Posted by: mikenicholsblog | April 20, 2017

a continual, habitual practice

Before sharing today’s article, I want to personally thank one of our team members, Mark Robb for again writing articles during Holy week. One article in a week is challenging, but writing well-thought-out articles for eight straight days is a labor of love. I trust you were blessed as I was by his work.

Today, I had the opportunity to play golf with complete strangers. We had fun and enjoyed each other’s company. On a few holes, I was on top of the world (the golf was easy and the sun was shining). But on a few other holes, my happiness turned sour (the golf was hard and frustrating). Sounds like life!

Happiness is such a fleeting emotion. It is not unusual to be on top of the world one day, and a valley-dweller the next. Circumstances can, in a breath of time, give us a jolt of emotional bliss or bring sadness to our spirit. We all know life is not about happiness, but it’s a normal response to crave it. There is something in all of us that desires to have a good day, to hear good news, or to just feel good about life. Even the Declaration of Independence declares, that the “pursuit of happiness” is a right. Although we will never live a perpetually happy life, we can have a perpetually joyful journey. Happiness always is not realistic, but rejoicing always certainly is!

Our counsel to rejoice comes from a man who was a prisoner in Rome. Paul was under house arrest when he wrote the book of Philippians. He wasn’t a man given to happy talk, but rather a man controlled by a true sense of joy that rose above any circumstance. It is one thing for someone in a good place to instruct others to rejoice, but it is far more meaningful to speak of rejoicing from prison. Under the inspiration of God, Paul gave the Philippian Christians words that still ring true today.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

All believers in Christ have the same opportunity for joy that Paul challenged to the Philippians. He made his point with obvious impact by repeating the word rejoice twice. If joy were an emotion like happiness, then we could assume that the feelings of joy would come and go, just like happiness.

“But joy is not a feeling; it is the deep-down confidence that God is in control of everything for the believer’s good and His own glory, and thus all is well no matter what the circumstances.”
The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians

It is sad, but true. Most believers don’t live with a deep-down confidence that God is in control. I would be less than genuine to proclaim that I have mastered the choice to live perpetually with joy. Studying this passage of scripture shows that rejoicing was to be a continual, habitual practice. We can rightly assume that God, through Paul, told the Philippians to live with a heart of rejoicing. Is the challenge to us as Christ followers any different today?

Living with a deep-down confidence that God is in control leads to a life of rejoicing. Circumstances will not always be good, but God always is. Our problem is that we believe intellectually that God is in control, but refuse to personally experience what He has made available. Accept today by faith, that God’s design for you is a perpetually rejoicing heart. It will take choosing His truth over your emotions, but the results are worth it.  We may crave happiness, but what we really want (and need) is joy!

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