Sunday, March 22, 2009

WHOO-HOO!!! -- The Secret of Christian Joy

I’ve had a couple of WHOO-HOO, jumping-for-joy moments this week! Nothing big, really, but they sure made me happy! The first was that my sister invited me to go to Bell Buckle, Tennessee with her and Mom for the Moon Pie and RC Festival in June. Now, I have to tell you—Moon Pies and RC would be about the last things that I would normally celebrate! I am totally excited, though, to get away for a weekend, to spend time with my mother and sister, and to see Aunt Bonnie and my cousins—WHOO-HOO! Of course, I know it may not actually happen. There are a lot of circumstances that could change my plans (Robbie’s health, Bob’s job, etc.), but just having something fun to look forward to for the next couple months is wonderful!

The second thing that literally brought out a big WHOO-HOO! from me was just getting back into writing the book I’d started a couple months ago. I’ve been so busy lately working on my blogs and my website, and doing writing projects for other people that I had set it aside for a while. When I determined this week to get back to work on it and wrote that first paragraph, it felt so great and I was just bubbling over with happiness. I actually shouted WHOO-HOO! Robbie opened one eye and looked at me like Mom’s finally lost her mind, and the least she could do is be quiet about it! I enjoy writing of any kind, but writing fiction is such fun and so creative that I felt like a kid let out for summer vacation!

One more thing that had me shouting for joy: We had a couple beautiful days this week when the temperature made it into the seventies and the sun was shining. I opened the doors and windows, and while Robbie was sleeping, I went out onto the sun porch with my laptop for the first time this year and settled into the recliner out there. It felt soooo good after being cooped up in the house all through a long, very hard winter. Spring is on the way! Actually, spring is officially here, and soon the spring weather will be here to stay, too! WHOO-HOO!

Just little things, really, as I said, but they brought a great big smile to my face. My husband is a very fortunate man—it doesn’t take much to make me happy! Thinking about those moments this week made me reflect on what the Bible has to say about joy, so I went to the book of Philippians and took a look.

Philippians is called the “Joy-Book.” Nineteen times the apostle Paul mentioned joy, rejoicing or gladness. This may not seem unusual except that Paul’s circumstances were anything but joyful. At the time Paul penned this epistle to the church in Philippi, he was being held prisoner by Nero the Emperor of Rome. He was chained to a guard and not allowed to preach in public. He had no idea what was going to happen to him. He might be acquitted, but then again he might be beheaded! Even some of the believers at that time were against him.

In spite of the danger and discomfort in which he found himself, Paul overflowed with joy. The secret to that joy is found in another key word in Philippians—mind. Paul uses the words mind, think and remember sixteen times. I actually used the words happiness and joy rather interchangeably when I spoke of my week earlier, but there is a difference between the two. Where happiness relies heavily upon outward circumstances, people, and events, etc, joy comes from within. The secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks; his attitudes. No, I’m not speaking of the “positive-thinking” approach, that is so popular these days. Before we get into the attitudes I am thinking of, though, let’s take a look at some of the things that can rob us of our joy.

I call them Joy-Snatchers. When things are going our way, we feel happy and we’re easier to live with. Few of the circumstances of our life, however, are under our control, and when those circumstances go wrong we’re unhappy. The weather spoils our plans. The traffic jam frustrates us. We’re disappointed when we don’t get the job we want. We’re frightened when the economy goes bust. The person who relies on circumstances will be miserable much of the time! Paul, who was in worse circumstances than you or I will ever know, wrote a letter, however, abounding in joy! “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

Sometimes we lose our joy because of other people. We are hurt because of something our spouse has said. We are disappointed in what our children do. Our boss drives us crazy, and we let the neighbors’ thoughtlessness get to us. We must live with other people. We cannot be isolated and still bring glory to God. Jesus says we are to be light unto the world, but sometimes that light is dimmed because of how we react to other people. He calls us to be the salt of the earth, but that salt is bitter when our testimony is marred by ruined relationships with others. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Most people today think that joy comes from the things they own. They want to live the “American Dream.” They want the home, the new cars, the vacations, all the newest technology, designer clothes, and on and on and on… In reality, things can rob us of joy. That new car gets wrecked. Our home is robbed. We get sick on vacation. We spill tomato sauce down the front of our new dress. And we can’t take it with us. Jesus warned us in Luke 12:15, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

The fourth joy-snatcher is worry. Worry will rob us not only of joy but of peace and faith, as well. It affects us physically, too, affecting every system in our bodies—hearts, stomachs, brains, intestines, muscles, skin, and immune system. Paul had plenty to worry about, but he didn’t worry. Instead he wrote a letter of joy telling us not to be anxious. He wrote the cure for worry: “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

I’ve mentioned four Joy-Snatchers; now I would like to suggest four Joy-Sustainers. These are four attitudes, or four mind-sets that we see in the book of Philippians that will help us defeat the circumstances, people problems, things and worry that steal our joy away.

