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Manifesting Genuine Joy
Standing Firm–part 3, Philippians 4:4
I love having fun–but I have noticed my type of fun has changed over the years, from spitting fire, playing ditch ‘em in our cars, putting tacks on chairs in school and laughing with friends, to a day at the beach, a day of dialog at Disneyland, extra time at the gym, a Pixar movie with popcorn, a meal out with friends, reading a book at the beach, learning a new app, and studying the Word of God.
When I was a student under 18 and before Christ, I pursued fun because my heart was empty. After Christ saved me, fun became an expression of my already full heart of joy. I have had dark days, long seasons of grief, and sorrow so deep I longed for death. I’ve lived long enough to know the emptiness of pleasure, the futility of escape, the stupidity of constant noise in order to drown out pain. But in the midst of it all, after I was in Christ there is an internal joy.
I’ve watched others around me reinterpret circumstances in order to make themselves the constant victim–often they do this to veil their angry bitterness, escape their responsibility, or hide their emptiness. I have seen too many singles seek marriage in order to try to fill the heartache, only to find the person they latch onto just as empty as themselves.
Sometimes these empty people actually marry each other and like Jake Dietrich said recently at a wedding, they are like two vacuum cleaners never giving out, but only taking in. And you know what life is like when two vacuum cleaners marry? Right–life sucks! These needy people later have children to keep things fresh, which will busy them for 20 years, but still will not resolve their desperate need for joy in their heart.
Like I said a long time ago, I pursued fun in order to fill my heart. But after meeting Christ, fun became a manifestation of my heart. Before Christ, I ran after fun in order to be satisfied. After Christ, fun just becomes one of the expressions of joy in my heart. Hear me, students, young marrieds, families, seniors–God intends the Christian life to be a life of joy.
Living like Christ, growing mature, living godly and pursuing holiness is not a life of sour frowning. Actually, when you have Christ, it is only those in Christ who seek to obey God in all things who’ll actually experience abundant joy. Jesus said it in John 15:10 and 11, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
“If you keep My commandments”–true joy only comes from God and your God is not stingy. Our Lord shares His joy with all who walk intimately with Him. What is joy and what is not joy? Christian joy is unique! Joy is separate from happiness, in that joy isn’t based upon your circumstances or experiences or events.
True Christian joy is not dependent on a good day, nice friends or a supportive family. Your “joy-meter” does not run up to ten when things in your life are going well. Nor does the joy-meter crash to zero when troubles hit. Sadly, you tend to be victimized by your circumstances. You can be taken hostage by your troubles. When that happens, your attitudes, emotions and behavior fluctuate with your situations or surroundings.
But that is not what Paul is talking about. Genuine Christ-like joy is not based upon your circumstances. Joy is based upon a right view of who God is. Christian joy is not affected by anything in this life, because joy is rooted in the character of an unchanging, eternal, loving, all-wise, all-powerful and sovereign God.
James even encourages us with the unchanging character of God. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). The unchanging God is the one who gives good things and perfect gifts, which partially results in joy. What is joy?
Let me give you five definitions. An internal delight in God and a fullness from God in the heart of a Christian. Joy is a deep sense of peace, gratitude and love in the heart because of who God is. Joy is the unshakable internal smile of the born again heart. Joy is an inner quality of life that depends on a right relationship with God. Joy is knowing everything is certain with Christ and eternity.
My study on joy has led me to three phrases–joy is a . . .
1 Divine Delight
Joy is a delight in life which runs deeper than pain or pleasure. Joy is a delight in God, His salvation, His character and His purposeful providence. Joy is also . . .
2 Internal Fullness
When you’re filled with the Spirit, He produces the fruit of joy. Internally, through God’s Spirit, there’ll be joy in your heart regardless of circumstances. Joy is . . .
3 Christ Confidence
Joy comes from the confidence you have in Christ, His Word, and His control over all. Joy is crucial to your life. Joy is not circumstantial, not silly, nor is it happiness. Joy is a deep, abiding, full, delighting confidence in Christ, no matter what.
