“The Persistent Pursuit of Joy in Jesus”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.4
Philippians 4. Where are the happiest people on earth? Well, Norway, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report. The report is formed based on a number of factors: freedom, generosity, health, social support, income, and trustworthy governance.
Canada? Number 7 this year, out of 155 countries.
And earlier this year as well, Canada was named the second best country in the world… again. A survey done by the U.S. News & World Report shows Canada narrowly missed the top spot, being edged out by Switzerland. Criteria included economic influence, citizenship, and quality of life.
So you would think that people in Canada are generally happy. But that is simply not the case.
An Ipsos poll reported that 41% of Canadians said of themselves that they are at high risk for mental illness. 41%! 24% said there were several instances in which Canadians felt stressed to the point where they couldn’t even cope. 19% said they felt depressed to the point where they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for a couple of weeks or more.
7% said they seriously considered suicide or self-harm more than once in the past year, too.
Millennial’s, those adults younger than me, are the hardest hit. A whooping 63% said that they are in the high risk category for mental illness. Generation x, my age and older, 41% are in the high risk category for mental illness, and 24% of baby boomers.
If Canadians are some of the happiest people on the planet, the planet is wallowing in misery!
Everybody wants happiness! But what I’d like to point out is that the world’s happiness is based on circumstances. They admit it. The World Happiness report is based on freedom, generosity, health, social support, income, and trustworthy governance.
And as human beings, we can sympathize with that. Imagine having an actually totally corrupt government like North Korea and trying to find happiness even as a Christian in that country.
But at the same time …as Christians, our joy is not in circumstances. Our joy is in the Lord.
Let’s read Philippians 4 and just the fourth verse. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
The focus of verse 4 is to “Persistently Pursue Joy in Jesus.”
To preach on this single verse is necessary because joy is a major focus in Philippians.
The words themselves, joy or rejoicing, are used no less than 16 times in the book of Philippians. Joy is the major theme in this book. We took as our theme for the book “Joyful Christian Maturity.”
Beginning in verse 1 of chapter 4, we’re in a section on standing firm. Philippians 4:1 says 1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
In what ways, are we to stand firm? What is a strong Christian?
First, a strong Christian is one who lives in harmony with other Christians. That’s verses 2-3. Also to stand firm in the Lord or to be a strong Christian is going to take rejoicing in the Lord.
It’s also going to take verse 5 letting your gentleness work itself out in your life. It’s going to take, verses 6-8, a kind of prayer that relieves anxiety. And then verses 8-9 it’s going to take a proper thought life that produces the peace of God by the Holy Spirit.
That’s what it takes to be a strong Christian. This morning is rejoicing in the Lord. I’m preaching this morning that we “persistently pursue joy in Jesus.” This isn’t easy. It takes a tenacity, a strong pursuit of Christ to grow in this area. And you are up for this challenge!
TRANS: First, the command to rejoice. Second, the time to rejoice, and third the Person of our rejoicing. And in the conclusion of the message this morning we will discuss how to rejoice in the Lord.
The Command to Rejoice
So first, the command to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” That is a command. That is something that we are to obey. And to understand what we are to do, let us first understand what Christian rejoicing is not.
What Christian rejoicing is not
Christian rejoicing is not making sure your life is best suited for happiness.
Christian rejoicing is not, as the world counsels…, it is not making more time for yourself so that you can get into more of a positive state of mind. It is not nurturing relationships, important as that may be. It is not setting goals for yourself, or learning to relax, or learning to say no to more things on your schedule. Christian rejoicing is not taking risks, or learning to live in the present, or simply learning how to turn off your cell phone, or to get outside more or to find your strengths, or treat yourself to something special…
TRANS: These things may be good things, but this is not Christian rejoicing.
It is not choosing to be happy even when life stinks.
Also, Christian rejoicing is not choosing to be happy even when life stinks.
It is not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, taking the right medications or slapping on a plastic smile after you’ve had an argument on the way to church. It’s not that we fake it until you make it…when somebody we love is in trouble.