The first of these is the Single Mind. This is the attitude we find in the first chapter of Philippians that helps us rise above our circumstances. It is an attitude of single-hearted devotion to Christ. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (vs. 21) Paul faced difficult circumstances with joy because he was not living to enjoy his circumstances, but rather he was living to serve Christ. He did not look at his circumstances in themselves, but in relationship to Christ. He was not a “prisoner of Rome” but a “prisoner of Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 3:1) His chains were “my bonds in Christ.” (Philippians 1:3) He was not facing a civil trial but “set for the defense of the gospel." (vs. 17) Paul did not look at Christ through his circumstances—he looked at his circumstances through Christ, and that changed his whole perspective.

Paul rejoiced in his difficult circumstances because they helped strengthen his fellowship with other believers. He called it the fellowship of the Gospel. (vs. 1-11) The circumstances in which he found himself gave him the opportunity to lead others to Christ for the furtherance of the Gospel (vs. 12-26), and enabled him to defend the Gospel before the courts of Rome which he called the faith of the Gospel. (vs. 27-30) Paul proved that when we are single-minded in serving Christ our circumstances can work for us and not against us, and we will find great joy in that!

The second chapter of Philippians tells us of the Submissive Mind. The third verse is the key, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Where the first chapter focused on Christ, the second chapter focuses on people. The Christian with a submissive mind does not expect others to serve him. He serves others. The good of others is more important to him than his own plans and desires. There are four examples in chapter two of the submissive mind. Paul himself is one example to us: “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” (vs.17) He also gave Timothy (vs. 19-23) and Epaphroditus (vs. 25-30) as examples of men with true servant’s hearts.

The first and foremost example to us, though, is Jesus Christ. He thought of others and not Himself. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who...took upon him the form of a servant…” (vs. 5-8) The mind of Christ, or the attitude of Christ was that he would set aside His glory—all His rights and privileges as the Son of God—and humble Himself.

He served others, as well. It is not enough to merely think of others, we must be willing to actually serve. Jesus humbled himself and became a servant. He served fishermen, harlots, tax collectors, the sick and sorrowing. He washed the disciples feet. Matthew 20:28 says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

He sacrificed Himself (vs. 8.) He was willing to pay the price to serve. Sacrifice and service go together if service is to be a true Christian ministry. The more we give, the more we receive; the more we sacrifice, the more God blesses. This leads to joy as we become more Christ-like. We share in His joy as we share in His sufferings.

He glorified God the Father. “Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him…that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (vs. 9-11.) The whole purpose of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation is the glory of God. As he faced the cross, the glory of His Father was uppermost in His mind. “…Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.” (John 17:1b) The believer with a submissive mind must expect service and sacrifice, but in the end it will lead to joy and glory.

Paul emphasizes the Spiritual Mind in the third chapter of Philippians. The word thing(s) is found nine times in this chapter. Most people “mind earthly things,” but the spiritually-minded Christian is more concerned about heavenly things and looks at the things of this world from Heaven’s point of view. “For our citizenship is in heaven…” (vs. 20) The quest for things robs people of joy when they can’t have what they want when they want it. They want to possess things and then find that their things possess them. The spiritually-minded believer will be an accountant with the right values: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord...” (vs.7-8a.) Paul also says the spiritually-minded Christian will be as an athlete with the right vigor: “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 13b-14.) Spiritually-minded Christians are also aliens with the right vision: “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 20.)

Our fourth Joy-Sustainer is the Secure Mind. A secure mind is the antidote to worry, which was our fourth joy-snatcher. Worry is wrong thinking (of the mind) and wrong feeling (of the heart) about people, circumstances and things. If we are single-minded, if we have a submissive mind and are spiritually-minded, we shouldn’t have much trouble with worry. We need to learn to guard our hearts and minds so that worry cannot enter. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word keep means to stand guard or make secure.

Chapter Four, one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament, describes the resources a Christian has in order to have a secure mind and guard against worry. Verses six through nine especially speak of God’s peace: “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” The resource of God’s power is seen in verse thirteen: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” God’s provision is seen in verse nineteen: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we have God’s peace, His power and His provision—why worry?

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice! Whoo-Hoo!!!

1 comment:

  1. Another great devotion Cindy! I really enjoyed reading this upbeat blog post. Sorry I was so late commenting on it. Good job!