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

Comment at https://thepreachersword.com/2020/12/14/word-of-the-week-joy-3/