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Joy Isn’t Happiness (Fortunately)

July 1, 2015

Dear friends,

It seems a bit strange that in my sermon series on Philippians, I didn’t elaborate on the phrase that most people associate the most with Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” I hope nobody interpreted that as meaning I don’t think those words are important – on the contrary: they’re so important that I would need a whole sermon to do it justice, and I simply didn’t have time. I have scheduled another Sunday for that theme; until then, here are a few thoughts on the topic!

“Rejoicing in the Lord” is different from just being happy. Happiness is based on what’s going on around you, and how you’re feeling; joy is a more permanent condition, based on facts rather than circumstances – the marvellous truth of forgiveness and eternal life because of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus!

“Rejoicing in the Lord” applies even when things go wrong. James is very specific: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2) – how do we do this? Isn’t he asking a bit too much? Yes, absolutely – if he was talking about happiness. But he’s not telling us to “be happy”; he’s saying: “the testing of your faith produces perseverance” which will lead to greater maturity.

We can rejoice in adversity a) because God is in it with us, and b) because God will use it for his purposes. This rejoicing isn’t always easy – sometimes because our self gets in the way, sometimes simply because adversity isn’t fun – but the Bible promises that it’s worth it. I can’t say I’m very good at it; but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can grow in maturity and faith – and that should surely help us rejoice better as well!


From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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