Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 NLT
This one verse sums up the major message of the entire book of Philippians. Paul, writing from a Roman prison to people who are struggling as followers of Christ, encourages them to “rejoice.” How can we rejoice when times are tough? As I write this devotion, I am feeling a bit numb from the recent loss of a very close friend. At the young age of 69 he was out of town on a business trip and had a massive stroke that resulted in his passing less than 48 hours later. I admit I’m still in a bit of a shock. I have another friend who just lost her father to a battle with cancer—he was the third family member she has lost in the last six months. I hear the news each day of Russia’s aggressive attacks on Ukraine, including recent bombings on the capital of Kiev. Cindy and I have some personal friends who are still in Kiev serving the needy of the city. The recent news headlines tell us about a 15-year-old who went on a shooting rampage in North Carolina killing five people. There really doesn’t seem like much to rejoice about in the news or on a personal level. Did Paul really expect us to rejoice all the time? How can we be “full of joy” when there is so much pain and suffering? The key to Paul’s instruction actually lies in three words — “in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice because we lose a friend. We don’t rejoice because our world is in chaos and war. We don’t rejoice because we get sick or lose our job. We rejoice because we recognize that true joy comes from the Lord. He is both the object and the source of our joy. If Jesus is the object of my life, then pleasing Him is my highest joy. Position, relationships, health, or wealth are not the object of my joy. Because Jesus is the object of my joy, He is also the source of my joy. He is my provider. He gives me true joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction. These emotions are not based on my comfort or circumstances. I can have joy even in painful times because I look to Jesus as my joy.
Holy Spirit please forgive me for the times I looked for joy in the wrong places. Forgive me for not keeping my focus on You. Help me to see You as my object and source of joy. Help me live with a joy that is not temporary or easily taken away.
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