"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)
We have all experienced emotions like happiness and sadness - and probably prefer happiness. The word “happy” comes from the same word as “happen”, linking this emotion to our circumstances. Joy on the other hand is not about our circumstances but about our heart. The joy of the Lord is in our hearts in the person of Jesus.
When Paul speaks about his joy in Philippians, he is writing from prison. The Philippian church would have understood about Paul’s joy since it was the joy of Paul and Silas that led to its planting. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison in Philippi after they drove a demon from a girl, because some men were making money from this demon. In prison they sang praises to God because they were filled with joy. There was an earthquake and because they didn’t use the opportunity to escape, the jailer heard about Jesus (Acts 16:11-40). So, Paul is encouraging the Philippians to continue with the tradition of joy by filling their minds with good things, praising and worshipping no matter what the circumstances, trusting in God’s Word and coming to Him for refreshment.
Emotions are important but if you are led by them, life can be a constant rollercoaster. Joy is not fleeting. It can cost us to obtain it, like taking the time to pray and praising God when things look bleak, but joy is durable and will protect us in any weather. The world cannot give joy and it cannot take it away.
- True joy comes from God. A joy-filled mind comes not from the pursuit of happiness but the pursuit of Jesus. Joy comes from God (Romans 15:13), from His presence (Psalm 16:11) and from being filled with His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So how close are you to Jesus right now? During lockdown you can get closer to Jesus and be filled with joy because His salvation and righteousness do not change.
- True joy is maintained by focus. Paul tells the Philippians to remember the right things. By all means, watch the news and be informed but remember the right things: that Jesus is Lord and He is moving. Paul filled his mind with thankfulness for what Jesus was doing. Don’t become so focused on what the government is doing that you miss what Jesus is doing. Every week we have been hearing about changed lives as people have joined a C3 location, found Jesus and found community. Remember what happens when people read the Bible, join the church and connect groups, even during a pandemic!
As we are going to spend 6 weeks on this topic, consider whether there is someone you can invite to one of our zoom services, who might be struggling and overwhelmed by their circumstances. Who do you know, who needs joy? Let’s pray for these people and even if you only know one, send them an invitation. We don’t need to scrounge around to know joy, we just need to know Jesus.
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
- Share if you are able experiences you’ve had with joy, despite your circumstances.
- What does it look like to get closer to Jesus?
- What are some of the ways we can maintain our focus/joy in lockdown?
- Who might be struggling and overwhelmed by their circumstances? Who do you know, who needs joy? Pray again that they will accept an invitation to hear this series.