This past week a sermon by Charles Stanley kept on popping up on my FB feed. It was entitled, “Triumphant Joy”. I watched a clip of it and made a mental note that I needed to watch the full sermon later. Then life happened- an awards ceremony, Egyptian feast, recitation, birthday festivities, another bout of strep. So it wasn’t until last night that I had a chance to watch the sermon…twice, and I’ll probably end up watching it again with Shelby.
Dr. Stanley talked about the book of Philippians and how the Apostle Paul wrote the letter while in a jail cell. Yet, despite his dire circumstances he didn’t complain. Instead, he repeatedly wrote about being joyful and having joy.
It’s hard to imagine that the letter which talks about the Lord completing a good work in our lives, doing everything without grumbling or complaining, pressing on to take hold of the prize, rejoicing in the Lord always, and being able to do all things through Christ, was written in a cold, dank jail cell.
He probably knew that his future most likely included death, but his joy wasn’t contingent upon his circumstances, instead his joy was based upon his relationship with Christ. Even though his circumstances were bleak, he choose joy.
These past few weeks my eyes have been fixed on my circumstances rather than on Christ. Yet, even though I’m not necessarily “happy” with my situation, I can still have joy. My feelings may come and go, but I can’t allow how I feel to dictate my joy. Feelings are fickle and unpredictable. They can change without a moment’s notice. However, I can’t base my faith on how I feel. My faith needs to be grounded in truth.
A lot of times living the Christian life is full of hard things. It often means making a choice that doesn’t feel good but it’s the right thing to do. It means choosing obedience even though everything in your flesh is screaming otherwise. It means choosing joy even when everything around you is falling apart.
Sure I can be upset; think life is unfair (which it is); be angry at how cruel and harsh my circumstances are, but it doesn’t change truth. Unlike what the world may say, truth doesn’t change. It remains the same. Two plus two will always equal four; an apple will always be an apple; the earth will always be round. And not to trivialize God…but God will always be God. He doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Word will always be true; it stands firm.
You can be as angry and bitter as you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that God is God. He will always be God. He is still Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Lord. Whether you believe it or not, He is still God. How you feel about God doesn’t change who He is. You may doubt his goodness, but He is still good. You may not believe He loves you, but He is still love.
Life is messy because we live in a sinful world. We hurt, face trials, go through unimaginable pain and heartache not because God enjoys seeing us suffer, but because perfection was marred by sin. In the midst of the realities and cruelties of life, I can still choose joy because joy is not based upon my circumstances or feelings, but it’s based upon the truth of who God is and my relationship with Him.
The Apostle Paul was human flesh like you and me. He was a sinner just like us. In fact, he considered himself to be the worst. His circumstances were dismal, his future included the possibility of certain death, and yet he chose joy. He could choose joy because his hope wasn’t found in what he could see but it rested in what he couldn’t see. It was deeply rooted in Christ and the assurance of what hope in Christ brings – eternal salvation.
I have this hope, and yet I so easily forget. I look around at the towering waves and I loose sight of the goodness and beauty of Christ being my all sufficiency. I focus on my feelings and forget the truth of God’s Word and who He says He is.Thankfully, even though my feelings change, God doesn’t. He remains. I must choose faith over my feelings. Choose joy; choose hope; choose Christ. Because in Him is fullness of joy.