Rejoice in the Lord | Philippians 3:1
Brian Hedges | July 5, 2020
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Philippians 3. We’re continuing our series on the book of Philippians, and I think we’re about 12 weeks in now, and we’ve called this series “To Live Is Christ.” It’s one of Paul’s great letters, one of his prison epistles, as he writes this letter from prison in Rome to the church in Philippi that he had founded about ten years prior. This morning we’re turning a corner as we begin a new chapter in Philippians; we’re going to read chapter 3:1.
Before we read there, let me just tell you a little anecdote from probably about five or six years ago in our family. When our little girl, Abby, was just about three years old, she used to say to her older brother Stephen that she wanted to “get happy.” What she meant by that was that she wanted him to grab her by the hands and twirl her around until they were just both dizzy and collapsed on the floor in a fit of laughter.
This morning I want us to “get happy,” and I’m not going to do that by twirling you around the room, but we are going to get into Scripture, and we’re going to see what Scripture has to teach us about joy, about what Scripture says regarding happiness. You know, C.S. Lewis one time said that "joy is the serious business of heaven." And there is something really compelling about Christian joy, and we need to understand that, we need to experience that and to discover that. The passage we’re going to read this morning is all about that.
So let’s read it, Philippians 3, and actually we’re just looking at one verse. I was originally going to look at several, but as I started working on this I realized that I needed verse 1 and just needed to meditate on that and apply that, and it seems like it would be a good thing for all of us to do. So we’re just taking one verse this morning, Philippians 3:1. This is what Paul says.
“Finally, my brothers—” and that could read “my brothers and sisters.” That Greek word adelphoi can embrace both. “Finally, my brothers [and sisters], rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Let’s just stop right there, and I just want to focus on that initial opening command, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.”
Now, as you know if you’re a student of the book of Philippians, joy is a running theme through this letter. In fact, if you look up every time that Philippians uses the words “joy” or “rejoice,” you’ll see that it pops up a number of times. Paul has already talked about his own joy, the fact that he’s rejoicing. Even though he’s in prison, he’s able to rejoice in the Lord, and now he’s commanding the Philippian church to rejoice in the Lord, and he will do that in again in chapter 4:4, when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” So at least three times in this letter Paul commands believers to rejoice in the Lord.
This is obviously important to the apostle Paul, and I think it’s important for us. I want us to just think about it this morning. We’re going to break it down into four steps. We’re going to look at the grace of joy, the duty of joy, the sphere of joy, and the way of joy. By the time we get to the end we’re going to get really practical and I’m going to give you half-a-dozen ways or so to cultivate joy in your life. But we need to understand what joy is, where it comes from, and why it is our responsibility to be happy Christians.
I. The Grace of Joy
Let’s begin by looking at, first of all, the grace of joy. Paul begins by saying, “Finally, my brothers [and sisters], rejoice in the Lord.” By “finally,” he’s just moving onto the next thing; he’s not about to end the letter. He’s moving onto the next thing, and the adjective can carry that idea as he’s moving on in his argument, in his exhortations.
He says, “My brothers [and sisters], rejoice in the Lord.” The first thing to note here is that he’s speaking to believers. This is something he is saying to the church. He’s talking to those who know Christ, who believe in Jesus Christ. He’s speaking to those for whom God has already begun a work and will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. He’s speaking to those who in chapter 2:12 he says that it is God who is at work “in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” and he’s telling them, “Rejoice in the Lord.”
When the older writers such as the Puritans and Reformers would talk about the inward affections and dispositions of the heart, such as love or peace or joy or humility, they would often call them “graces.” They would call them the graces of the Spirit, these inward, habitual dispositions and affections of the heart. So that’s why I’m calling this the grace of joy. It reminds us that this joy is something distinct from mere happiness that just anyone can have. It reminds us that this joy is actually the product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
You remember that in Galatians 5 Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit, and when he begins to list them off, second on the list is joy. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” Here, he is talking about joy as well, as he commands these believers to rejoice in the Lord.
