Erma Bombeck, the late American author, and humorist once related a scene she witnessed at church one Sunday. “I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. He was just smiling.”
“Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theater off-Broadway said, “Stop that grinning! You’re in church!” With that, she gave him a belt on his hind side and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, “That’s better,” and returned to her prayers.”
Sadly, some Christians are like this mother. I suppose someone may say that the worship service is no place to smile, it’s a serious, solemn time. However, why wouldn’t we smile when we come into the presence of the Almighty God?
Christianity is not a religion to be endured, but a relationship to be enjoyed. William Barclay observed that “A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.”
The little book of Philippians presents the essence of the joyful Christian life. Although Paul was in a Roman prison he spoke of his joy and rejoicing 18 times in just 4 chapters. In fact, the book could be outlined with the theme of joy.
#1 The joyful life is a Savior-centered life.
There must be a center around which life revolves. Note how many times in chapter one, Paul speaks of his relationship in Christ.
He was a “servant of Christ.” Grace and peace are in Christ. He enjoyed the fruits of righteousness in Christ. He preached Christ. He magnified Christ in his body. He sought to live in Christ and desired to depart and be with Christ. He rejoiced in Christ. And was willing to suffer for Christ.
C.S. Lewis expressed it this way, “It is not so much the joy of the Lord we are seeking as the Lord of joy Himself.
#2 The joyful life is is a self-emptying life.
Selfishness is a sin. Not only will you fail to find Christian joy if you are self-centered, you will be a miserable, unhappy person. Let Paul’s words sink in.
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. (Phil 2:2-4)
In chapter two, Paul shows that unselfish service was exemplified in Jesus’ life and death on the cross. And it was illustrated by the care of Timothy and the ministry of Epaphroditus. Find your place in ministry, and you will experience joy.
#3 The joyful life is a spiritually sound life.
In chapter three Paul warned against the errors of Judaism and the immoral hedonism that characterized the lives of the Antinomians. Both groups were a threat to their spiritual soundness and their “joy of faith.”
“Rejoice in the Lord,” not in those things that take you away from Him. Joy is experienced as we focus on the goal before us and press toward the prize that awaits the faithful. Don’t be distracted or deceived by the desires of the flesh.
#4 The joyful life is a serene life.
In chapter 4, Paul provides some practical ways in which we can enjoy living for the Lord. Be steadfast. Don’t worry. Pray. Focus on nobler thoughts. Learn to be content. And truly believe that regardless of life’s challenges you can find strength in the Lord. He will provide all your needs.
Jesus brings joy to our lives. When He was born, the angels proclaimed, “I bring you good tidings of great joy!” (Lk 2:10). And before dying on the cross and ascending back to heaven, Jesus promised a life full of joy in Him (Jn 15;11).
“Joy is the birthright of the child of God,” wrote Adrian Rogers. “Every child of God ought to have a conscious, conspicuous, continuous, and contagious joy. If you are not living a life of joy, you are living beneath your privileges as a Christian.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman