Return to Joy

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times.  Phil. 4:4 (Phillips Translation)

We began this series, “In and Out of Season:  A Call to Return” with admonitions from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea to “Return to Repentance” and “Return to Faithfulness”.  Both teachings acknowledged our “bentness to sin” and our responsibility as individuals, the Church, and a nation to repent and come back to God.  We learned in “Return to Your First Love” that God’s love for us never changes in spite of our shortfalls and failures.  It is up to us to move back into loving relationship with Him.   This week, we close our series with an invitation to “Return to Joy.”

What is Joy?

Joy is defined as gladness of heart and is listed among the top five things[1] people desperately want in life yet “never seem to be able to get”.  Joy’s illusiveness, in many cases, is the result of people’s tendency to define joy as external to themselves—a person, place, or thing.  This conviction holds to the belief that joy is only possible when certain outcomes are achieved and is generally expressed in phrases like:  “I’ll have joy when…” or “The only thing that will make me happy is…”

Joy under Attack

As we survey the world we live it, gladness of heart is under attack.  Our attempts to navigate 21st century living seem more daunting and challenging with each new day.  Financial worries served as a significant source of stress ranking higher than three other major sources of stress: work, family responsibilities, and health concerns.  So how can we find joy?   The Apostle Paul shares the secret of not only how to find joy but also how to return to it in spite of the pressures we might face.  Paul invites the Philippians (and us) to “delight in the Lord…find you joy in Him at all times.”

Source of Joy

Paul exhorts the Church at Philippi to holy joy and delight in God.  Paul reminds the Philippian believers of their duty and privilege to rejoice in God—at all times and in all conditions—even when they suffered and were afflicted for God.

We too must not think the worst of God during our hardships or difficulties.  There is enough in God to furnish us with joy even in the worst of circumstances.  David prayed to God that He would not take His Spirit away and acknowledged that “in God’s presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  Jesus prepared His Disciples for the Great Commission by teaching them how “to live in The Vine”—in Jesus’ holy presence (John 15:5-11).  Jesus shared this with His Disciples so that “His joy would remain in them and be full”— complete or perfect in every way. (v. 11)

Returning to Joy

It is God’s desire that we return to joy regardless of life’s circumstances or difficulties.  Jesus describes these as “tribulations” (John 16:33).  Tribulations and trials are “natural outcomes” believers suffer as a result of living in a fallen world.

Returning to joy strengthens our resolve and helps us to continue with the purpose God has set before us (Nehemiah 8:10).  Such strength can only come from Eternal God Who sustains us through the worst of circumstances.   When we come into the presence of the Lord, we connect with His great and eternal power that exceeds anything we can do in our own strength (Phil.  4:13).

We as believers are invited to claim the power and victory that come from serving God who is sovereign and who has overcome the world (Ps. 119:89-91).  Isn’t it time for you to return to joy?

Also Read, “A Closet Full of Joy, Part 1”

[1]  Top 5 include:   Happiness, Money, Freedom, Peace, Joy

 

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