Let’s back up and do a quick definition. The words here—the word “joy” would be the noun form that relates to the verbal form of “rejoice” here in this verse. The noun “joy,” kara, means an experience of gladness. So there is an emotional component to this. It’s not mere emotion, but it includes what we feel, it includes the emotions, the affections of the heart. The word “rejoice,” chairo, means to be in a state of happiness or of wellbeing. It means to rejoice or to be glad.
Tim Keller defines joy in this way. He says, “It is delight in God for the beauty and worth of who he is.” He says, “The opposite of such joy is hopelessness or despair, but there is also a counterfeit, and the counterfeit is elation that rests in blessings, not the blesser, a joy that can be lost based on circumstances.”
In other words, this joy, Christian joy, is a grace of the Holy Spirit, it is a fruit, the product of the Spirit’s work in our hearts and our lives; it is a joy that is rooted in God himself, it is a joy that can only be experienced by the believer, it is distinctive of the believer, and it is a joy that can be distinguished from mere happiness that is based on outward circumstances.
In fact, when Paul writes this letter, he writes as one who is rejoicing, and remember, he’s writing as a suffering Christian. He’s writing from prison. Even while he’s in prison, even while he doesn’t know whether he’s going to live or die, he is able to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 6:10 he described himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” So this is a kind of joy that can actually coexist with sorrow, it can coexist with mourning, it can coexist with lament.
This is what John Newton described as “Solid joys and lasting pleasures / That none but Zion’s children know.” The grace of joy. The only way you can experience this joy is through the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit working and operating in your heart and in your life. The grace of joy.
II. The Duty of Joy
Secondly, notice also the duty of joy. This is a command. Paul says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” He’s commanding them to rejoice. Just as much as “You shall have no other gods before me” is a command that rests with obligation on your life to not commit idolatry, to not put anything before the God of the universe; so also the command to rejoice in the Lord rests with obligation.
C.S. Lewis one time said in one of his letters that “it is a Christian duty for every man to be as happy as he can.” Not just a little bit happy, but as happy as he can! It’s your duty as a Christian, the duty of joy.
I want you to see that this is a command that is pervasive in Scripture. Let me give you a few verses.
I’ve already read chapter 4:4, but let me read it again. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” He repeats it for emphasis, and the word “always” means “rejoice all the time.” Rejoice in good circumstances, in bad circumstances. Right? In sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer. Just think about your wedding vows, but you have an obligation in all of those circumstances to also rejoice in the Lord.
Or take 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which simply says, “Rejoice always.” Or take some of the Old Testament passages. Psalm 37:4 is both a command and a promise: “Delight yourself in the Lord [there’s the command], and he will give you the desires of your heart [there’s the promise].” Or Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing.”
In fact, if we just read through the Psalm and underlined every time you have the word “joy” or “rejoice” or “singing” or “gladness,” it would be almost overwhelming how many commands there are to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, even the command to praise the Lord implies a joy in our hearts that overflows in praise of God.
Another way the Scriptures teach this is through the images and the analogies and word pictures that the Bible uses to speak of God, because the Bible over and over again uses pictures of God and of Christ and of what God offers to be for us and uses pictures that speak of the joy and the delight and the satisfaction that is in God.
Years ago, when I first started reading the Puritans, one of the first Puritan authors I read was Thomas Brooks, who wrote a wonderful little book called An Ark for All Gods Noahs. Nobody would ever title a book that today, but it was a great book, and the title actually captured my attention. It’s only about 85 pages or so, and the whole book is about how God is the portion of his people, he is the inheritance of his people.
There was a section where Brooks is talking about what a satisfying portion God is, and this is what he says. He says, “To show what a satisfying portion God is, he has set forth by all those things that may satisfy the heart of man.” Think of the things that make our hearts glad, and Brooks lists them off. “...such as bread, water, wine, milk, honors, riches, houses, lands, friends, father, mother, sister, brother, health, wealth, light, and life.” Brooks says, “If these things will not satisfy, what will?”
