It’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:
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 emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.
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.
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.
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
- 01/04/2012: Chris Henderson, TheWriteChris
- 02/04/2012: Debra Ann Elliott, Words are Timeless
- 03/04/2012: CH Dyer, Thoughts and Visions
- 04/04/2012: Steve Olar, Snickerdoodles
- 05/04/2012: Lynn Mosher, Heading Home
- 06/04/2012: Bill Jones, I Was Thinking the Other Day About
- 07/04/2012: Cindee Snider Re, Breathe Deeply
- 08/04/2012: Terrie Thorpe, Light for the Journey
- 09/04/2012: Adam Collings, The Collings Zone. YOU ARE HERE
- 10/04/2012: Keith Wallis, wordsculptures
- 11/04/2012: Victor Travison, Lightwalker’s View
- 12/04/2012: Pegg Thomas, The Sheepish Scribe
- 13/04/2012: Nona King, Spirit Driven Fiction
- 14/04/2012: Scott Fields, Dead Man Writing
- 15/04/2012: Pauline Creeden, Hosanna’s Christian Reader
- 16/04/2012: Kristena Tunstall, Mommy’s Angel In Heaven
- 17/04/2012: Mike Johnson, The College Field Manual
- 18/04/2012: Carol Peterson, From Carol’s Quill
- 19/04/2012: Chris Vonada, I’m Just Thinkin’
- 20/04/2012: Edward Lewis, Sowing the Seeds
- 21/04/2012: Deborah K. Anderson, Faith, Fiction, and Unvarnished Truth
- 23/04/2012: Nona King, Word Obsession
- 24/04/2012: SandiGrace, Heart Gazer
- 25/04/2012: SandyKC, The Everyday Christian
- 26/04/2012: Tracy Krauss, Expression Express
- 27/04/2012: Traci Bonney, Tracings
- 28/04/2012: Jacky Brown, JayBees Blog
- 29/04/2012: Stephanie Boles, 80 Acres and a Book
- 30/04/2012: Joseph Lalonde, Joseph Lalonde
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.