Joy to the world…
The phrase rings out in shopping malls, church choirs, radio stations and on every street corner you hear…The Christmas experience is deeply connected to the idea of joy. The declaration of the hymnist, Isaac Watts, was Joy had come in the form of a newborn King. In the weathered, worn down earth, Joy had descended to overcome. In the midst of pain, sorrow and disillusionment a new age had dawned and was cause for jubilant celebration…joyous extolling.
I have yet to meet a human who doesn’t crave joy. In America we maintain people’s right to the pursuit of happiness, which is often connected to concepts such as success, attainment and accomplishment. Joy has an altogether different vibe. While we “pursue” happiness, joy is somewhat mysterious. In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul references joy and the verse sounds like it could be found in a Christmas card.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it
again—rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
Paul first instructs the
believer to be full of joy in the Lord. Unfortunately, in much of our preaching
we stop there. We tell people what they ought be and do not lay out the process
or reveal the keys for becoming. To repeatedly tell someone to be without
explaining the process to becoming is to inevitably cause frustration to rise. In this simple verse Paul informs us
a joy filled life is a possibility…no, a marker in the life of a follower of
Jesus. In the next breath he gives us a key to see this fruit manifest.
For many, we struggle with joy because we allow our circumstances
to shape the narrative of our life. We allow a lack of sleep, stress, fear or
uncertainty to so creep into our thoughts that joy seeps out of our soul. Paul,
to some degree was saying it is impossible to will ourselves into being full
of joy in the Lord if we have not adequately disciplined ourselves to rejoice.
I call it the circle of life
(and yes, I am a fan of the Lion King). We tend to view life and time as linear. However, it is more accurate to say the life of following Jesus is circular. A conscious right action releases something spiritual in our lives. The
spiritual released into our lives compels us back around to the conscious
action which once again releases a spiritual necessity. In this instance, the
determined decision to REJOICE releases joy into our soul. Joy, now in our soul
pushes rejoicing to the tip of our tongue. Consciously and consistently reminding of ourselves of
God’s goodness and meditating on His goodness shifts the disposition of
our soul and spirit. How do I shake tension? Rejoice! Declare all the Lord has
done. Celebrate his goodness. Thank him for his faithfulness. Remind yourself
of his ever-present help in times of trouble.
Joy doesn’t come because we find ourselves in the midst of the Christmas season. It doesn’t come because things go our way. Our lives aren’t marked by joy simply because we know the truth. Joy permeates the lives of those who choose a consistent action…
If you want joy, you must first
choose to rejoice.