So your team won last Sunday? You found extra cash stuffed in a jacket? You were contacted by an old friend and experienced a great stroll down memory lane? A debt was forgiven? You sense spring is just around the corner? You just missed sliding off the icy road? Your child said, "thank you?"
Depending on your outlook on life, many of these situations have the opportunity to bring you "happiness." "Happiness" is usually the result of things that have "happened." But there is something deeper to experience than happiness. It is called JOY. Meanings are often blurred when people declare, "I am happy!" or "I am full of joy!" But there is a depth in living out joy when our "happenings" are less than favorable.
In the Bible, the apostle Paul writes a letter to a church in Philippi around 62 AD. He planted this church 10 years prior and was reflecting on the mutual loving relationships that were formed. Paul had been brought to Rome and was in prison awaiting a trial and possible execution for preaching the message of Jesus Christ. He had always longed to preach in Rome, but he probably had never thought that his energy would be spent in sharing about Jesus to the prison guards who where chained to him and writing letters which make up part of the Bible.
You are most likely thinking this was not a happy time for Paul, but amazingly so in the midst of this situation he shares reasons why he can rejoice and be joyful. In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul rejoices in his sufferings because Christ is being preached (1:15-18). Even as he faces death he says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (1:21). Paul then challenges them to find joy through serving others just as Jesus Christ came to serve others (2:1-5). In the third chapter Paul encourages people to experience the ultimate joy of a life of being connected to Jesus (3:1). Paul concludes with a summary to "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (4:4).
I know when faced with hard times it is not easy to see the joy that God does offer, but I have been sustained by this type of joy as God has shown up in amazing ways. The recipe for joy comes from being in relationship with Jesus Christ who gives people the power to have joy in times of suffering, to experience joy when serving others, and to have joy in knowing God. People need this kind of joy that is not just dependent on what is happening to them. It is interesting that many times, you will see people who call themselves followers of Christ and they seem to be rather miserable than joyful. God offers joy that can change your whole outlook on life. Are you experiencing this joy?
The River Covenant Church meets on Sundays at 10 AM at the Kenai Boys & Girls Club at 705 Frontage Road in Kenai. Pastor Frank Alioto also serves as a chaplain with Central Emergency Services and can be reached at 252-2828 or on the web at therivercovenantchurch.org.
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