The Book of Joy

Christian Writers Blog ChainIt’s my turn to write on this month’s ChristianWriters.com blog chain. This month our topic is Joy. This is a fitting topic, since yesterday was Easter Sunday, the most joyous event on the Christian calendar. So what is joy? Dictionary.com defines joy as:

the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Philippi

Philippi

I have always thought of joy as being distinct from happiness. Happiness is generally caused by and dependant on circumstances, but to me, joy has always been something that a person can experience despite their circumstances. The website GetChristianAnswers.com puts it a slightly different way. It suggests that joy is caused by internal factors (like faith in God), as opposed to happiness which is caused by external factors. Joy is also a fruit of the spirit – which means that it is something that should be developing in the life of a Christian.

The book of Philippians in the Bible is often considered to be ‘the book of joy’. I have counted that the word ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ appears 12 times in this short letter. This was a book written by a guy who was in prison, suffering for his beliefs, so he knew what it was like to have joy apart from circumstances. I’m going to have a look at some of the things that this book has to say about joy.

Joy because of Others

Paul begins his letter by explaining the joy he feels because of the Philippian Christians. He knows that they have a strong faith, and he feels a special affection for them. I often feel a joy inside when I think of my wife and my children. The mere fact of their existence does something special inside me.

Good Coming out of Pain

We all go through painful experiences – some worse than others. Paul was suffering when he wrote this letter – but he could already see God using his suffering for good. Lives were being changes and people were being introduced to Jesus through his imprisonment. This gave him great joy. He goes on to explain that the Philippians themselves will share in Jesus’ sufferings – but that this will be a witness to world of God’s salvation.

Putting Others First

Next, Paul talks about humility and taking our focus off ourselves and putting it on to others. This can be a difficult thing to do, but as we do it, we find that we are less self-absorbed. That means we won’t be as disappointed when we don’t get our own way (and often we don’t). Focusing on then needs of others can actually lead to greater joy. Anyone who has served food to the hungry or helped the sick knows that this can give a special type of satisfaction.

Don’t Grumble

In the next section, the readers of this book are told to “do everything without grumbling or arguing”. This can be hard. I’ve done a lot of grumbling this year, but it’s hard to be joyful when you’re too busy feeling sorry for yourself.

Knowing Jesus

Paul reminds us not to put confidence in our own goodness. If we do that we’ll be disappointed. Our confidence doesn’t belong on ourselves, but on Jesus. Paul discards all of his own human “goodness” as worthless compared to the value of simply knowing Jesus. What a weight off our shoulders that is!

Sort our your relationships

Our joy can be quickly stolen if we are in conflict with other people, so Paul encourages those who are arguing to resolve their differences and build unity. He asks those around them to assist with this, so they don’t have to do it on their own.

Joy vs Anxiety

Joy and anxiety are polar opposites. Anxiety is a feeling of worry or sadness, and sometimes we can experience it ever when circumstances don’t warrant it. Paul doesn’t just tell us to “get over it” though. He gives practical advice on how to overcome anxiety. Go before God with prayer and thanksgiving – give your worries over to Him. This leads to God’s peace.

Regardless of Circumstances

Finally, Paul demonstrates clearly that his joy is not dependent on circumstances. He says:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Sounds awesome Paul, so what is this great secret? He tells us in the next verse.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Cool. So Paul isn’t so amazing that he’s doing all of this in his own strength – it is Jesus who is giving him the strength to be content and joyful regardless of circumstances.

Read it for yourself

I have pulled these thoughts out from reading through Philippians. How long has it been since you read this book? Maybe you’ve never read it. Why not give it a read right now. It’s short enough to read in one sitting.

Follow the Chain

Photo of Philippi by Peter Nelson.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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About Adam David Collings

Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction who works as a software engineer during the day. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam is currently working on a science fiction novel.
This entry was posted in Christian Writers Blog Chain, Devotionals and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Book of Joy

  1. Jack Brown says:

    good post
    Joy and Peace to you brother
    biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig Easter hug

  2. chrismch1 says:

    I like your last line about Paul not doing it himself. At times it is so easy to pat ourselves on the back, forgetting who is always there with us as the “author and finisher.”

  3. Pegg Thomas says:

    I stumble so on the not grumbling thing. It must be my cranky old lady personality. It’s like I shoot myself in the foot with that one. *sigh* Maybe someday – like when I reach glory – I’ll get it right!

  4. Terrie says:

    Adam This is a wonderful take on JOY! Enjoyed very much. The part about, “not grumbling” struck a cord with me, since I worked yesterday. I am scheduled to work most Sunday’s and I am OK with that, but what I grumbled about was no holiday extra pay and discovering that I would have no help through the evening hours- we got very busy. The Lord is always with me, so I just kept going and making the best of the situation, but it really bothered me. I did not let the devil steal my joy-because even though it wasn’t the best situation, I continued to be patient with those who were impatient, doing my best to serve them well. Peace and Blessings

  5. Thank you for this Adam. Philippians is one of my all-time favorite books. So is Matthew, Mark…well, let’s just start with Genesis and keep going. Philippians definitely has a lot of good stuff to say about joy.

  6. E G Lewis says:

    Great posting. Nobody says what needs to be said better than Paul. Hope you had a Joyous Easter. Peace and Blessings.

  7. sandigrace says:

    This was a cogent journey through “The Book of Joy.” 🙂 Thank you. I appreciate how, at the onset, you defined joy and separated it from emotions such as happiness. I’m also glad you rightly identified joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Often, I would go searching for joy, while it was as close as a prayer. Your entire post was encouraging and uplifting. Double Thanks 🙂

  8. Bill Jones says:

    Thank you Adam – very good post on the Phillipian letter and how we should live in joy.

  9. Mike says:

    Adam I enjoyed your walk through Phillipians. Well done.

  10. Tracy Krauss says:

    Yes, joy and happiness are two very different emotions and you have done a superb job of categrizing the way that we can find real joy in Jesus. thanks and blessings!

  11. debraaelliott1960 says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very informative and enlightening..

  12. Deborah K. Anderson says:

    Great post, Adam. I liked all the different aspects you listed.

  13. lynnmosher says:

    Wonderful post, Adam. I loved your list. I’m sorry I’m so late in commenting. Life has been somewhat stormy lately.

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