Indeed, every time you read in Scripture that God is a fountain or that in God we have light or the light of life, or God is our stronghold, our refuge, our fortress (think about those different pictures of God), those are pictures that are telling us what God is for his people, and they beckon us to joy in God, to delight in God.
Another way that Scripture emphasizes the duty of rejoicing in God is by warning us of the consequences of not rejoicing in God. In fact, there is serious condemnation for those who do not find their satisfaction in God. The very heart of idolatry is to find satisfaction in something other than God, or in the place of God.
Listen to the prophet Jeremiah. He says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
In the ancient world, water was essential for life. It’s essential for life now, too, but oftentimes people would be dependent on a well, or if they didn’t have a well they would dig these holes in the ground, cisterns, and the cistern would catch rainwater, and they would depend upon that. The writer is saying that God’s people committed idolatry, and in doing that they forsook the fountain of living water, the living spring of water, who is God himself, and they dug out these cisterns, but the cisterns are broken, they can’t hold water; and to try to find our satisfaction in something else, to worship something other than God, is like trying to suck water out of a pit of dirt or mud in the ground, and we’re ignoring this inexhaustible supply, this fountain of living water.
That’s the essence of sin, it’s the heart of idolatry. So, for all these reasons, it is our duty, it is our responsibility to glorify God. We glorify God by rejoicing in him. It’s our duty to rejoice in him, and this is how we glorify him.
You may recognize the name John Piper, many of you. I’ve quoted him many times over the years. John Piper’s kind of famous for bringing these two things together, God’s glory and our joy. He says it this way in his well-known book Desiring God: “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.” When you are satisfied in him. In other words, the way to glorify God the most is to deeply enjoy him, to be satisfied in him.
Listen, this is also important because this will make you a happier person. To be happy in the Lord means that you’re going to be happier. To rejoice in the Lord means you’re going to experience more joy in your life and you’re going to experience more wellbeing in your life.
Listen to these words from G.K. Chesterton. He said, “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.” The permanent pulsation of the soul: praise, worship of God.
Now, listen, there is a place for mourning in our lives. I understand that. There’s a place for lament, there’s a place for sadness. It’s not wrong to grieve the loss of a loved one, it’s not wrong to mourn and lament over injustice in our world and in the land or when things are going terribly. We understand that, but yet, Christian joy can coexist with that sadness, so that we, like Paul, are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Let me give you two more reasons why joy is a duty. It’s also a duty for us because it’s essential to our holiness. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Have you ever noticed this, that when you are not happy in the Lord, when you are not satisfied in God, that you are more vulnerable to sin, you’re more vulnerable to temptation? You’re never more vulnerable to temptation than when you’re already miserable. That’s why people get addicted to things, right, because they’re seeking an escape, seeking a release, seeking some little measure of happiness in an otherwise miserable life. But when we are strong with the joy of the Lord, it will guard against those temptations. Matthew Henry said, “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”
Then also, joy is important, and it’s our duty, because it’s what commends the Christian faith to others. Listen, gloomy Christians are not a very good testimony for the God that we serve. If our God is really great, if he’s really good, then that should be reflected in the joy and in the worship of his people.
For all these reasons and more, joy is our duty. It’s a grace, and it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and yet we have a responsibility to cultivate that joy. The grace of joy, the duty of joy.
III. The Sphere of Joy
Now, thirdly, let’s think for a few minutes about the sphere of joy, or you could say the source of joy, or even the atmosphere of joy. Again, notice the specific words that Paul uses. He says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” Rejoice in the Lord. In other words, it is in the Lord that we find our joy, that we rejoice.
That language reminds us of a theme that we’ve already seen in Philippians, the theme of union with Christ. In fact, when Paul begins this letter, he writes, “To the saints who are in Christ Jesus.” In just a few verses, in chapter 3:3, he talks about those who boast in Jesus Christ, and then you get further into chapter 3 and he talks about himself, how he counted everything as loss that he might be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of [his] own that comes from the law,” but the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ. To be in Christ is essential for our joy. This is what it means to be a Christian, to be in Jesus, to be united to Jesus. Joy comes from that.
In John 17 you have the great high priestly prayer of Jesus, as it is often called. It’s Jesus praying to his Father the night before his crucifixion. He says some amazing things in that prayer, and I want to just read one verse, verse 13. He says, “But now I am coming to you [speaking to the Father], and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Just think about that for a minute. He says that the very reason he’s come into the world and the reason he has said what he said is that the disciples may have his joy fulfilled in them. In other words, the very joy of Jesus becomes our joy. His joy is fulfilled in us. That’s what it means to rejoice in the Lord; it means to have him as the source of our joy, the object of our joy. It means that he is the sphere in which we rejoice.
In fact, you might just think of it this way. Think of the word “atmosphere,” and think of what is essential in our atmosphere for us to have life. What do we need? We need oxygen, right? You need oxygen! You breathe oxygen, and that’s what sustains your life in so many ways. Jesus is the oxygen of joy!
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re in a room or in a building, and all of a sudden there were terrible fumes from a chemical? It’s kind of choking out the oxygen, and you just find yourself almost desperate for breath. Or have you ever been underwater for too long and you need to come up for air because you need to breathe? That’s the kind of desperation that we need for Jesus, because Jesus is the oxygen, the atmosphere of our joy.
Perhaps nobody put it better than Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of my great heroes of the faith. Spurgeon was a man who, though he suffered much, he was just characterized by mirth in his life. He was a very happy man. He struggled with depression and he suffered with all kinds of physical problems, but when you read his sermons and you read his devotionals and read the biographies, it’s pretty clear that Spurgeon was a buoyant, joyful, happy person who delighted greatly in the Lord.
In a sermon on Philippians 4:4, called “Joy, Our Duty,” Spurgeon describes what it means to rejoice in the Lord, and I think this is so good it’s worth reading. He says, “Rejoice in the Father, your Father who is in heaven, your loving, tender, unchangeable God. Rejoice, too, in the Son, your redeemer, your brother, the husband of your soul, your prophet, priest, and king. Rejoice also in the Holy Ghost, your quickener, your comforter, in whom who shall abide with you forever.” You see there how he’s rooting our joy in the doctrine of the Trinity. Rejoice in the Father, Son, and Spirit.
He says, “We cannot have too much of this joy in the Lord, for the great Jehovah is our exceeding joy.” Then he says, “If by ‘the Lord’ is meant the Lord Jesus,” which is what I think Paul means when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord,” I think he means rejoice in the Lord Jesus. So Spurgeon says, “If by ‘the Lord’ is meant the Lord Jesus, then let me invite, persuade, command you to delight in the Lord Jesus, incarnate in your flesh, dead for your sins, risen for your justification, gone into the glory claiming victory for you, sitting at the right hand of God interceding for you, reigning over all worlds on your behalf, and soon to come to take you up into his glory that you may be with him forever. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus; this is a sea of delight. Blessed are they that dive into its utmost depths.”
You get the whole gospel right there, don’t you? Rejoice in the Lord Jesus because of all he’s done for you, because of all he is to you. He is your prophet, priest, and king; he is your substitute, your Savior, your redeemer. He’s died for you, he’s raised for you, he reigns for you, he’s coming back for you! Rejoice in him. He is the sphere of our joy.
The psalmist said, “You make known to me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore,” and that’s fulfilled for us in Jesus. It’s in Jesus’ presence that there is fullness of joy.
IV. The Way of Joy
The grace of joy, the duty of joy, the sphere of joy. The big question, then, is how, right? So finally, the way of joy.
How do you live this kind of life? How do you cultivate joy in your heart and in your life so that you are growing in your delight in God, you’re growing in your gladness in God? I just want to give you half a dozen reasons, and I’m just going to kind of throw out the text and give you the reasons, and you can then think about this in terms of further application. I want to show you how Scripture connects some of our disciplines and responsibilities in the Christian life to joy. Okay? So the way of joy; let me give you six.