ILL: So we can’t just whistle the tune of “Don’t worry be happy” to make us feel better and think that this is what pleases the Lord. Btw, Robin Williams, the famous actor, starred in the music video of that a capella song “don’t worry, be happy,”, and he committed suicide. So the world’s counsel obviously doesn’t work.
Christian rejoicing is not “every cloud has a silver lining” or that difficult times always lead to better days.
Christian rejoicing is not “look on the bright side,” or having a “the cup is half full” mentality or just try to be more optimistic.
TRANS: But let me just point out, it’s not that the call to rejoice always isn’t there so that we can’t weep!
And it’s not that we can’t weep.
Jesus wept when Lazarus died. Paul was shipwrecked and had weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties. Paul even says back in 1 chapter in Philippians 3:18 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,
And we are commanded in Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. Christian rejoicing allows for weeping.
And it doesn’t require that we have to give up good things.
Christian rejoicing also does not require us to abandon good things. We enjoy good things: a good job, friends, family, little things we do to relax, or whatever.
1 Timothy 6:17 17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but [instruct the rich to fix their hope] on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
We are to enjoy the things God has given, but that too isn’t Christian rejoicing.
TRANS: Christian rejoicing is not making sure your life is best suited for happiness, is not choosing to be happy even when life stinks. Christian rejoicing does not mean we can’t weep and it doesn’t require that we give up truly good things. So what is it?
What Christian rejoicing is
Christian joy or rejoicing is a happy affection produced by the Holy Spirit when a Christian is satisfied in the Lord.
That it is commanded
And that we have that happy affection produced by the Holy Spirit is commanded. We should do that! And that means that it is important!
Means it’s important
This is not the only epistle in which Paul commands the church to rejoice.
2 Corinthians 13:11 11 Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 16 Rejoice always;
TRANS: And since it’s commanded…
It is not optional.
It’s as serious a sin as violating one of the 10 commandments. It’s not that you have the option of gloomily going along in your Christian life. The Christian life is characterized by joy.
Galatians 5:22 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…
Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit; it is produced by the Holy Spirit in the heart of someone who trusts in Jesus.
You were born again therefore to enjoy God. We all want this! Christian joy really is that revived spirit that we all long for. And it’s not optional. It is central to the believer’s life in the gospel. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and so joy is an evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, Christians in the first century were characteristically joyful…Acts 13:52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Joy is not optional; joy is the will of God for you! You must have joy!
It glorifies God, “to glorify and enjoy Him”
And as you exhibit this joy you will glorify God. To obey God, glorifies him. Your lack of joy therefore does not glorify him.
Joy is not optional, you must rejoice. So take courage then, joy is possible. With all the misery in our world, real, God-given joy is possible! One reason it is commanded is because it puts on display the glory of God! Deuteronomy 26:11 11 …[right hand up]you shall rejoice in [left hand down that meets right hand] all the good which the Lord your God has given you…” God is the giver of good…and all His commands are good…He commands your joy! That’s good and to obey it glorifies God.
It is for our profit. What a joy to be told to rejoice!
But joy is also for your profit. What a joy to be told to rejoice! So, “rejoice!” If you think that you are allowed to go through life with a gloomy heart, you’re totally wrong! So, I urge you to set it in your heart at once to throw away any allowance for any sort of depression, as if you had that right! You don’t! You only have a right to rejoice!
Your right is to joy and no you don’t deserve it, but obedience is to take it! But to obey and to receive this joy takes persistance, a tenacity, a relentless pursuit to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, ‘Rejoice’!”
TRANS: Secondly this morning is the timing…
The Time to Rejoice: Always
Rejoice when? …always!
Rejoice always. Christian rejoicing, therefore, is not based on circumstances. Remember who it is who is writing this. Paul. Where is he? In jail! Plus, he’s writing to the Philippians who are not exactly going through an easy time. Philippians 1:28-30 informs us that the Philippians are tempted to be alarmed by their opponents, they are suffering and going through conflicts.
