So far we’ve learned that joy is not a feeling based on circumstances but is something more permanent that goes beyond temporary satisfaction or happiness. We’ve looked at how to cultivate it by planting seeds of faith and nurturing them through obedience to God’s word. We’ve seen how the soil of our hearts is a primary indicator of how well joy will grow in our lives. And we’ve discovered that trials, rather than stealing our joy, can increase it. What else do we need to know about joy?
The apostle Paul reveals something else about it to us. In his letter to the Philippians, he told them to rejoice. Rejoicing is joy in action – joy expressed. This would imply that they already had the joy to begin with. Did they?
At first glance it might be hard to tell, given the fact that we don’t know much about their situation.. . . but we’ve already said that joy isn’t based on circumstances. So what were they to rejoice in?
Paul told them to rejoice in the Lord. And not only that – he commanded them to rejoice in the Lord always. To rejoice in the Lord is to rejoice in the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Because He is unchanging, our joy can be unchanging too.
How important is this call to rejoice? So important that Paul says it again in the same verse – a command so critical that he doesn’t mind repeating it. Perhaps he is repeating himself not only because it’s an important concept but also because he knows that, as circumstantially-driven people, we are prone to forget it. As believers, we will walk through plenty of things in life that will steal our happiness, but we can never walk through anything that can steal our joy – if we choose to rejoice.
The keyword there is choose. Rejoicing is the willful, purposeful act of calling out the joy that we already have and making it central in our minds and hearts. Rejoicing reminds us of the reality that exists beyond our circumstances, and it changes our perspective on those circumstances. It reminds us that whatever we may pass through in this life is secondary to the ultimate truth of our redemption and salvation through Christ Jesus.
And that is where the real joy begins and ends. If we have not put our faith and trust in Christ, joy will be elusive because we won’t have this unwavering truth to fall back on. But if we are in Christ, then we can agree with Paul that the afflictions we face in this life are far outweighed by the eternal glory we share in Christ – glory beyond all comparison.
Today – and always – rejoice in the things that are unseen rather than seen. Rejoice in the promises of God rather than the pleasures of the world. Be convinced of who you are and whose you are in Christ. Be sure to nurture your seed of faith daily through the water of God’s word. No matter what your current circumstances may be, don’t be consumed by them. Instead, choose to remember that you are deeply loved, fully known, and completely forgiven in Christ. Choose to believe that no hardships that you endure in this life will ever separate you from the grace of God in Christ. Choose to rejoice, even when you don’t feel like rejoicing.
In other words, choose joy.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!Philippians 4:4
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.Hebrews 13:8
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:17-18
A Prayer for Joy
Lord, help me to rejoice always in You, for this is the key to finding real, lasting joy. If I rejoice only in my circumstances, I am only rejoicing in my own pleasure. Help me instead to find my joy in you, the unchanging one, where my hope and joy will always be secure. Thank you for your love and faithfulness toward me. Amen.