Hello and thanks for reading my blog! If this is your first time, welcome and glad you are here. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that for that last week I started a series of posts about the elusive quest for joy that we are all on and which can be summed up with this simple question:
Why is everything amazing but nobody’s happy?
I wrote two posts last week exploring 2 myths about joy that we tend to hold on to in today’s world. To refresh your memory or to catch you up, so far we have:
- I cannot be happy unless I’ve got it all together
- I can’t be happy unless my circumstances are right
Today, I want to explore the third and final myth and once again get Paul’s perspective on it based on his writings in the Bible in the book of Philippians. I want to get Paul’s take on joy because here was a guy who had absolutely no reason to be joyful when he was writing Philippians, I mean he was living in prison in chains, and yet as we read over and over again in this letter, he was filled with nothing but joy.
So are you ready for the last myth that we, as a society, hold on to about joy so we can see what Paul thinks about it? Here it is:
3) I can’t be happy unless I’m out of danger
It’s hard to feel safe in this post-9/11 world that we live in, isn’t it? When on a daily basis we hear about terrorist attacks and school shootings, home invasions and plane crashes, sometimes the danger can feel very real and like tragedy is right around the corner.
Paul could certainly relate to this kind of fear considering he didn’t know on any given day whether or not that day would be the day he was going to die. Remember Paul had been imprisoned by the Romans for believing in Jesus Christ and the Romans tended to do some very nasty things to people who didn’t agree with them. For example:
- They would have them beaten with whips that had metal pieces tied to them.
- They beat their prisoners 40 lashes minus one because that one extra lash was said to be the one that would cause death.
(Have you heard the phrase, “beaten to within an inch of your life.” That phrase is literally 2000 years old and it’s referring to what Roman’s did to their prisoners and by the way, that actually happened to Paul 5 times.)
- The writer of the book of Mark was dragged behind a chariot for two days by the Roman’s because they were unhappy with him. One day to kill him and the other day to make him an example to other Christians.
- The Roman emperor Nero had Christians sewn into animal skins, like that of a bear or a deer, then released dogs who would subsequently chase, kill and then eat them.
How did Paul deal with this very real possibility of death? Look with me at Philippians 1:18-24
18I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Paul was imprisoned. He was seen as an enemy of the state. He lived with the constant threat of death. Yet this was the statement that defined his life. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Through this I will continue to rejoice. Crazy, right?
[bctt tweet=”To live is Christ, to die is gain.” username=”canyon_springs”]
Wouldn’t you like to have this kind of joy that Paul had? He didn’t have to have it all together to be happy. He could be imperfect and incomplete. He didn’t have to have all his circumstances lined up to be happy. He could be locked in jail, chained to a prison guard and find it. He didn’t even have to be safe to be happy. His joy was found elsewhere. He found it in Jesus.
Did you get that? I think that’s worth repeating. If we look to Jesus for our joy and here’s what he will bring us:
- Joy that can happen when your life is incomplete
- Joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances
- Joy that can exist even when your life is threatened
Yes, you may ask, but how do we do that? How do we look to Jesus for joy in this world where everything’s so amazing but nobody’s happy? I have 3 practical suggestions for you to help you do just that:
1) Do a technology fast
In case you haven’t noticed, we are dependent on cell phones and TVs and computers and cars and all the latest technology has to offer for our joy. Sure they are fun for a while, but that fun quickly fades.
To find out how dependent you are on your phone and computer and Facebook and Instagram for your joy, cut it out for a couple days, maybe even a week, including reading this blog (yikes!). It might be eye opening to find out how dependent you are on it.
2) Be on the lookout for something to be joyful about today
Our tendency is to look at everything that is wrong in the world and the problem with that is there is always something wrong. Shift your focus this week. Instead of noticing the what’s wrong, try focusing on the good instead of the bad. Maybe it’s a conversation with a friend. Maybe it’s a moment of laughter. Maybe its a time of prayer when God opens up your thinking and you get some perspective. In the hard and difficult, find something good.
3) Write the end of your story
Take time this week to write out the good that God can bring from the difficult time you’re walking through. How is God maturing you? How will you be able to help others as a result of this situation.
So now, friends, go out there and turn to Jesus and find your joy! Until next time….
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