It’s easy to be happy when life is good and going your way, but that is not Christian rejoicing.
Christian rejoicing is a happy affection produced by the Holy Spirit when a Christian is satisfied in the Lord…not necessarily satisfied with your circumstances. And so there ought not be a circumstance in which a Christian cannot rejoice in the Lord.
What about when we’re in a trial though? What about when were going through extreme difficulty? James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
“But you don’t understand, I have so much pressure in my life, I’m suffering” … Romans 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations [our sufferings], knowing that suffering brings about perseverance;
Rejoice even when suffering!
Listen to Paul..
2 Corinthians 6:10 He says he is… sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
2 Corinthians 7:4 I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
Joy in affliction. Even in pain and suffering, you can have joy! The how is coming, hang on…
Just know for now that joy is going to take a persistence, a tenacity… “I will rejoice in the Lord!”
Habakkuk 3:17–18 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Even in suffering and tremendous loss, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Be persistent! Relentless!
And speaking of joy in suffering, it’s your joy that will sustain you if you are suffering. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul says to those believers… “You . . . received the word in much suffering with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” You can have joy when suffering!
TRANS: Therefore, joy and rejoicing are not based on circumstances, but joy is based on the One who never changes. You can rejoice always because Jesus always is.
So, thirdly this morning the person of our rejoicing.
The Person of Rejoicing
Christian rejoicing is based on a relationship.
ILL: We are creatures of relationships. Usually when people have regrets on their deathbeds, it isn’t that they wished they made more money or committed more sin, but that they spent more time with their family. Relational. We are relational creatures.
Our rejoicing then is to be in a person. And because God created us and because Jesus is the Lord, our rejoicing is in Him.
The sphere of our rejoicing: the Lord
In fact, everything the Christian does is in Him.
The Bible says that we receive other Christians in the Lord, we greet them in the Lord, we are to glory in the Lord, we are to marry in the Lord, other Christians can be our work in the Lord, our work in the Lord is not in vain, we are to obey our parents in the Lord, to be strong in the Lord, wives to submit to husbands as is fitting in the Lord.
Everything a Christian does then is “in the Lord” in that sphere, in that circle. We’re not to go outside of that boundary. And so our rejoicing is in the Lord. So we are not to find our joy outside of that which pleases the Lord.
But our hearts are so deceptive.
ILL: There is a beautiful shrub called the borra-chero produces a chemical so toxic that if ingested it puts its victims into a zombie like state, totally conscious yet under a sort of hypnosis. It leaves the victims powerless to recall events and makes them open to suggestion. It’s used in the most devious ways, as you could imagine.
I fear the so-called entertainments and ambitions of this world captivate you to the extent that you lose your sense of reality and are drugged to the point of spiritual death.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Make sure your rejoicing is in the Lord. We rejoice in what He rejoices in; His will, His desires, His goodness to us.
Even the things we enjoy, we should enjoy them as we rejoice in the Lord. What good thing can we enjoy that we should not thank the Lord for?
Deuteronomy 26:11 11 …you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you…
This isn’t easy; finding this joy takes persistence, a tenacity…you can’t get all wrapped up in this world’s sense of happiness and think you’ll have joy in the Lord. God gives good things, enjoy them. But to live for the world will lead to death.
TRANS: The Lord then is the boundary of our rejoicing; we rejoice in Him. But the Lord Himself is our joy!
the object of our rejoicing: the Lord
We rejoice in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is a cause for great joy! That first Christmas morning… Luke 2:10 The angel said… “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…”
Jesus is a cause for great joy! We too easily lose the preciousness of the gospel.
We fail to understand that… Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Joy!
Christians have joy in Jesus! Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard the gospel…they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” There is joy in Jesus!
1 Peter 1:8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…
Joy in Jesus is the duty and the delight of the Christian.
