How To Be Joyful All The Time
KEN RAMEY '86
John Henry Jowett, one of the most admired preachers of the early 20th century who pastored churches on both sides of the pond, wrote the following: “Christian joy has no relationship to the transient setting of life, and, therefore, it is not the victim of the passing day... One day I am at the wedding; the next day I stand by an open grave. One day, in my ministry, I win ten converts for the Lord, and then, for a long stretch of days, I never win one. Yes, the days are as changeable as the weather, and yet ... Christian joy can be persistent. Where lies the secret of its glorious per- sistency?” The answer to this question posed by that godly minister is found in the last chapter of Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi. CHRISTIAN JOY CAN BE PERSISTENT. WHERE LIES THE SECRET OF ITS GLORIOUS PERSISTENCY? In Philippians 4:4, Paul said, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Rejoicing, or being joyful, is one of the main themes of the book (1:18, 2:17-18; 3:1). As he concluded his thoughts, Paul repeated his favorite exhortation, “rejoice in the Lord”, twice for greater emphasis. He was literally saying, “keep on rejoicing.” In other words, “Be joyful or be cheerful not some of the time, or even most of time, but all the time.” It is easy to rejoice when our health is good and our marriage is good and our kids are doing good and our career is going good and our bank account is looking good. But it is much more difficult to rejoice when things aren’t going good.
Trials and sorrows and setbacks and dis- appointments and broken expectations in life make it hard to be joyful. Nevertheless, God commands us throughout His Word to maintain a joyful attitude no matter what happens to us (1 Thess. 5:16; James 1:2; Mt. 5:11-12; Lk. 6:22-23; Acts 5:41; 1 Pet. 4:12-13). Our joy should remain constant in the ups and downs of life. Paul himself was a great example of what it looks like to rejoice no matter what. He remained joyful when persecuted, slandered, falsely accused, mistreated, arrested, imprisoned, and even when he was facing the threat of martyrdom for the cause of Christ. Nothing could steal his joy because he was convinced that all the difficult circumstances he experienced ultimately served to advance the cause of Christ (Col. 1:24). Paul singing with Silas in the Philippian jail epitomized the joy he expressed in all his letters and served as a microcosm of his life and ministry (cf. Acts 16:23-34). What we learn from Paul is that joy is not a mood or an emotion that is based on our feelings, circumstances, or surroundings. Biblical joy is based on what we know to be true about God regardless of how we are feeling or what we are facing. BIBLICAL JOY IS BASED ON WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE ABOUT GOD You might be wrestling with how it is possi- ble to be joyful when you are facing circum- stances and situations that aren’t enjoyable (i.e. death, illness, divorce, layoff, rebellious child, etc.). Notice Paul didn’t exhort us to rejoice in our circumstances, but to rejoice
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