I'll never forget the day that I was sitting on the front steps of my first home, talking with a friend that was not a believer at the time. One of her questions to me was, "Why are you always happy?" That conversation ultimately led to us praying over the phone together and her asking Jesus to be the Lord of her life! I think about her often and that one major question she had for me. The one thing I told her is that happiness is fleeting, but JOY is everlasting and only comes from a relationship with the Lord.
Life has not always been kind to me. I have had my share of heartache; I began dealing with death at a young age with losing grandparents that I adored, my dad became sick when I was fifteen and life for my family was lived in and out of hospitals, my aunt was murdered and my uncle was sent to prison for conspiracy of murder, my dad lost his battle with when I was nineteen, I lost one of my biggest cheerleaders (my dad's mom) several years ago, and another grandfather soon after our youngest was born. Now I realize many have gone through much worse and I am sure not trying to have a pity party. Scripture is very clear in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world". If we are followers of Christ, we know Satan is going to fight us and try to defeat us. What I pray you see in this post today is that JOY is not determined by our circumstances, but by our trust that He is enough for whatever comes our way.
Now I must confess, I had already started this post when I realized the sermon for this past Sunday was on Good News and Joy. So, I asked for permission from our Teaching Pastor to use one of his points as the title. How can we live a life filled with JOY when we look at the world and see such darkness? We see that word JOY so much at Christmas, but is it really possible to have? The cause of joy is JESUS!
Depending on the translation you use, the word JOY is mentioned around 200 times in the Bible. So that tells me, there is something to living a joy-filled life....it IS possible!
1. JOY at the Manger: Luke 2:10"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people."
Can you imagine being Mary and Joseph and all that they endured getting to Bethlehem? Do you think anything about it seemed joyful in the moment? I know myself and I am sure there would have been much grumbling through the process! The one thing that Mary and Joseph clung to was the promise that God was doing something mighty! Jesus' birth did not occur like most people would have imagined; a cave, amongst animals, shepherds, a trough. A King to come as a humble servant, born into this world amongst the lowly. WOW! We are broken, dirty, sinful people that He came to this earth for. Let that soak in for just a minute! He didn't come wearing a robe and a crown to rule above everyone. He came to serve, to walk amongst the people, to have love and compassion. We can learn so much from that today!
REFLECTION: Take some time and really focus in on Jesus and His birth; nothing about it made sense to the human mind! He came to serve, to walk beside us and to be our ultimate sacrifice! There is no greater love!
2. JOY in Suffering: Philippians 2:14-16 "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
Oh this is a hard one, but it is Biblical! It feels so right and natural to complain when hard times come, but knowing that Christ has a greater plan should give us JOY in the suffering. Can you imagine being Paul and writing this letter from prison? Philippians is Paul's joy letter. Although he had faced excruciating poverty, abundant wealth and everything in between, he was still able to write with great joy because he focused his attention on knowing Christ and obeying Him. Joy doesn't mean that you are "happy" all the time, let me make that clear! Joy doesn't mean that we can't hurt or cry. Our life is just a snap shot of what eternity will be like, so our suffering is not lasting and we have hope because of Jesus! That should bring us great JOY!
Isaiah 55:8-9 is one of my favorite verses, because when I begin to doubt God's goodness or question how things are transpiring, I am quickly reminded that He is God and I am not. His knowledge and wisdom is far greater than we can ever comprehend.
REFLECTION: Suffering is hard and doesn't seem fair. We tend to run to Jesus last, when He should be the first one we rest in. Get into God's Word and spend time in prayer with Him. Ask Him the hard questions that you are dealing with! What is it that you need to lay at His feet? He is working in each of us and we can trust what He says, He will do!
3. JOY in Salvation:1 Peter 1:8-9 "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
Peter heard Jesus say these same words when Thomas was doubting Jesus' resurrection in John 20:29, so Peter is repeating them here in 1 Peter 1:8-9 as he encourages Christians who are suffering. Because we believe in Jesus, we have inexpressible and glorious joy! Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the Spirit and joy is listed right after love. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us and these are character traits found in the nature of Christ. It's not possible to "earn" or "try" to get any of the fruits in our lives, we must join our lives with Him to receive them. Although we know the end result and heaven is our eternity, we must still work diligently now to serve Him and point others to Him.
REFLECTION: Jesus is our joy! Thank Him for your salvation and all the beauty that you experience because you have His character traits in you! There may be some things that are defeating your joy right now. Pray and ask the Lord to show you if there are some areas in your life that you need to work on. Maybe you need to resolve conflict, be more faithful in your job, mend a marriage, or maybe you are just in a waiting period...do it all with JOY! If you do not know the JOY that Jesus brings, please reach out to us, we would love to talk with you!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!