The book of Philippians is commonly known as the book of Joy, despite the fact that Paul the apostle wrote this letter to the Philippi church while he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul the apostle was no stranger to hardships and trials, but yet he possessed such joy in the Lord. John Piper calls this joy, as described by the apostle Paul, not just joy in general but the “Christian joy” which he goes on to define as “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.”
According to John Piper, joy is an emotional feeling which happens in our soul, as opposed to a mental decision. We all would have experienced how effortless it is to feel joy when all is sunny, but in the face of retrenchment, the loss of a loved one, or news of a debilitating illness, we soon realize we cannot produce such emotions as required in the Bible when we are in the storms of life.
It is encouraging to know that as we read God’s Word and enjoy His gifts to us in the world, the Holy Spirit is the one who opens our eyes to behold the beauty of Christ and He is the one who causes this Christian joy to rise up in our hearts. God calls us to rejoice and He has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to have joy in Him. To be joyful in the Lord is not a shallow act of happiness built upon circumstances or on the absence of trials, but rather it is placing our hope on the promises of God’s Word. The Joy of the Lord is indeed our strength; by it we can overcome the fear of the unknown and we can have the certainty of His presence to take us through every trial!
How then can we “rejoice in the Lord always”? Paul gives us the answer in the following verse 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Paul reminds us that we should not allow ourselves to be anxious or to worry but rather to bring our prayers before God.
Many years ago, I underwent a major brain operation to remove a tumor. Many brothers and sisters in Christ prayed for me when they knew what I was going through. During the entire period, I felt peace in my soul and I could only attribute that to the prayers made on my behalf. Despite the complication and the long journey of recovery, I experienced the joy of the Lord. It was not an emotional high, but a quiet confidence that the Lord is in control and that He is watching over me as I learn to trust Him with my life. It is true that the joy of the Lord has been my strength and today I still am joyful in Him. Praise the Lord!
By Lee Ee Foo, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 6&7 February 2016)