When the book of Philippians was introduced to me, I heard of the history of Paul’s struggles to bring this congregation into being. Paul had cast a demon out of a slave girl who had been bringing in money for divination. When her masters learned she would no longer bring them money in this way, they had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison(Acts 16). But what was it they were doing at midnight? There they were, sitting in the dark dungeon, their feet in stocks, they had been beaten and had not even been given medical treatment. They were singing! Not the blues, but joyful, praiseful singing. It is to this congregation that Paul later wrote the book of Philippians, a letter often called “the book of joy.”
In this letter, Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NASB) Why say it twice? Paul places importance on it, repeating the command.
One reason joy is important in the Christian life is because of our salvation. Jesus, in speaking to the apostles said, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This is a reason to rejoice. Our joy is a sign to others as well that we are different because of our salvation. I once heard a non-Christian say to a Christian, “You have a deep internal joy and I want what you have.” This joy should set us apart from others in a way that makes others desire what we have.
King David talked of the joy of salvation in two different Psalms. He said, “O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!” (Psalms 21:1). He also wrote, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalms 51:12).
Another reason that joy is important to a Christian is that it is a sign of spiritual fruit. Paul in the letter to Galatia wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22). We must bear fruit or we will be cut off and lose our salvation and joy. (John 15:2)
In contrast, happiness comes from happenings. We may buy a new car, be given a pretty new ring, or perhaps find a job that is more fulfilling. These things are physical and just as they are temporary, the happiness they may bring us is also temporary. True joy that comes from God is spiritual and eternal, just as He is.
A third reason joy is important is that joy is essential to get us through trials. Things could have gone much differently for Paul and Silas if they had not been so joyful in that Philippian jail. Joy helped them through those trials. James talks of joy and trials: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). This endurance or patience, he goes on to say, makes us perfect or thoroughly complete. Jesus also related joy with trials. The writer of Hebrews says, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Hebrews 12:2) Joy through our trials makes us stronger and better for God’s service.
I knew an elder and his wife whose godly grown son was shot and killed by simply being in the wrong place during a drive by shooting. This very godly elder just kept repeating, “God is good,” through it all with a smile on his face. He knew where his son had gone and had joy in his salvation.
The last reason that joy is important is that it is necessary for an abundant life. In reference to growing fruit, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). God wants us to have a full life– not one full of physical, temporary happiness, but the abundant joy-filled life that comes from working in His Kingdom.
Joy is necessary in the life of a Christian as it is a sign of our salvation and our fruit. It builds perseverance through trials and it is important for the full life Jesus wants us to have. Is your life filled with joy?
By Dawn Pasley
Dawn is married to James, who serves as the preacher for the church of Christ at Ferriday, LA. Dawn is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools their children: Xander (11), Abigail (8), Julia (2) and their twin girls, Keturah and Kezia (7 months). Dawn also enjoys teaching 5th and 6th graders in their congregation and children in their home-school co-op.