Have you ever thought about the things that give you joy?
Three weeks ago I pondered this question in preparation for my sermon.
I tried to consider the things which bring me joy in my life.
For most of you the answer will seem similar or even obvious: family, friends, God, etc.
There is no shortage of answers.
A Google search reveals hundreds of lists and articles written about things that bring people joy.
They say exactly what you would expect them to say: be kind, stay active, live in the moment, laugh, connect with people.
The possibilities are endless.
However, the problem with most of those lists is they are all positive things (not that positive things are really a problem).
For example, my children bring me joy but they also bring me frustration and anguish.
In short, the problem with those lists is they are about things that make us happy, not joyful.
This is confusing because our culture views happiness and joy as synonyms.
Happiness is a wonderful thing.
It is not wrong or undesirable to be happy.
The problem with happiness is it lacks definition and purpose.
New things become old, people naturally drift apart and sad times will come.
Happiness will only ever be temporary.
Joy is so much more.
It can be found both in the good and the bad.
My frustration with my children does not change the joy I have in them.
The joy I have in my children is a constant in my life, but is a small fraction of the joy I could have.
This is because joy not only extends beyond us (in ways that happiness cannot) but requires much more from us.
In the book of Philippians, Paul writes about the true purpose of joy.
For a small book, he uses the word joy or rejoice 13 times making it a major theme for the book.
Here, he tells us the true purpose of joy which I would like to share with you today.
Though it is one of the last things Paul writes, the main purpose of joy concerns the joy we have in Christ.
Three times Paul tells us to always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
Furthermore, Paul reminds us that joy should be a constant in our lives and it should focus on Christ.
When we pray, we pray with joy (Phil. 1:4).
When we share the gospel (or when the gospel is shared), it is shared with joy (Phil. 1:8).
It is by joy we can live by faith (Phil. 1:25) and by joy and faith we are able to have peace (Rom. 15:13).
Joy completes us as Christians united in the mindset of Christ (Phil. 2:2).
Joy gives us the opportunity for gladness despite our circumstances (Phil. 2:17-18) and allows us to send and receive each other (Phil. 2:28-29).
Finally, joy helps us to encourage one another (Phil. 4:1) and to have concern for one another (Phil. 4:10).
Now at this point you might be wondering about the negative effects of joy.
For someone who was very critical, Paul is quite positive regarding what joy has to offer to those who believe in Christ.
While I personally think this has to do with Paul’s soft spot for the church in Philippi, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.
There are many things joy does not promise.
It does not promise there will be no suffering, hardship, frustration, loss or tears.
Things that bring you true joy will also bring you those things.
Joy often comes with trials and you should consider those trials an opportunity to expand your joy (James 1:2-4).
As we approach Easter, I am reminded of the joy of my salvation that is a result of the pain of the crucifixion.
What a joy it must have been for God to sacrifice His son to redeem humanity.
To all of you I pray that you never settle for a total lack of joy in Christ.
Use your joy to inspire others.