Tuesday, September 15, 2009


It’s missing in so many churches today and in so many lives of believers, but it is not missing in the Bible. I’m talking about joy and there is an abundance of it in the Bible. It is seen in the Old Testament as Nehemiah declares, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It is seen in the life of Jesus Himself as He told the disciples, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

joy is seen all through the New Testament. In fact, from Matthew to Revelation there are 15 different words are translated joy, joyful, joyfully, joyfulness or joyous and these 15 words are used some 70 times. But what is amazing is that of these 70 times, over 25% of the usages (18 of them) are found in Philippians. Joy is without question the theme of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.

In the book of Philippians we can clearly detect two major attributes of joy. First, joy has nothing to do with circumstances, but everything to do with Christ. In other words, joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a temporary feeling based on our circumstances. Joy is a permanent contentment in spite of our circumstances. How do we know this is the case? Consider the fact that as Paul writes this letter that uses 25% of the New Testament’s usages of joy while he is a prisoner in a Roman dungeon. Obviously, Paul’s joy was not based on circumstances.

You also see this in the life of Christ. Jesus was called a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53; Luke 18:31-33) but He still came to make our joy full (John 15:11) and found joy even in going to the cross (Hebrews 12:2 – “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”). The cross was not a happy circumstance for Jesus, yet it we a source of joy. James makes the same teaching when he says that we are to consider it joy when we fall into various trials (James 1:2). Trials do not produce happiness but there can still be joy.

It isn’t circumstances that determine our joy it is Jesus. Consider this. Only one word is mentioned more than “joy” in the book of Philippians (which is mentioned 18 times) and that is “Christ” (which mentioned 70 times). There is a direct link between joy and Jesus. It is Christ then and now that brings joy. 1 Peter 1:8 says, “and though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

The second attribute of joy we see in the book of Philippians is that joy is not a matter of action, but rather a matter of attitude. We have already seen that the most used word in this letter is the word “Christ.” The second most used word is a form of “joy.” But the third most used word in the book of Philippians is the word “mind” which Paul used 10 times. He then uses the word “think” 5 additional times. You see, the secret of Christian joy is found in the way a believer thinks – his attitudes.

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