Genuine salvation results in joy. Authentic sanctification results in joy. And ultimate glorification will result in permanent, perfect, everlasting joy. Without joy, you’ll be a nominal Christian at best, and a defeated Christian at worst. That is why to stand firm in this life, to grow into a godly man or woman, you are to work at manifesting genuine joy–to rejoice. Or as Paul says it in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
If you’re new with us, we’re working our way through the book of Philippians and have now arrived at chapter 4, which begins in verse 1 with a command to, “Stand firm,” meaning grow mature, become stable, be so godly when a trial hits, you’ll be immovable.
How does that look? What does standing firm require? Verses 1 to 9 tell us. Last week we studied verses 2 to 3 where Paul says standing firm meant addressing relational tension. Now Paul will teach us in verse 4 that standing firm means manifesting genuine joy.
Look at verse 4. In one verse, Paul commands us twice to manifest genuine joy. To grow into a godly man, to become a stable believer, to mature deep in Christ you must become a believer who is continually rejoicing–manifesting genuine joy.
#1 The PATTERN OF REJOICING
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” How is joy distinguished from rejoicing? Joy is an internal reality and rejoicing is the expression of joy. If joy is an internal, divine delight in God and fullness from God in the heart of a Christian, rejoicing is the outward expression of that joy. Rejoicing is letting the internal, born again, spirit-empowered heart of joy shine. Let joy show.
The background of the Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek word for rejoice is curious. In the Old Testament, rejoice was used of grace, favor, joy and gladness. Joy was often expressed in the Old Testament as a sweet thankfulness over good health, wise children or an abundance of food to eat. Joy was the correct response to acknowledging God as the giver of all blessings.
Before Koine and New Testament Greek, there was classical Greek and there rejoice was used to describe being glad, to demonstrate joy, and give a greeting. In the New Testament, rejoice is used 74 times as a verb and 59 times as a noun. Mainly, rejoice occurs in the gospels and in Paul’s letters. Rejoice most often occurs referring to being in Christ, Christ returning and hoping in Him.
Plus, the Gospel message is a declaration of joy and sharing the Gospel actually produces joy. The certainty of Christ’s second coming brings joy. And eternal rewards are a source of joy. The word rejoice here in Philippians 4 is used elsewhere in the New Testament to mean grace, to bless, to give, to show favor, to be grateful and to give thanks.
Here in Philippians 4:4, Paul pointedly, aggressively, unquestionably commands all believers to rejoice–not once, but twice in one short verse. The verb rejoice is listed twice and both times it’s a command to the entire Church. The Church is to be rejoicing–and even though the church in Philippi was being persecuted by Romans, pressured by unsaved Judaizers, pressed by unsaved Gentile grace-abusers, partitioned by division–they were to be a rejoicing church.
You can see how rejoicing is a part of standing firm, right? Can you picture it? The Romans are threatening you with jail or death, but you demonstrate unshakable joy. There’s division in your midst, but as a church you’re still displaying joy in Christ and are internally confident in God’s sovereign goodness. I’m describing mature people–godly men and women standing firm.
How can they be a rejoicing church when so many things are going wrong in Philippi and so many attacks are coming against them? Well, the phrase, “rejoice in the Lord” occurs five times in the Bible. Notice each one and what the phrase is connected to . . .
#1 Psalm 35:9, “And my soul shall rejoice in the Lord; it shall exult in His salvation.” My soul here points to your inner person–not your circumstances, not outside, but inside. And you’re rejoicing in the Lord because of His salvation.
#2 Isaiah 41:16b, “But you will rejoice in the Lord, you will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” Glory in the Holy One points to God’s character as the motivator of rejoicing.
#3 Zechariah 10:7, “Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the Lord.” The heart, the inner man is where the rejoicing comes from.
#4 Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” In this verse Paul reveals he has already been passionately calling the Philippians to live in joy. In the midst of their trials and persecution, they must live in joy.
What has Paul already said about joy? Turn back with me and follow along . . .
