WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – If you know Christ, you can and should be joyful almost all the time. Impossible? – Well, yes and no. But think about it: Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to live if it were possible?
“You have no idea what I’m dealing with.” You’re right, I don’t. I have my own problems, but some of yours are so much worse: devastating illnesses, crushing financial burdens, heartbreaking relationships. You’re straining under burdens too heavy to bear on paths too dark to see with no reasonable hope that your circumstances will improve.
And that’s precisely why you need joy: because it is unrelated to your circumstances. In Paul’s day, the Macedonian Christians had learned the secret of joy, but his beloved Corinthians had not. He wrote to lift them to the next level:
“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:1-4).
What a recipe! They stirred abundant joy into extreme poverty and severe affliction, and out came such generosity to help the famine-stricken saints in Jerusalem that they begged for the privilege of sharing in the ministry and were able to do much more than anyone could have imagined.
WONDERFUL THING IN MY LIFE – So where do you get this kind of joy? It can be learned, and then it can be experienced. You start by understanding the distinctions between pleasure, happiness, and joy:
- Pleasure is a physical response to external realities.
- Happiness is an emotional response to internal realities.
- Joy is a spiritual response to eternal realities.
In this world, we will experience some pleasure and happiness and some pain and sorrow. There will be times when we’ll have more of the down-side of those two pairs – but we don’t have to let that get us down. We don’t have to let suffering rob us of joy.
When Peter and John were flogged, “they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41). After Paul and Silas were severely beaten and chained in prison, “about midnight [they] were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Joy will draw an audience.
The apostles had learned to look past their ever-changing conditions in this world that bring pleasure and happiness and to focus on the realities of heaven, which never change: the love of God, the security of His throne, the destination of their souls. So, they taught us: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:2-4).
Someone said, “The world seeks joy, but finds only pleasure, sometimes and briefly.” The world is looking in the wrong place. “In Your presence is abundant joy” (Ps. 16:11). That’s where I want you and me to live.