This time of year, we hear the word “Joy” more than usual. What brings us joy, though?
If you believe today’s advertising, joy comes from having more things. Buying and giving lots of things is the secret to happiness. With the Christmas season upon us that message threatens to drown out all others, and many find themselves staggering from store to store in a desperate attempt to buy “Joy.”
Sadly, they’re missing the mark.
Don’t get me wrong. Gifts aren’t bad. I still remember a Christmas when my son Drew was about 4 or 5. He only asked for two Christmas gifts – a red flashlight and two police motorcycles. As a regular viewer of CHiPs reruns, Drew wanted to emulate the heroics of the two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers the show featured. I don’t know what prompted his desire for a red flashlight.
That was in the early 90s before the convenience of online shopping; I spent weeks searching for those motorcycles and was elated when I finally found them. Drew was thrilled with his presents, and it was a happy moment for all.
But back to the question. What brings us joy? I’ve spent the past few months pondering that subject with some of my neighbors while going through Charles Swindoll’s study of Philippians: Laugh Again, Experience Outrageous Joy. We’ve learned that the Apostle Paul had a lot to say about joy, and most of what he taught goes completely counter to what we would expect.
Over the next several weeks I’ll share here some of what I’ve learned. I’ll start where Swindoll started:
“The secret to joy begins with our mindset – the choices we make internally. The first and most important choice is to make Christ the center of our hopes and dreams and affections.”
Swindoll goes on to share three important truths:
When Christ is central, He broadens the dimensions of our circumstances. A preacher once asked a man how he was doing. “Okay, under the circumstances,” came his weary reply. “What are you doing under there?” asked the preacher.
With God, even the bleakest of circumstances can be turned into good. My cancer is the perfect example. So much good has come out of that nasty disease.
When Christ is central, He delivers us from a preoccupation with others. When we’re focused on others – whether seeking their approval, worrying that they’re getting something that we’re not, or refusing to forgive those who have wronged us – it is impossible for us to have true joy.
When Christ is central, He calms our fears regarding our future. The beauty of being a Christian is we know how the story ends. Regardless of what happens here on Earth, we’ll spend eternity in heaven with the One who loves us with an everlasting love.
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21