I have been taking the ladies in my Titus Group Bible Study through the book of Philippians. As we study this fantastic letter the Apostle Paul wrote, we discover the joy in all circumstances God provides us in salvation. This letter is often referred to as "The Epistle of Joy."
We often mistake happiness for joy. Happiness is a feeling based on circumstances. One day we can be happy at the amusement park; the next day, we are no longer happy because we are at work. On the other hand, joy is a deep contentment, no matter what happens in our lives. For example, we can be at the amusement park when a sudden rainstorm comes. We are joyful because we see past the inconvenience of the rain and look to the one who provides the shower at that moment. I may not be happy about the rain, but the rain brings me great joy.
If joy is a gift for us to enjoy and have in every circumstance, why do so many believers seem to lack it today? I have three reasons why our God-given gift of joy is robbed and how we can overcome it.
1. False Conversion
This one hit home for me. Admittedly, it is not something we want to face as professing Christians; however, it's the most important topic we must look at.
I had no supernatural joy because I was not truly born again. This is my testimony that I was in church doing all the "church" things. I would have never denied Jesus as my Savior. However, my life in action denied Him every day. I was living in habitual sin, sold out to the love of this world and all its pleasures. My emotions and circumstances had ruled over me. I wanted health, wealth, and prosperity and was told God would give it to me if I just professed Him as my Savior. (Learn More) The problem was that I didn't want Him as my Lord. Lord means Master. I didn't want to have to give up my sin and walk as He walked. I wanted my cake and to eat it too. I loved much of the pleasures and entertainment of the world; I didn't want to go to hell for participating in them. For me to sleep better at night, I convinced myself I was saved by repenting of the same sin every night, knowing I would commit it again tomorrow. I went to church sometimes, repented before taking communion, and always gave some money. I even read a Psalm and Proverb daily and my toilet devotionals. However, my life was not transformed. I loved my sin; I didn't want consequences for it. No wonder joy was an elusive unicorn I could never capture. Joy comes from God, a gift to the born-again believer. When He deposits Himself in us, we become new creations. Our desires change, and with our changed desires come changed behaviors. Joy is a behavior that comes with knowing Christ and receiving all He has done for us. When I realized I was not truly saved and repented and became born again, I had joy unspeakable. I now have joy no matter what is going on in my life. I have to stay focused sometimes as Satan still tries to steal my joy.
I understood what Paul meant when he could count it all joy despite facing various trials. It was supernatural! Like my salvation, it's hard to explain to someone who has not been born again. Joy is like that too! (read my full testimony)
2. Life Without Pray
A life without prayer will be a life without joy. Prayer is our communication with our Father. We have this great privilege to talk to Him day and night, no matter what we are going through, because of what Jesus did for us. Our Father designed this direct communication for us to have. We make our requests known to him; there is something comforting about knowing we have placed our needs into His sovereign hands.
When we pray, it keeps our minds focused on Him and not our circumstances. We praise Him in our prayers; we remind Him of His Word and promises in our prayers. We are communicating our needs to Him. We will be robbed of joy when we neglect prayer time with God. (J.C. Ryle Purpose of Prayer)
3. Neglect of His Word
God speaks to us through His Word. The Word comforts us, teaches us, convicts us, and reminds us of all the men and women who have gone before us that God has taken care of.
The Word is a mirror unto our soul. God has put this love manual together and preserved it for us for thousands of years. He inspired every Word on its pages to live and actively speak to us today. The Bible is truly food for our souls.
The more I learned the Word, the deeper my joy became in every circumstance. My emotions had less power over me. The enemy had less influence in my life. The false teachers could no longer deceive me. I learned how to forgive those who hurt me. I saw God's control in the lives of those within the scriptures. My prayer life became more prosperous as I used the Word to speak back to God. My prayers became full of gratitude for who God is and all He has done for me. Ultimately, I found my salvation in the Word. It is how I realized I was not truly born again and following a different Jesus/Gospel.
My life is transformed! The Word saved my life, earthly and eternally. My Grandma always said, "Amy, read your word because that is where the power is." She was right! Jesus is the Word, The Holy Spirit guides us through the Word, and The Father drew us to the Word! It's all about the Word! My joy is complete!
I recommend "Gospel According to Jesus" by John MacArthur This book is a must-read for every believer.