Philippians 1:4, “Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.”
Philippians 1:25, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.”
Philippians 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
Philippians 2:17, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.”
Philippians 2:18, “You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”
Philippians 2:29, “Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard.”
Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”
Paul has already been calling the Philippians to pray in joy, have faith in joy, to complete his joy, to rejoice and share his joy, to rejoice and share their joy, to receive leaders like Epaphroditus with all joy and that he sees this special church as his joy. Then Paul finally says . . .
#5 Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” And as you read outside of Philippians, you’ll discover two pointed reasons for rejoicing.
First God’s SALVATION
Joy and rejoicing are linked to salvation. Read 1 Peter 1:3 to 6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again …4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable … reserved in heaven for you, 5 … protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, …you have been distressed by various trials.”
Read Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.”
Psalm 95:1, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”
How can you not rejoice in a salvation you did not deserve and could never earn. How can you not rejoice in being freely delivered from God’s just wrath for your sin? How can you not rejoice in being one of God’s elect, chosen before the world was? How can you not rejoice when you were dead, unable to respond.
Yet 1 Peter 1:3 says, “God … according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again.” If each day you remember what the triune God did for you–the Father chose you, the Son took your place, and the Spirit called you and more, you will rejoice. The second pointed reason for rejoicing . . .
Second God’s CHARACTER
Consider just two of God’s attributes which cultivate joy. Which two? God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness. God is sovereign and in total control of everything in your life–every detail. Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”
Isaiah 46:9 to 10, “’I am God, and there is no other;’ … saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” God created this entire universe and holds it all in the hollow of His hand! Okay, God is sovereign over the galaxy, but what about the details of my life?
Matthew 10:30, Jesus tells us that “the very hairs of your head are numbered.” (On some heads, it is much easier to count hairs than others…) God does not merely concern Himself with generalities. He is in control of tiny, specific details–hairs on our head, sand on the seashore, sparrows hopping!
He controls the cells in your bodies, from a flu virus to cancer. He controls the wrench that slips and the knuckles that bleed. He controls the car that swerves into your lane. He controls the weather and every natural occurrence, from earthquakes to hurricanes. Nothing can steal our joy when we realize God is in charge of everything! He is in control over every person and place in our lives! If it weren’t for His sovereignty, our trials would hold us hostage.
In 1981, a widely acclaimed best-seller swept the nation. It was written by a rabbi named Harold Kushner. The book was entitled, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Kushner came to this conclusion as he related the story of Job: “[The author of the book of Job is] forced to choose between a good God who is not totally powerful, or a powerful God who is not totally good.”
His conclusion is this, as he states: “God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can’t bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims.” That is a lie straight from Hell.
Men and women, if God cannot control the workings of His creation, and if God does not control both the good and the bad that enter into our lives, then He cannot save us, because we are bad. We are lost and without any hope! Rabbi Kushner and the millions of other people who believe his error will never be able to trust God, because their view of Him is so wrong.
As you study your trouble, what is your view of God? Are you trusting 100% in His sovereignty? Are you gladly accepting your trouble, knowing it’s from the hand of a good God? Let me give you a second hook on which to hang your rejoicing.
Second, God is good–the sovereignty of God would be frightening, if God weren’t good. We would have a hard time trusting a mean-spirited God. We’d be like frightened children sitting at the dinner table with an angry, unpredictable father who loved to watch his kids squirm. And yet the Bible affirms the sovereign God is also a good God.
Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.”
Goodness is just one of God’s numerous attributes. Our God is good! One of the reasons why it can be hard to trust the Lord during difficult times is because your perspective is limited. You only see today–you don’t know what tomorrow holds. What you have today doesn’t look good, so it’s hard–and you’re not sure if it’s going to get any better tomorrow.
That’s why it’s easy to allow your heart to start scheming how you might get out of this trouble or trial–right? Yet God knows exactly what He’s going to do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, all the way to eternity! And He’s given you an incredible promise to cling to . . .
Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
God is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good and His plans will ultimately work out for His maximum glory and our maximum good. Do you believe that? Will you cling tightly to His character during a time of testing in your life?
You’ll rejoice in the Lord when you’re full of thanks for your salvation by grace, when you glory in God’s amazing character and when you see the Lord as sovereignly, providentially working in all your circumstances. Rejoicing in the Lord is not silly, bouncing up and down. Rejoicing in the Lord occurs when you’re right with the Lord . . .
1 When you’re dependently humble, trusting God’s control
2 When you are verbally thankful for the gift of salvation and the person of Christ
3 When you are actively filled with the Spirit by the Word of God
4 When you are genuinely saturated in God’s presence
Rejoicing is an internal, divine delight in God and fullness from God in the heart of Christians expressed. Are you rejoicing in the Lord? Well, where do I rejoice? This is important.
#2 The PLACE of REJOICING in the Lord
Someone might ask, “How can you tell someone in the middle of an awful trial to rejoice?” Answer, because Paul is commanding us to, “Rejoice in the Lord!” Paul didn’t say, “Rejoice in your circumstances!” Nor did he say, “Rejoice in difficult people!” . . . or your wife, or your husband.
No, Paul commands us to rejoice in the unchanging, eternal, sovereign and good God who’s in control of His universe! And because your rejoicing is in the Lord, this can be a present and continual reality for every believer. Look at what Paul has already said to the Philippians about being in the Lord.
Philippians 1:14, “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”
Philippians 2:19, “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.”
Philippians 2:24, “And I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly.”
Philippians 2:29, “Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard.”
Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”
Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”
Philippians 4:2, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
Philippians 4:10, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.”
In Philippians, to be “in the Lord” means to be trusting in the Lord, hoping in the Lord, trusting in the Lord, receiving someone in the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord, standing firm in the Lord, live in harmony in the Lord, and more rejoicing in the Lord. Are you rejoicing in the Lord? Literally, it’s “rejoice in Master.”
Friends, your salvation was based on God’s choosing, God’s calling and God’s keeping. So being in the Lord is never going to change for a genuine believer. Paul describes authentic Christians as those who are in the Lord or in Christ. How can you rejoice in bad circumstances and when hit by rotten people? Because you are in the Lord–that is the place of rejoicing.
Saints in persecuted places, threatened with torture and horrific deaths often smile, because even though their earthly circumstances are sad, their eternal relationship with Christ is sure. They are in the Lord. You don’t know the Englishman John Rogers, but you should. He was a powerful preacher of God’s Word–actually studied under Martin Luther for a season. He was a key player in the first Bible translated into English. He taught the Word and condemned Catholic doctrinal error.
So when Catholic Bloody Mary became queen, John became a target. John was arrested and threatened with death. The sheriff under Mary told him to recant. John said, “That which I have preached, I will seal with my blood.” So with his wife, ten children and congregation cheering him on, John was marched to the stake to be the first Christian pastor Mary would burn.
His congregation said he looked like he was going to his wedding and when the fire took hold, it was as if there was no pain. He was rejoicing! But beware–don’t start telling the parent with the wayward child or the woman with cancer, or the man who lost his job, “Rejoice in the Lord! Come on now, rejoice!”
It’s just like us to tell people to behave externally fake and act like a hypocrite. No, encourage their heart by reminding them of the joy of their salvation, the gracious God who is in control and is involved in every detail of their difficult trial. Gently remind them of the joy they have in the Lord–then they can rejoice! Every Christian can rejoice because . . .
#3 The PRIORITY of REJOICING
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Rejoice in the Lord now, always, and in the future–I will say again to all of you in the Church, rejoice. Paul knew if he could get the Philippians looking up at the Lord, they would be less prone to critically look around at each other. If you’re in touch with the joy of your salvation from your Lord, you’re less prone to get offended by the senselessness of your brothers and sisters.
When you’re overwhelmed by the fruit of the Spirit, which includes joy, you will be less overwhelmed by the foolishness of the saints. The Christian who is filled with supernatural, abounding joy from his Father will not be finding fault with his church family.
