“There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy; there is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illumined with joy,” opined William Barclay in his commentary on Philippians. “A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the one constant in the recipe for Christian living.”
Joy, of course, is not to be confused with happiness. When the apostle Paul wrote Philippians it was from a Roman prison. His missionary travel came to a halt. His opportunities for Christian association were limited. And his freedom was bound by his chains and shackles.
I doubt Paul could say this made him happy. Yet, the book is filled with at least 18 references to his joy in living for Christ. Happiness is dictated by external events, while joy is internal. That’s why the Bible can speak of joy in the midst of trials and suffering (Jas. 1:2). And that’s how Paul could write about “the joy of faith” (Phil. 1:25), even while incarcerated.
Why is there joy in our faith?
#1 Faith provides a “social support.”
The fellowship of other Christian is a source of great joy. Paul express joy in the support of his brethren. “For we have great joy and consolation in your love (Phil. 1:7). David G. Myers observed that “faithful church goers possess a sense of connectedness, of being upheld by the ties that bind, of bearing one another’s burdens.”
#2 Faith gives us a reason for living.
Why? “Because faith is the substance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1) faith is the foundation, the basis of our hopes, dreams and aspirations. One of the most fundamental human needs that we all possess is to believe that we matter, that there is an importance to our lives. That our lives mean something..that they count.
A lot of Christians are unhappy and not joy filled because they are not doing what they ought to be doing. The late Dee Bowman once wrote, “I see a lot of people who are unhappy and don’t know why. I am convinced that often times its because they aren’t doing what they know they ought. You can’t be fulfilled and derelict at the same time.”
The joy of faith is the foundation of our reason for being. For our purpose in life. For a mission that transcends material matters.
#3 Faith offers unconditional acceptance.
In a world that struggles with self esteem, our faith offers good news: Our God became a man to demonstrate unconditional love for each one of us. We do not have to define our self worth by our achievements, possessions or others’ approval.
We will stumble and fall, but when we get up and repent, God forgives. He doesn’t hold it against us. When the prodigal son returned home, there was rejoicing (Lk. 15:32) The Father was there with unconditional love. We experience joy in our faith because of our Father’s acceptance.
#4 Faith allows us to work for something bigger than ourselves.
Jesus taught that we find what life is all about by losing our lives. That is to discover meaning beyond our selves (Lk. 9:24).
Truly happy people are not those who are grasping for happiness, but they are focused on something outside themselves, something that is bigger than they are. The joy of faith provides a focus that envisions deeper satisfaction, greater rewards and longer lasting influence beyond this life.
Think of the impact that those unnamed Christians in Philippi, Thessalonica and throughout Macedonia had upon people throughout the Roman Empire. Indeed their faith touched the lives people known to them (1Thess. 1:8).
Think of where you worship and those who’ve gone before to make a difference in your community. Pastors, preachers and a host of faithful men and women who shared their faith, lived for the Lord, and worked to build up the church have left a legacy for this generation, and generations to come. So, remember what you do, not only makes a difference now, but will leave it’s mark for years to come.
#5 Faith furnishes hope for the future.
The God of hope filled us with joy in knowing that one day we can go home and be with Him. (Rom. 15:13; Titus 1:2). Indeed, as C. S. Lewis once quipped, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
The grave is not our goal. The words of Longfellow, “Dust thou art, to dust returnest was not spoken of the soul.” There is joy in knowing that “the best is yet to be.”
Don’t allow either the world’s problems or its promise of carnal pleasure to rob you of the “joy of faith. Embrace and imbibe Jesus’ assurance “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn. 15:13).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman