Summary: Most people spend their lives searching for happiness. Joyful living is optimal. Sermon explores four ways how to have a joyful life.
How to Have A Joyful Life
If you ask people what they want out of life, they will tell you that they just want to be happy. I wonder this means. Think about a moment. What makes you happy? Personally, all the things that make me happy are dependent on other people, and other things that are often beyond my control. For example, I love watching my favorite sports teams play ball. But, I’m only really happy when they win. My happiness is conditional. I’m happy spending time with my family, however, it’s no picnic in paradise when all six kids are complaining, whining, and fighting. Again, my happiness is conditional. As a general rule, people are happy when things are going their way and they get frustrated when things are beyond their control. That’s why it is more important to lead a joyful life rather than a happy life.
Joy is not conditional but is a wonderful byproduct of the Christian faith rooted in trust in God. Joy is something that can last forever and it is directly related to amount of our lives that we turn over to Christ. Christian joy is the internal satisfaction that we get when we are confident that God is in control of everything. Joy trusts God to guide us for our own good and for His glory. Our only true source of joy is God because everything else disappoints. Only God can be trusted, only God can deliver all the time, and only God is dependable. Everything else is temporal and is subject to failure. Christian joy is an inner peace and is our personal strength. The prophet Nehemiah (8:10) writes, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” St. Peter of Damaskos reflects on Psalm 77:3, “I remembered God, and rejoiced,” and explains that Christian joy depends on our relationship with God. When we focus on Him, we forget about the afflictions of this world and place our hope in Him. Joy is having the right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is living an obedient life in Christ and experiencing the “inner peace” of the Holy Spirit. Joyful living is the fruit of the highest form of Christian existence.
Today I want to explore the Epistle of Joy from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:4-9 and learn the four ways that we can have a joyful life.
First Way to Have a Joyful Life – Live in Moderation, Gentleness and Forbearance
We cannot enjoy God’s inner peace and receive His joy unless we live graciously. The Greek word, epiekes is translated as “gentle spirit” or forbearance. It means that we are tolerant of others; it can also mean that we are gracious. Gentleness is exhibiting generosity, tolerance, friendliness, and charity to people that fail us and forgiveness and leniency to those who wrong us. This gracious humility is learning to be content when we are mistreated, suffer injustice, or are persecuted. It is the opposite of self-love. In today’s society, we want revenge and “pop off” when we are wronged. We quickly anger and these “hot” emotions demonstrate our soul’s depravity. Angry feelings upset the soul, they rob us of our inner peace and joy, and shift our focus from serving God to satisfying our wounded ego. I understand that it’s hard to have forbearance in our world especially during rush hour on Atlanta’s freeways. That’s why we must live in gentleness and moderation. We cannot let our negative thoughts get the best of us. Fortunately, St. Paul conveniently reminds us that God is near. He is watching us and is near enough to encourage, strengthen, and help us through our trials. God is also near enough to hold us accountable for our actions. For example, school children are generally well behaved when their teacher is present. What happens, however, when the teacher steps out for a moment and the children are left in the classroom alone? Chaos ensues. Troublemaking kids seize control and take over because the teacher is not there to hold them directly accountable for their actions. Even though we are God’s children, let’s not be like young children who are left alone. Our Lord is near and sees all our actions. Therefore, let us receive His love, His encouragement, and His peace so that we are guided by His gentle Spirit rather than by our self-determination. Remember this the next time you are in heavy traffic.
Second Way to Have a Joyful Life – Don’t Worry
Most of us have come to the conclusion that worrying and anxiety are part of life. For example, it’s common that people discuss their “meds” and other treatments used to calm them down during the day. Hypertension and high blood pressure are external signs that we are stressed out and can’t cope because things are out of control. Instead of enjoying the fruits of a victorious, inspiring Christian life, we dwell on all the things that can go wrong. Our anxiety blocks a joyful life because our minds are captive to troublesome thoughts. Worrying shifts our focus to personal needs, and it distracts us from serving God and others. Fortunately, our Lord wants to release us from this anxiety. St. Paul understood our tendency to worry and tells us to bring our problems to God. He uses four different terms to describe the prayers we bring to God about our needs. The first is from the Greek word proseuchi. It is used for general prayer, is found throughout the New Testament, and needs no explanation. Supplication or deesis is prayer in special times of need. Thanksgiving prayer or eucharistia looks back to previous answers to prayer where God helped in similar situations. For example, it’s something like this: “Lord, we are grateful that you look after our Atlanta Falcons each week and you helped them win three weeks ago with an important touchdown and last minute field goal when they were seven points down. Well, Lord today they are only two points behind, and we know that you helped them pull through before. Can you help us out again?” Remember these thanksgiving prayers next season. Finally, requests or aitimata are prayers that refer to specific requests for specific needs.