ILL To rejoice in the Lord is not a difficult concept. Delight yourself in the Lord. Make him your delight. If I were to have you over for a meal and my wife made her world famous pork roast and her homemade steak sauce and I put that in front of you I can say, “Delight yourself in this.” And you would taste and see that it is good. But it takes you tasting it. Or if I put before you a scrumptious chocolate cake with just the right amount of chocolate icing, sprinkles, and your favourite kind of ice cream, you would delight yourself in that. You would rejoice in it.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Sit down for a while and rejoice in Him!
ILL: When I tell the kids this year at our Summer Bible camp that there is candy in that “Bucket of Candy Happiness” they will want to figure out how to go to that bucket and get the opportunity to stick their paws in it!
There is joy in Jesus! Go to Jesus! This isn’t rocket science!
Go over to Ephesians 1. Ephesians 1 in verse 3 tells us that God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ…. is that enough for you?
Verse 4… he chose us in him before the foundation of the world… Verse 5, he predestined us to adoption as sons… Verse 7 in him we have redemption through his blood … forgiveness of our sins… Verse 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will, regarding the future of Christ’s reign.
Verse 11 we have obtained an inheritance… And upon trusting in him, verse 13 says, we were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit who is verse 14 the pledge, the down payment of our inheritance.
So feel yourself commanded … feel yourself commanded to delight in the Lord Jesus who has accomplished these things for you! He has died for your sins, he was raised for your righteous standing before God he is gone on into glory and sits of the father’s right hand, ever living to make intercession for you. He reigns over all the world and he is looking forward to that day when he will take you to glory and you will reign with him for ever and ever!
The depths of this joy no mortal has ever plunged… But if you would but wade on the surface, you’d have joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Consider this… the greatest activity of your heart every day is to aspire to be happy in God.
ILL: George Mueller, that great prayer warrior of yesteryear, said, “I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do … [here’s a how to]… I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.”
ILL: Me personally, before I came to Christ, I was in a church service. I distinctly remember listening to the Bible preached and being profoundly impacted with this thought, “what is in the Bible can satisfy me.” In here is where there is true joy. Give yourself to reading the Word of God and to meditation on it.
TRANS: You say, “Well, Paul is just so way out of my league, I can’t see how I could ever have true joy.” Paul however knows you can have it, so to any objector he says, Nope … “again I will say rejoice!”
Don’t you think that to repeat that command was meant to seize their attention? Let your soul awaken… I’m not exaggerating…you can do this!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.4
So come! Come you brothers! Come you sisters!… We are invited to a daily feast of the soul in every circumstance, a source of daily strength ‘Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice!’”
ILL: CS Lewis said, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us [Lewis says we are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum [the dirty part of town] because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are far too easily pleased. Make your joy the Lord. We are too easily satisfied with the husks of this world when there is a feast in the Lord every day.
You have weak desires, you are too easily satisfied and content with lesser things…demand the best! You are demanded to demand the best…Rejoice in the Lord!
Look, you are finding your joy somewhere. But making your joy the Lord takes time and tenacity. It takes work.
ILL: No miner assumes he’ll get the gold while sitting on his shovel. No athlete will win the medal if he simply sits on the sidelines. It takes work!
Key application: To be happy in Jesus every day is going to take you meditating on the Bible and prayer. But you have to be hungry for it…if you lift up your voice for understanding, it’s then that you’ll discover the soul-satisfying fear of God, Proverbs 2 says.
John 16:24, Jesus says…, “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
Prayer is God’s source of joy. The word of God is also. Jesus says in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
Read the Bible and pray! Meditate on what Jesus says; feed your soul with Scripture. And ask to obey this command to rejoice.
So feed your soul in his word thirst for him and long for him. Do so until the day in which he takes you up into glory.. Until then, brother rejoice! If you are suffering, know that life is but a vapour. It will not be long… and you’ll exchange these seats for seats of glory, from suffering to eternal bliss. Know this deeply and rejoice, brethren, rejoice! 1. Persistently pursue Joy in Jesus”
#9 Jesus You Joy of Loving Hearts! Note stanza 1!