I should begin by differentiating between my previous message, ‘The Basis of Our Joy’, and my current message, ‘The Object of Our Joy.’ The former refers to the reason for our joy, the latter refers to the target for the expression of our joy. Let me give you an example. When someone gives my young daughter a gift, it elevates her joy. The gift is the basis, the reason, for her joy. And typically, the gift also becomes the target/object for her joy—so much so that we are often reminding her of the need to appropriately recognize and thank the person who gave her the gift.
I think followers of Jesus struggle with this as well. God has done so much for us. Through His Son, and His ongoing Providence, we enjoy abundance from the hand of God. And the temptation is to rejoice more in those gifts than in the Giver. This is not a ‘one or the other’ scenario. This is a matter of priority. As John Piper has said, “All that God is for us in Jesus is the Object of our quest for joy. When I speak of fighting for joy, I mean joy in God, not joy without reference to God.”
The apostle Paul similarly directs us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, emphasis mine).
Someone might ask, ‘Is it realistic to always be rejoicing in the Lord when the world around us is coming apart at the seams?’
Looking to Paul’s example, I answer ‘Yes!’ Perpetual joy in the Lord is possible because Paul’s joy is not rooted in his shifting circumstances, but in a changeless God. It is helpful to remember that Paul was a prisoner in a Roman jail when he penned the words, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
I want to also recognize, however, that our circumstances do pose a threat to our joy in the Lord. I want to concede that, if we are not engaging the Lord in a particular way, things like anxiety and struggling relationships have the capacity to diminish our joy.
This presents us with two challenges. The first is to gain the joy in the Lord that Paul speaks of. The second is to keep the joy of the Lord amid challenging circumstances.
When I delivered this message at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on June 14, we spent time looking at some practical, easy-to-apply, ways to accomplish these two things. These applications centred around one activity: Prayer.
I invite you to listen for yourself. My thesis, based on what I see in the Scriptures, is that to become a people marked increasingly by joy, we must first become a people marked increasingly by prayer.
In other words, we must build stronger habits for engaging the Giver of all good things.
As you pursue joy in the Lord, as you seek to sustain your joy amid adversity, be encouraged by the fact that God intends for you to be joyful. In Him, and through Him, deep abiding joy is within our reach—so, go and get it!