Thursday, February 22, 2018
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
The people of our western civilization are consumed by the passionate pursuit of happiness. The bookstores are filled with people checking out the latest self-help books to find the newest formula for success in conquering their dissatisfaction with life. Motivational speakers and advice columnists claim to offer the key to happiness, but for many people the door remains locked.
Many of us experience an occasional moment of emotional ecstasy, but the stress of the daily grind puts too great a distance between those moments. We do not have an overall enjoyment of life. We awaken each day hoping that some circumstance or event will have a positive outcome, so that we can experience a positive emotional response. We have accepted as truth that we can only be happy if things turn out right according to our preferences and expectations.
If this seems to describe your life right now, and you believe there is something missing, you are probably right! What’s missing is joy. It’s a common malady. Far too common. But not incurable!
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church in Philippi that reveals the principles of joy that can be our continuous experience despite the circumstances of life. I invite you into an in-depth study of the biblical book of Philippians. Our intent is to find a way to be able to “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS!”
Before we begin the verse-by-verse study of Philippians, it is important to define our basic terms. What is the difference between happiness and joy?
Happiness is a fleeting feeling of exhilaration. Happiness is an emotional response mechanism of human nature. Happiness is defined as an attitude of satisfaction or delight based on positive circumstances. Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome that meets our expectations and preferences.
Happiness cannot be planned or programmed, much less guaranteed. It is experienced only if and when circumstances are favorable. Since we know that to be true, we seek to predetermine what outcomes will be considered favorable, and we then attempt to manipulate the process to achieve the desired outcome. We want to be happy, and we assume we have the power to make it happen.
In stark contrast to the pursuit of happiness is the presence of joy. Joy is the settled conviction that God sovereignly controls the events of life for His glory and the believers’ good. It is the deep and abiding confidence that, regardless of one’s circumstances in life, all is well between the believer and the Lord. No matter what difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure, rejection, or other challenge one is facing, genuine joy remains, because of the Divine influence of God’s grace. Regardless of the pain of unrealized expectations, when joy is experienced, we can always say, “It is well with my soul!”
Joy is not dependent upon the outcome of circumstances, but rather on the character of the One who controls all circumstances. True joy is not found in the removal of trials and troubles or the positive outcome of those circumstances. True joy is found in a personal and trusting relationship with Almighty God who controls all circumstances for the purpose of His own glory. True joy is discovered when we understand that God’s glory produces ultimate good for us who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
So the issue today is this – are you living your life in the pursuit of happiness based on circumstantial evidence or in the presence of joy based on the character of God? Your response to that question will determine your response to life itself.
Join me in this great study of Paul’s Principles of Joy.