First, a word of encouragement
We’re a quarter of the way through our challenge already, so I want to really encourage you today to keep going! I know you’ve been finding it tough some days to take the time to really dig into the passages. I don’t say that because I know your schedule or how busy you’ve been; I say that because I know we have an enemy. The devil really wants to keep us away from God’s Word because he knows it will change us; he knows that by studying the fruit of the Spirit we will become more like Jesus and when we become more like Jesus, others will take note of that and want to know more about Him. The devil will do all that he can to discourage and distract us from spending time reading our Bibles. Has he been doing this with you? Putting obstacles in your day? Well in a way this should encourage us because it shows we have him running scared and it also highlights just how powerful God’s Word is when he tries so hard to block us from it. Next time I’m tempted to put off my quiet time in favour of doing something else I’m going to remember that this plays right into the devil’s hands. Let’s make sure he doesn’t win and stick with it!
What better way to encourage each other than to follow the example of this little guy.
Even down the mine with his pick and axe this happy chappy is never without a smile and of course, that’s what’s earned him his name. Now, far be it from me to criticise Disney, but I actually think “Joyful” would be a better name for this jolly fella than “Happy”. The difference between the two names is at the heart of what we will look at today as we move onto the fruit of JOY.
Joyful versus Happy
In Philippians 4 v 4 we are given the command
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
So we are to have joy in our hearts. Always. At all times.
But surely when Paul wrote this he meant that we are to be rejoice in the good times, when things are going well for us. There are some days and in some circumstances that it would be impossible to have joy. Right?
James 1 v 2
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
What? That seems incredible…and impossible… and a complete contradiction.
Well again we must remember that God would never ask us to do something without supplying the power to do it and so we need to dig a little deeper to start to understand this. It’s also worth remembering that Paul was really practising what he preached since he was actually a prisoner when he wrote those words.
Is it possible to be happy all the time? The answer is NO. Happiness depends on what happens to us; it is dictated by our circumstances. The Bible tells us that in this life we will have trials and hard things to go through, so there will inevitably be times in life when we don’t feel happy. However, that is different from not having Joy.
So let’s get more practical. How do we have this joy? Well the clue is back in Philippians 4 v 4. Note the second, third and fourth words. That’s the key. We need to have joy “in the Lord”. It won’t always be possible to have joy in our circumstances because they change; but God never changes so the joy we experience when we dwell on all the wonderful things it means to be a Christian can be constant in our lives. We’re going to discover those things now.
Read: Romans 8 v 26-38.
If you have some extra time then the whole of the chapter is worth a look!
Go through these verses and make a list of everything that gives us a reason to be joyful about being a Christian. It really is beneficial to start at verse 1, but if you’re short on time v26 onwards is just brimming over with wonderful news for us. This list is something to go back to regularly, especially when we feel our circumstances don’t give us much reason to be happy.
As you write your list you could click on this link to listen to the gorgeous words from verses 38-39 expressed in Kathryn Scott’s beautiful song “I belong”.
Did you notice the really sparkling gems in verses 28, 29, 31, 32, 35…..? I mean this passage is just dazzling! There are definitely some ‘postcard verses’ in there that we should write out several times and position all over the places we’ll see during the day. Why not choose one to write out and stick right beside your bed so it’s the last thing you see at night, or take a photo of it and make it your wallpaper on your phone for a while?
Let’s encourage each other today by adding a comment below of which verse from this chapter has given you particular joy.
Perhaps you still suspect that this joy is impossible all the time. Maybe you can think of a situation and you feel if that happened to you there’d just be no way you could ever have any joy. Then let me encourage you to find out more about a man called Richard Wurmbrandt. He was a pastor imprisoned and brutally tortured in a Romanian prison under the Communist regime who has written a really moving book called “Tortured for Christ”. The picture below was taken at the end of his years of imprisonment and starvation and he wrote these words about his experience.
Let’s trust God to give us that same joy when difficult things happen in our lives.
Spend some time praying for Christians all over the world who live in circumstances which give them no reason to be happy, since they are being persecuted for their faith. Let’s pray that they will experience real JOY in these trials that we cannot even begin to understand.