(1) First of all, abiding. Remember how Jesus in John 15 uses the illustration of a vine and the branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” and he says, “Abide in me.” “As a branch, unless it abides in the vine, can’t bear fruit, you can’t bear fruit unless you abide in me. Without me you can do nothing.”
Listen to what he says in verses 9-11. He says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love...” so obedience is part of this abiding. “...just as I have kept my Father’s commands and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
Again, it all comes down to this relationship of union and communion, of being in Christ—that’s union—and then abiding in Christ, remaining in Christ—that’s communion or fellowship. To put it another way, you could say it like this: in order for your joy to be full, you must live in ongoing, constant friendship with Jesus. We do that through prayer and we do that through a number of different spiritual disciplines and the means of grace, but it’s living close to Jesus Christ. The closer you live to Jesus, the more joy you’ll have. Abide in him.
(2) Another piece of this is believing (that’s number two). Listen to Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” It’s in believing that God fills you with joy. That’s what Paul is saying. In other words, you have to be trusting in his promises. You have to be believing in his word, you have to be trusting in him himself.
Peter says essentially the same thing in 1 Peter 1, and he’s writing to suffering, persecuted Christians, but he says to them, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” By believing in him, you’re filled with joy.
(3) So abiding, believing; then, number three, we could just say meditating. This is the Scripture component, meditating on the word of God. Remember the psalmist in Psalm 1: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Or take Psalm 19:8, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” God’s word makes our hearts glad.
Or take Psalm 119 (that longest of all psalms). I’ve just been reading in that this last week. Read through that psalm and just notice how many times it talks about delight or joy or rejoicing. Verse 16, “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Verse 111 says, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” Verse 162 says, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” Meditating on the word; that’s a key to rejoicing.
Have you heard of that great 19th-century pastor, the man that founded a wonderful orphanage, had this incredible ministry, George Mueller? George Mueller was a man who walked by faith, but it took him a long time to learn that to actually get his happy in the Lord he had to begin with Scripture.
He actually said in one place in his autobiography, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. In what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul?” he asked. “How shall we learn to enjoy God? I answer, this happiness is to be obtained through the study of the holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.”
If you want to be happy in the Lord, you’re going to have to be in the word of God. You’re going to have to be reading it, you’re going to have to be meditating on it, and you’re going to have to be delighting in him. In fact, even the way Paul words this first verse I think shows us this. He says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”
He’s reminding them of certain things. He’s going over the same things again and again. Why’s he doing it? It’s safe for them, he says. He’s going to go on and talk about other aspects of this, including a warning that we’ll look at next week, but one reason he’s writing what he writes is for them to rejoice. Truth leads to joy. The word of God leads to joy.
(4) So abiding, believing, meditating; number four, repenting. There is a crucial place for repentance in the life of the Christian. In fact, Martin Luther said, “The whole life of the Christian is to be one of repentance.”
What is repentance? Well, repentance is turning from sin, and sin is the great blocker of joy. In fact, if you were to say that Jesus in the presence of Christ is the oxygen for joy, sin is the opposite. Sin is a poisonous gas. It just chokes the life out of joy.
You might think of sin as the joy-killers in your life, the joy substitutes, the things that get in the way of real joy. The greatest unhappiness in your life at this moment is due to sin. I have found by experience, as I’m sure many of you have as well, that when I find myself on a downward spiral into old sin patterns, I can almost always trace it back to a lack of delighting in the Lord, a lack of fellowship with God, a lack of time with him. The way back is repentance.
You remember David in Psalm 51? He wrote this wonderful psalm after his repentance from committing adultery with Bathsheba. One of the things he says in Psalm 51 is, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” If joy is lacking in your life this morning, maybe one thing you need to do is some self-examination, and ask, “Where have you broken fellowship with God, and where is repentance needed?” Then turn from sin and turn to Christ.
(5) Number five would be gratitude, thanking God. That would include gratitude for both the big blessings of salvation, but also gratitude for the little things, the ordinary blessings of life, even what we might call the “creature comforts,” the created blessings of life. It’s right for us to rejoice in the Lord in those things, to thank God for those things and let that lead us to deeper joy in him.
