Sunday Pastor Josh preached an outstanding and challenging sermon about how to maintain Joy in all circumstances. Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)
Joy in all circumstances is difficult! We all undergo trials, heartaches, disappointments and even tragedies that have the capacity to diminish our joy, especially IF our joy is dependent upon our circumstances. Pastor Josh reminded us that our joy is not dependent upon our situation or condition, but rather a person, Jesus Christ!
Paul, while writing from a prison jail cell, penned these words.
…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13) (NIV)
The “take away” I drew from the sermon Sunday morning and Sunday night is this: The closer we move toward God, with full dependence upon Him, the more content and joyous we will become!
During the Christmas season I often think of my parents. They both passed away in 2003; my dad on March 12 and my mom on November 22. It was a hard, painful and challenging time. Through this experience, I truly learned why we use the word “heart-ache” to describe the loss of someone close to us. I remember walking in the mornings; crying… languishing in prayer asking God – Why? My chest physically hurt with an intense pressure that I can only relate to that period of my life. After much prayer and searching God’s Word, I finally reached a point of asking myself did I really believe all that I had been taught about God, heaven, and our purpose in this world? I don’t recall a particular Scripture, song, or word from an individual but eventually…. I realized it doesn’t matter “why” I lost both my parents in the same year. It did matter how I responded to the loss. Would I believe and move forward, or would I be stuck in the miry pit of self-pity and despair? I chose faith. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but I chose to believe!
One of the images that remain constant in my memory as my mother reached her final days was her attitude. She went in for elective heart valve surgery in September. She walked into the hospital a pretty healthy individual. The surgery had complications and what should have been a somewhat routine surgery went woefully wrong. She remained in ICU for most of the next three months until her passing on November 22.
Even when in pain and discomfort my mother had a smile on her face. For someone who had suffered greatly and was suffering at the moment– when awake, she had a smile. She couldn’t talk because of a trach but greeted each person who came to see her with a gracious smile. Sure, she was naturally a giving, loving person, but I think it was deeper than that. She had a connection with someone greater. She knew her final home was not this world, but was content to live here or move on to her Heavenly home. She was at peace.
That is the Joy of which Paul writes about in Philippians 4. Unspeakable Joy–a deep Peace that makes no sense to the casual observer. It comes to us when we draw near the supplier of Joy – our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! The closer we get to Him the more like Him we become. That is the object of this life, to teach us that type of dependence upon our Creator God! It takes a shift in focus and a directional move toward the Joy giver. What do you choose?