To stand firm and mature in Christ, you’re to be continually rejoicing. Let your supernatural, internal, abounding, God-given joy out. Let it out. How often? Paul says always. Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice during times of grief, sorrow, attack, or loss–as well as blessing, celebration and gain. During times of waiting and times of service.
During times of trial, right? James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Really? Think about Paul, writing from Rome–he has been arrested, jailed, shipwrecked and awaiting trial for almost five years. Yet Paul rejoices.
He’s seen the Lord use him to share Christ with the future leadership of Rome. He’s even been used to impact Caesar’s household. He even rejoices over those trying to hurt him, because in spite of their comments about him, they are sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Can you see her at home, puzzling over her husband–he used to be so angry, but now he comes home and gives her a kind word. Instead of complaining about the promotion of others, he’s thankful for his role in the Praetorium. Now he wants to spend time with the kids, likes his dinner and is actually interested in her day. She can’t help but think it has something to do with that prisoner, that Paul guy her husband keeps mentioning and his curious faith in Jesus.
Paul rejoices because God was changing lives and saving souls even in his imprisonment. Paul wore the correct glasses, the two lenses of God’s salvation and God’s character–even during sorrow or trial, for true joy glows in the dark.
And so you don’t miss it, Paul emphasizes the importance by commanding in verse 4, “Again I will say, Rejoice!” That means all the time! Since our rejoicing isn’t dependent upon circumstances, but on the character of our God–we can rejoice all the time! Paul repeats the command to make it emphatic.
Paul knew when people heard Paul command an attitude of joy in the midst of trials, their immediate response would be, “Are you kidding me? How can I be joyful?” So Paul commands it again, so the Philippians would know Paul meant what he said, “Rejoice … Rejoice.” This is not like saying, “Pizza, pizza.” It is shouting a command—“Rejoice now!” Then repeating the command—“Rejoice no matter what happens in the future!” You stand firm by manifesting genuine joy in Christ.
A Beware of joy KILLERS
What are they? Spiritual lows that follow spiritual highs . . . a low view of God’s sovereignty . . . prayerlessness . . . a false salvation . . . trusting in this world . . . ingratitude . . . forgetfulness . . . dissatisfaction with what God has given . . . fear of the future . . .isolation from a church body of rejoicers . . . allowing your feelings to control you . . . morbid self-analysis . . . self-centeredness . . . guilt over unconfessed sin . . . and an unwillingness to forgive. Deal with those sins of the heart so you can express the joy in your heart.
B Remain close to the SOURCE of Joy
The depth of your joy is directly proportional to how close we remain dependent upon Christ and how deeply we truly know God. Did you know when the king or queen is present, a flag is flown over the castle to signify their presence? Joy is the flag that is flown on the castle of your life when the King is in residence.
Friends, there is no substitute for daily time in the Word, time in prayer and devotion to practicing His presence every single day. Remain close to Christ and you will know joy and be rejoicing. And students at school, men at work, women out and about–remember joy is that winsome magnet which draws people to Christ, because it’s something they don’t have.
C Evaluate your REJOICING
You rejoice because God commands you to obey–to rejoice is an action of obedience. You rejoice because God repeats His command to obey—it is twice commanded. You rejoice because it is the church family together who are all to be rejoicing. You rejoice because when you’re in the Lord you can’t help but rejoice.
Unless . . . you are not in Christ, not indwelt with His Spirit to produce the fruit of joy. If you have no joy in your Christianity, there is a leak in your heart somewhere. If there’s no divine delight, internal fullness, and Christ-confidence, something’s wrong. Genuine joy is supernatural–it is evidence Christ is in you. If He is not, then . . .
Today, turn from your sin, and turn in faith to Christ who is God who took your punishment on the cross, died for sin, rose from the dead and calls you to give Him your entire life. Exchange all that you are for all that He is. Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” To stand firm, manifest genuine joy. Let’s pray.