“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.”
I cannot recall how many times I have been told that happiness and joy are not the same thing. While I definitely agree with this statement, I also cannot tell you how many times I confuse the two. Happiness is based on outward circumstances, while joy is based on the deep knowledge and relationship with the one, true, loving God of the universe. Martin makes the following statement to more clearly define joy: “Joy as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) is no evanescent emotional quality, exalting us one moment and deserting us the next.”[i] This statement clearly explains the fact that joy is not an outward emotional experience based on circumstances. The source of joy is the Lord. Even if we had nothing else, He would be enough of a reason to be joyful because of His character and the countless wonderful acts He has done for us! While that is definitely true, it is sometimes a hard fact to remember in the face of discouraging circumstances. Consider the following statement by Bockmuehl, as he describes the source of our joy: “Such joy is the fruit, not of circumstances, but of the Spirit of the Lord (Gal. 5:22): It derives from what he has done from them in the past, from his presence with them now, and from hope in the promise of his coming (Rom. 12:12).”[ii] What a reason to rejoice!
As women, I think it is safe to say that many of us have a tendency to be emotional, sometimes overly so. My husband and I often laugh about how overly dramatic I can be at times. As soon as I am dramatic over something, all he has to do is look at me with a certain expression, and I already know that my dramatic outburst was probably unnecessary (but it made my point so much clearer, right?)! As I become emotional over any given situation that I probably have blown out of proportion, my husband is quick to notice my extremes of emotional ups and downs to gently refocus me on the Lord instead of my circumstances.
In his commentary on Philippians, Ben Witherington III explains different Greek words that were used in Philippians. Greek is the original language of the New Testament. Greek is such a complex language! He explains that the verb used for the English word “rejoice” is in the present continual tense, which means that it is ongoing action. He also makes the following statement to explain the verb usage: “It is clear that Paul believes that the ongoing living presence of Christ in the believers life is a source of all sorts of things, including a sort of joy that even negative circumstances cannot take away, nor can they give such joy. Notice that rejoicing is not optional for a Christian; it is commanded.”[iii]
TRUTH #1: Believers have a command to rejoice, and it does not just apply in pleasant times, but in every circumstance.
APPLICATION: People often use the phrase that something can “steal their joy”. Is that really possible if joy is a fruit of the Spirit that all believers are promised to have? The better question might be: Are you living in the Spirit, and is there evidence of the fruit of joy in your life? If so, what are some ways that you could encourage other women to do the same? If not, what are some specific prayers and disciplines you can commit to in order to pursue a joy-filled life?
FUTHER STUDY: Read Philippians 2:5-12, and pray with a grateful heart about how much the Lord has done for us! Also, read John 13:1-20 to learn more about the servant-heart of Christ.