The psalmist understood this in Psalm 104:14-15. “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”
Now, here’s this psalmist living in the ancient world, and he’s looking at just some of the staples of life for the person in the ancient world and is saying that God gave these things to gladden the heart of man, to give him strength. I think you could say of every innocent pleasure, of every created good, of every blessing that genuinely comes to us from the hand of God, that it is right for us to be glad for them, as long as we can thank God for them and we can then let those pleasures lead us back to God, the great giver of all blessings.
C.S. Lewis has helped me a lot on this. He says in his book Letters to Malcolm that we are to “make every pleasure into a channel of adoration.” He uses a wonderful analogy. He said it’s like walking through the woods, and you’re deep into the woods with this thick coverage of trees overhead, but there’s patches of sunlight on the ground. You can see the sunlight and trace the beam up through the leaves of the tree, back up to the sun. He says that "pleasures are patches of God-light in the woods of our experience," and we have to learn to chase the sunbeam back up to the Sun.
This is what that looks like practically: it means that when you are enjoying the rich blessings of friendship—maybe you’re sitting around a table for a wonderful meal and you’re enjoying some of your deepest friends in life and there’s laughter and there’s fun and there’s camaraderie, that in those moments you thank God for that blessing, and then you remind yourself, “If friendship with John (or whoever) is this good, how good must be the God who is the friend of sinners.”
Or, when you take a needed drink of ice-cold water on a hot day when you’ve been mowing the yard, and the one thing you need is to quench your thirst—I mean, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as that—when you drink that water, remind yourself that if this taste of water is so good, how good and how great must be the God who created thirst, who created water, the God who is the fountain of living waters, and who can satisfy my soul thirst.
Listen, every created good can be traced back up to the giver of that good. They are patches of God-light in the woods of our experience.
(6) So, gratefulness, gratitude to God; and then, finally, let me give you one more. For this, think of the word hope, hoping in the Lord, and especially hoping in what is yet to come. Even in the midst of our suffering, we’re looking ahead to what God is yet to do.
Listen to Romans 5. Paul says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings...” We rejoice in hope, we rejoice in our sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
In other words, even in the midst of suffering, we are looking ahead, we’re looking to the future, we’re looking to the new world that God will create, the new heavens and the new earth, when Jesus comes again and he makes all things new. That’s a source of joy. That’s a means, a way of cultivating joy in the Lord.
All of these ways—abiding, believing, meditating, repenting, thanking God, hoping in the Lord—all of these are ways to cultivate joy in our lives. Let me just ask you this morning, what is your happiness level? What is your joy level? Think about your basic disposition, your basic attitude over the last seven days. Have you been rejoicing in the Lord rather than moaning and groaning and complaining? Are you basically happy as a person? Are you satisfied in God?
This morning, the call from Scripture is to rejoice in the Lord, and if you’ve never discovered the joy that can be found in Jesus Christ, then maybe today will be the day when you discover for the first time Jesus, that treasure in the field, the one who is the source of our greatest joy.
Let me end with these words from a great hymn-writer who said,
“Jesus, priceless treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me,
Long my heart hath panted
Till it well-nigh fainted
Thirsting after thee.
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb;
I will suffer naught to hide thee,
Ask for naught beside thee.”
Our gracious, merciful God, we thank you for your word. We thank you for the possibility of joy, of such deep joy that your word commends to us, that it holds out to us. We thank you for the challenge of your word. This is a challenging passage to us, because it forces us to examine our hearts and to ask what is the source of our happiness, what are we depending on. We thank you for the hope that is in your word, that even we who have so often not rejoiced in you can, through the power of your Spirit, find joy in Jesus Christ. I pray that that would be the case this morning.
Father, as we come to the Lord’s table, may it be a time of renewed fellowship with the Lord Jesus. May we learn to live in union and in communion with him, with our eyes set on you and on your word, believing your promises, hoping in your mercy. So draw near to us in these moments as we draw near to you, minister to us by your Spirit, we pray in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.