What brings you joy? How do you define it? How do you know when you have it? Joy is something we all definitely want. We want to find something that will keep us on the upswing, fill us with positive vibes and make life worthwhile. oy is more than just a passing “feel good” moment that leaves us with a smile on our face, a bounce in our step or a lightness in our spirit. True joy is more than “happiness” or an overwhelming sense of victory or triumph. In my years in ministry, the truly joyful people that I have known are those who exude a deep sense of calm, purpose, confidence and commitment. Even in the midst of trial, they are people of resolute peace—dedicated to the task at hand—certain of the “rightness” of their endeavors.
Sometimes we think that “joy” is something that happens TO us…or something that we can “whump” up by deciding to be happy instead of sad…upbeat instead of downcast…”smiley-faced” instead of morose. But Paul puts a different spin on it in this morning’s letter to the Philippians. He entrusts his joy to others. He writes–MAKE MY JOY COMPLETE and then goes on to spell out how the Philippians are to do that.
“Being like-minded” in Paul’s mind refers to the first verse of chapter 2—IF you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, IF (you have) any comfort from his love, IF (you have) any fellowship with the spirit, IF (you have) any tenderness and compassion, then Make my joy complete. Paul found his joy in being with others who shared his belief structure, his faith and his commitment to Christ Jesus. He found comfort and strength in knowing he was not alone in his mission to share the good news. His joy was based on THEIR joy in being believers…their comfort in God’s love… their fellowship in the church…their love and concern for each other.
Having the same love
Paul reminded the Philippians that they needed to have the “same love”—for God and for one another. As the believers surrounded themselves with like-minded individuals, it was easier to hold on to their faith in the times of persecution—easier to stand strong in the face of trial…easier to find joy and peace in the midst of turmoil. By leaning on one another in the hard times, it made the good times even sweet-er. A “shared love” brings a shared commitment in place of division, a peaceful co-existence instead of competition, calm instead of chaos.
Being one in spirit and purpose
When we work together in unity, we have strength, cohesion and single-mindedness. Unity give us a focus and direction. These things bring us peace… contentment…satisfaction…yes, even joy.
Putting others first
Paul makes a special point in the third and fourth verses of this second chapter of Philippians. He wrote—
Consider this question—is there more joy in being selfish—or being UN-selfish? Do you find more excitement…more peace…more invigoration…more JOY in doing things for your own well being …or for someone else? When we do things for others…when we put others first…there is a tremendous “spark” of satisfaction and joy. We are doubly blessed as we are able to share THEIR joy in the moment. Our sorrows and difficulties become easier to bear when someone else cares and helps us bear that burden. When we reach out to others, look for ways to help lift THEIR burdens, bring moments of peace and blessing into THEIR lives, then we find joy, peace, and blessing in our OWN life as well
Paul’s emphasis in this second chapter of Philippians reminds the Church that they need to be concentrated on being LIKE Jesus—in their actions, in their attitudes, in their commitment. If we want “joy” in our lives (and who doesn’t?), we need to be looking for ways to spark that joy. We need to be like Jesus—focusing on reaching out to others…putting them first…helping to lift their burdens…strengthen their faith…encourage their hope. What we “give away” comes back to us according to Jesus’ teaching. How do we find joy—GET joy—in our lives? By giving joy to others…by putting them first…by following the example of Jesus in every situation—in every scenario.
Want joy? Literally ask—What Would Jesus Do? Then do it!