Summary: Most of us would say that we are joyful when something good happens to us or someone we love. But the source of our joy does not come from circumstances. Learn where the real sources of joy come from.
Where does joy come from? Probably most of us would say that we are joyful when something good happens to us or someone we love. That would be a mistake. The source of our joy does not come from circumstances. Such thinking results in up and down Christians - dependant on the whims of the moment for whether you are in the depths or on the heights.
Paul gives us the keys to joy here in chapter 3. He says:
Be joyful yet watchful - of those that would lure you to have confidence in your ability or your pedigree.
Have no confidence in yourself - but have all confidence in the Lord - to know Him (all of Him - joys & sorrows) and to join with Him in this process of making you like Him.
Watch as your example, not those who are against the cross, but those who have gone before you killing the flesh, but giving life to the Spirit.
1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Paul just got finished talking about himself and Epaphroditus - both ill or in danger. You could really get discouraged hearing this - maybe this "serving the Lord" thing isn’t so great - it leads to sadness. "Not so!" says Paul. Instead he says: REJOICE!
Paul is saying "you have cause for rejoicing because you are in Jesus!" That fact changes how we view life and how we experience life.
In the next chapter Paul is going to say "Rejoice in the Lord always, and I again I say rejoice." How can that be when so much bad comes at us? Because our bedrock is our relationship with Jesus.
Romans 8:37-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And notice how Paul says that it is a safeguard for him to write to them again about these things. Circumstances have a way of building up on us - like slowly getting your feet buried in the sand next to the ocean - and we forget about the joy and concentrate instead on the rising sand. We need reminders like this all the time!
So we’re going to look at 2 things not to get joy from - and 7 sources of joy. Paul gives us this reminder - to be joyful - as a "safeguard." It’s a safeguard from despair, discouragement, delusion, and deception. Does it mean we will never be sad? No. It means that no matter what happens you have something to lean on.
Joy means "calmly happy." I’m not talking about always having a smile on your face and laughing and joking and "Praise God everything’s GREAT!"
In fact, James tells us to weep with those who weep. We are not Stepford Christians. What we’re talking about is your foundation - what do you lean on, what informs your life and your experience. There is a calm happiness knowing that no matter what terrible circumstances you face, you are held fast in the mighty hands of God.
John 10:28-30 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand . 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one."
First - where not to look for joy:
You won’t receive joy from legalism
2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh- 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
The true circumcision is that of the heart (Romans 2:29) by the Spirit - as you repent and believe.
We WORSHIP the Spirit - GLORY in Christ, put NO CONFIDENCE in the flesh.
- Worship by the Spirit is another way to put it - because we believe God’s Spirit comes into our hearts and we cry "Abba" - a new relationship
- Glory in Christ - or "exalt" in Christ - He did it all, we did nothing
- Our flesh is legalistic righteousness - don’t depend on it!
Legalism brings temporary joy - you accomplished something so God ought to love you more. But that only lasts until your next mistake. Circumcising your heart - that you know in your flesh dwells no good thing - then glorying in Jesus’ righteousness for you and in you by His Spirit - that is permanent joy.