Let me introduce you to Joy—
This letter from Paul to the churches in Philippi is the most positive letter to believers one could write. He reminds us of the internal joy that is always present, always flowing from the depths of our redeemed souls. This is joy goes beyond our thinking. This joy is much higher, wider, deeper, than temporary happiness over a new toy or celebration. It is joy “unspeakable and full of glory”. It is joy that we drink in when circumstances parch our throats and go beyond our thinking, confusing our lives temporarily. It is joy put there by Jesus. It is a joy that never ends and is always present—like our Lord. We conclude that Jesus is Joy. He is the joy we seek and is readily available no matter what we are presently going through. Joy is a promise to believers that cannot be broken.
In other words, I can be sad, but still have joy. I can be mourning loss and still have joy. I can be troubled and confused but still have joy. I can be heartbroken but still have joy. Joy is deep. Joy is the presence of Jesus in my heart, mind and soul. Joy holds me together when I feel like falling apart.
With this train of thought and understanding, let us read and meditate on Paul’s most joy-filled letter. You will soon understand that this joy becomes contagious as we read. Before we a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves—the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.
We will also see Paul as a mentor to his apprentices who carry on the work while he sits in a jail cell! Imagine it, Paul writing of joy while sitting in jail! We cherish his leadership abilities and his joy in leading! In fact, none of the qualities of the Christian life can be learned from a book. Something more like apprenticeship is required, being around someone who out of years of devoted discipline shows us, by his or her entire behavior, what it is. Moments of verbal instruction will certainly occur, but mostly an apprentice acquires skill by daily and intimate association with a “master’, picking up subtle but absolutely essential things, such as timing, rhythm and “touch”.
When we read what Paul wrote to the Christians believers in the city of Philippi, we find ourselves in the company of just such a master. Paul doesn’t tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakably is full of joy—pure joy. None of his circumstances contribute to his joy. He wrote from a jail cell, his work was under attack by competitors, and after twenty years or so of hard traveling in the service of Jesus, he was tired and would have welcomed some relief.
But circumstances are incidental compared to the life of Jesus, the Messiah that Paul experiences from the inside. For it is a life that not only happened at a certain point in history, but continues to happen, spilling out into the life of those who accept and receive Him as Lord as well as Savior.
Jesus Christ is, among all else, the revelation that God cannot be contained or hoarded. It is this “spilling out” quality of Christ’s life that accounts for the happiness of believers, for joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person. Joy is Jesus! Jesus’ joy is eternal.
We will take this reading, one sip at a time to savor the taste of the overflowing well of Jesus who is our Joy.
Philippians 1:1-11, The Message
1-2 Paul and Timothy, both of us committed servants of Christ Jesus, write this letter to all the followers of Jesus in Philippi, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
A Love That Will Grow
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
SEE WHAT WE MEAN ABOUT JOY?
Jesus is joy.
Jesus is the One and Only we live for.
Jesus is our One and Only Savior.
Joy comes in following Jesus as Lord of our lives—not in part but the whole.
Thank you for joy that wells up from the depths of souls who love you and follow you as Lord. I love you, Lord, with all that is within me. In this imperfect world we will not always be happy, but we can always be joyful, for you are the wellspring of our joy! You are Joy, our pure, never-ending, everlasting joy. Thank you for reminding us of what was always there. Help us to tap into this joy and drink daily. May this joy show and glow on our faces so that others will ask and want a drink, too!
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen