Series: "CHOOSE JOY" • Pastor David R. Stokes
Today: "MY FELLOW CITIZENS..."
for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courageso that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Choosing to be joyful at all times and in all circumstances should be a top priority for all of us. But it’s not easy. Yes, supernatural power is available—the power of the Holy Spirit—but that will not “kick in” in practical terms unless and until we take the first step by faith. That step is simply to CHOOSE JOY. We must consciously and deliberately counteract our default tendency to discouragement and despair by rejecting those toxic experiences.
So, choosing joy is a definite step of faith. In fact, it is directly tied to and flows from the wonderful Biblical concept of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. That’s the powerful truth that changed the course of human history centuries ago in a little thing called THE REFORMATION.
As we’ve already learned in this series, HAPPINESS and JOY may be close “cousins” but they are not identical twins. Happiness is based on what’s “happening,” while joy can and should be our experience even when what’s happening stinks.
As I write these words, I am several hundred miles away from Fairfax and will be speaking in a bit to a group of church leaders who need some encouraging. They are not happy. But they can be joyful.
One of the things that inspires joy and drives it along in our hearts is HOPE. Think about it, we tend to be most discouraged when we feel like things are hopeless. Well, what the Apostle Paul share with the church at Philippi centuries ago—and us all these years later—is that because we have ULTIMATE HOPE, we can experience OVERFLOWING JOY.
By the way, I gave a simple outline for the Book of Philippians last Sunday. In case you missed it, here it is again:
CHAPTER ONE: Christ Should Be Our LIFE
CHAPTER TWO: Christ Should Be Our MIND
CHAPTER THREE: Christ Should Be Our GOAL
CHAPTER FOUR: Christ Should Be Our STRENGTH
Have I experimented yet with the idea of CHOOSING JOY even when I didn’t feel like it?
What has been the most UNHAPPY experience of my life?
How might I have chosen JOY instead of sadness in that moment?