Finding joy in every season
How can we have true and lasting joy in challenging times? Pastor Denis shares some insights into one of the main themes of our new series in the book of Philippians
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re the Apostle Paul sitting down writing your letter to the Philippians.
You’re in prison, coming towards the end of your life. At any moment a guard may come to take you away to be executed. You’re reflecting on your work and relationship with the saints at Philippi, your first church plant in Europe. You remember Lydia, and the jailer who converted after God miraculously released you and Silas from prison (Acts 16). You start to write and a joy bubbles up within you.
I know what you’re thinking. Depression, yes. Fear, definitely. Anxiety, for sure. But joy?! That’s the last thing you’d expect to exhibit.
I think we can learn something from Paul for our own lives right now. Many of us are in dire straits, in choppy waters, and experiencing difficulties at this time. If we want to learn how we can maintain our joy as Christians when we’re confined to our own kind of lockdown, then I think we can learn a lot from this letter.
The source of Paul's joy
Paul is sometimes called the Apostle of Joy. His joy went deeper than his circumstances or his feelings. It was based on what he saw and experienced of God’s grace.
From his bold statements we see that Paul was sold out for God: ‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain,’ (1:21), and ‘I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings …’ (3:10-11). His zeal for God fuelled his joy.
What is joy?
It’s hard to describe joy. It may be best to start with what joy is not:
Joy is not circumstantial. Your circumstances can change.
Joy is not temperamental. It’s not about having a happy nature.
Joy is not fundamentally emotional. Emotions go up and down.
We tend to think that a joyful life must be easy, but biblical joy is grounded in the character of God. If we realise that Christ is all we need and we can rely on Him, we’ll find the secret of contentment. Despite what we’re going through in our lives today, it is possible to have a parallel of joy running alongside our conflicts and problems. If we don’t have that joy, we don’t have hope. Joy brings hope.
Joy is the reward that comes when we give ourselves completely to the Lord. When you come to the end yourself and choose to give it to Jesus, then circumstances begin to change.
Accessing joy in challenging times
It’s easy to get discouraged if we compare ourselves to Paul’s response to trouble, especially when we’re anxious or stressed. Here are four practical ways to move towards joy:
Create an environment that can help to keep your mind on the right things. Gospel music can be a great source of inspiration and can help create an atmosphere of hope. Personally, I prefer instrumental hymns or soaking music in the background when I’m working. You can get these free on YouTube or via a subscription streaming service like Spotify or Apple music.
Pause regularly for times of meditation throughout the day and evening. Read or listen to encouraging scriptures, focus on God’s promises and reassure yourself of His love and care for you and yours. You could also listen to inspiring sermons from a favourite speaker / teacher, or a Christian audiobook. Check out YouTube or a paid subscription site like Audible.
Remember whose you are. Joy is not based on what you do, but on whose you are: the sons and daughters of the Most High God. Do a Google search of ‘Who I am in Christ’ declarations and say them aloud.
Spend time in prayer and diarise regular time with a prayer partner, or two. You can share a short but meaningful time over the phone, Zoom or mobile video.
'Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.'
- Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Are you looking to find lasting joy? Our new series in the book of Philippians, Joy in Christ, continues. Please join us online Sundays at 11.30am. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for Zoom details.
You can also catch up on the messages in the series since the end of October under Latest Talks on the homepage