Laughter is infectious. Beautiful. When we hear laughter, we want to join. We want to be happy. We want to enjoy good things. Laughter means life is good.
But when life is hard when everything's not okay, when laughter is absent and darkness surrounds, can life truly be good? Our women just finished studying the book of Philippians--the book of joy, the book written from prison, by a man in shackles, in need, without status, without means...and the most significant word, over and over, is joy.
Each week we addressed our natural reactions to difficult situations: fear, hopelessness, pessimism, self-pity, complaining, selfishness, loneliness, boasting, strife, anxiety, clutching and clinging. Paul had every right, in our way of thinking, to fall into each of these, but he refutes each with a simple truth: faith.
Because God is wise enough and big enough to use everyone and everything for His purpose, Paul didn't resent the chains or attached guards (Phil. 1:12-13). He didn't suggest that those who preached Christ as a means of harming him be silenced, he encouraged the proclamation of Jesus (Phil. 1:18)--and rejoiced (1:18).
Because God is sovereign over both today and eternity, Paul trusted God with his death...and life (Phil. 1:21) which would bring more rejoicing (2:25-26).
Because Christ is at work in all believers, he entrusted them with one another in his absence (Phil. 2:3-5)--and rejoiced (2:2).
Because God took care of Jesus at all times, including His crucifixion, Paul did not complain in his own sufferings (Phil. 1:29-30, 2:17), but rejoiced (2:18).
Because God uses Christians to minister to one another, Paul sent away a dear friend, knowing God would use him to serve and bring joy to others (Phil. 2:28), resulting in the joy of many (2:28).
Because God doesn't measure success apart from faith in Christ, Paul each one to press on regardless of what lay behind (Phil. 3:14-15). What cause for joy! (3:1, 3).
Because the Lord is near, truly near, we can have peace in the most difficult situations (Phil. 4:5-6). Paul didn't worry or fret, he prayed and rejoiced (4:4, 7).
Because God met his every need, Paul chose to wait on God in want and in plenty (Phil. 4:12). Either way, God's faithfulness was a reason to rejoice (4:10).
The Christian life is full of joy, can be full of joy, despite the mundane, the cloudy, the difficult. What we believe about God is evident in our attitudes, choices--and joy (or lack of it) which means joy is not the result of circumstances, but of....faith. What we believe is betrayed by how we live.
Need joy? Ask God to increase your faith...read His Word (faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). Then live it.