Don’t Miss The Joy! Chapter 3
Finding Joy When Happiness Won’t Come
THE JOYFUL LETTER
Philippians is one of the most-quoted, most familiar books in the New Testament. More verses in Philippians have ended up on coffee mugs, T-shirts, Facebook memes, and Christian art plaques than any other Biblical book.
“For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“He Who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering.”
“This one thing I do, I press forward to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”
“Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…and the peace of God….”
This is the only one of Paul’s letters in the New Testament that is not corrective in nature or dealing with some divisive issue. It is a joyful letter. Obviously, we can see that Paul had a deep affection for this little church. Part of his purpose was to thank them for a sacrificial gift they had given Paul while he was in prison.
THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
Have you ever found yourself saying it? “I’ll be joyful when I finally get a decent job!” “I’ll be joyful when my husband (or wife) starts loving me like they should.” “I’ll be joyful when this illness is finally cured.” “I’ll be joyful when I’ve paid of all my credit cards.”
We’ve all done it. We mistakenly think that joy can only be ours when our circumstances agree. And we make a mistake that many make.
Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is a pleasant thing. Don’t get me wrong. I am as much into happiness as the next guy. But I know a secret. I know that joy can come even when happiness will not.
Happiness is one of those words we have hung onto from the old English language. Now not that we do not speak English today (although I have a British friend who would disagree). But we have moved past a lot of words that occupied our language for hundreds of years.
Happiness is from the old English word “happenstance.” “Happenstance” is an acknowledgement of the chance that things just happen and hopefully they are good things. So, our “happenstance” are our circumstances that “happen” to us.
Happiness, therefore, simply came to mean having pleasant circumstances occur in our lives. It is our “chance,” our “lucky stars” that we have to thank for those.
Joy is more robust than that. It does not fade away in the face of hard circumstances or unpleasant days. It endures despite them. The lie the enemy would have us believe is that joy cannot come to us unless our “happenstance” is positive. In other words, it is the lie that joy and happiness are not different.
Nothing is further from the truth. We see joy coming in some of the most difficult and painful circumstances. It is a supernatural gift and does not blow away with the winds of adversity. Paul’s joyful attitude we see on display in his Letter to the Philippians is evidence of this.
Worldwide, people say the number one thing they are searching for is happiness. In the three-hundred-year storied history of Yale University, the most popular class they ever offered was on “How to Find Happiness!” And if you Google “happy hour,” you will find over two billion five hundred and eighty thousand options.
We are assured in our founding documents as a nation that “all men are created equal, and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Well, we are sure pursuing it, but few are finding it.
Magazine covers promise us everything from happiness with amazing weight loss to financial happiness to happiness in remodeling your house. But they are empty promises. Happiness is circumstantial. Circumstances change.
My circumstances are very good at the moment. As I was working on this chapter, my granddarlin’ McCail showed up to visit. She brought along her little tablet and sat right down at the table beside me to “work” with Poppy. Grandfather heaven!
But my joy is not dependent on all my circumstances aligning, though they’re really good at the moment! But I want to talk to you about how to find something that remains even when your circumstances change. Some of you might say,
“I was happy but then my job was eliminated”
“I was happy but then I was diagnosed with cancer.”
“I was happy but then my wife left me.”
In other words, life has kicked the happiness right out of some of us!
So, let’s stay focused on finding joy. “Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Despite weeping, and loss, and illness, and loneliness, we can know JOY that the world cannot give us, and, as an old song says, “the world can’t take away.” And neither can your circumstances.
Joyful Christians are contagious Christians. You will spread this “virus” of joy if you have it. There is nothing more inconsistent than a person sharing Jesus and looking like they just gargled apple cider vinegar. Get joy and then give it away! The Bible tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If we are short of joy, we are not connected to the source which is the Holy Spirit indwelling those who believe.
JOY IN SPITE OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
So, can we know joy when our circumstances aren’t cooperating? When they may be anything but good? When our prospects are not promising, and our future is foreboding?
Well Paul had it. Paul knew joy despite the worst of external conditions. Imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, Paul wrote one of the most joyful and encouraging letters in the New Testament while in jail.
It is an amazing thing how joy can buoy our spirits when everything in our life is trying to push us down. Let’s summarize:
Paul had been falsely imprisoned
He was being held on “death row” awaiting sentencing
He never knew if each meal; each sunrise was his last
He didn’t know if he would ever be free again.
He lived each day connected by a short chain to a Roman guard.
And yet, in spite of these circumstances, Paul had an unquenchable joy. Something like that can only be attributed to a supernatural source. Not “happenstance.”
Throughout the four chapters that make up Philippians, we will encounter the source of Paul’s joy and how he lived it out. And the best news is the joy of the Lord that Paul knew is not out of anyone’s reach who knows the joy giver of Paul’s life:
The Lord Jesus Christ.