This is part of the lesson I taught this last Thursday morning in Southern California. The sky was a beautiful azure blue and there was a slight breeze; more importantly, the presence of God could be felt in our midst.
That teaching can be watched at the Facebook group, THRIVEOC,
(Thrive, Orange County). Live at 10 am PST each Thursday
Truth: You want to know and experience joy. Is it possible? It seems folks have forgotten that we Christians of all people have what it takes to be joyful! Yet the lostness of the culture, yea the world itself is like a tidal wave sitting offshore always threatening to overtake and drown some of us.
Again, the takeaways from the Bible are many, but the modeling of a bold, courageous Christian life like that of the apostle Paul’s here in the book of Acts is powerful for us today--in this culture, in this world today, which in many ways was not so different than what Paul faced 2000 years ago.
One of the greatest things we get from Paul is a wonderful understanding of joy and how to get it. As we have watched him get knocked down, stoned and left for dead, shackled and imprisoned, shipwrecked, scoffed at and abandoned… somehow you never get the sense that Paul felt defeated or sorry for himself, that he was full of fear or worry. How is that possible? Paul practiced what he preached about joy, giving us insight into the truth that joy is the choice of the follower of Jesus Christ.
One thing is certain . . . people want joy.
We want to be around others who have it.
And we want to know how to get it.
Is it possible to have joy in today’s mixed-up world?
Unequivocally, yes. But it will take insight and then keen discipline.
Here are a few gleanings from Paul on the all-important matter of joy. First there is the understanding that joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Joy comes from the heart of God; why, his natural disposition is one of joy! The psalmist surely captured this as he penned “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”1 When this is true in someone’s life, circumstances do not jeopardize it.
The surest mark of a Christian is not faith, or even love, but joy, someone once said.2. Yes! Because when the Christian has a relationship with the loving Lord and knows all that means in his life forever, there is a knowing. For me,
joy is a knowing in my soul that ‘In Jesus, all is well.
And what’s more, because of Jesus, all will be well.’
And so we see Paul in prison say “Rejoice always” or put another way “always be joyful”.3 If Paul could know joy while imprisoned, it was a choice he made. Along with that choice, he was careful about what he allowed himself to think about--Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.4.
Stick with me here because a little further on in the same chapter--Philippians 4--Paul said, I have learned the secret of being content... Key word: learned.
Thus far, in building a case for joy, we know:
~the assurance of what we have in Jesus
~that joy is a choice we make
~no one or no thing should jeopardize our joy
~we must be disciplined about where we let our thoughts take us. Rather than
being led into discouragement or worry by what we watch or listen to, we choose
to fix our minds on that which is good and right.
~a disposition of joy must be cultivated and learned.
A couple years ago, Alyssa was in an art class for toddlers here in North Carolina. When the instructor went around the table dispensing the paint for each child, she said, Here’s you some… here’s you some… here’s you some…. Want some joy? Think on these things today. Here’s you some JOY!
The Joy of the Lord--great song by Rend Collective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3gLeCiMJqI
With love and affection,
1 - Psalm 16.11
2 - Sam Shoemaker
3 - Philippians 4.4
4 - Philippians 4.8