Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 26, 2017

a continual, habitual practice

Christmas Day is four weeks from today. Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday has passed and today is Cyber Monday …and that’s just the beginning of the race to Christmas. In church yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk about moving towards Christmas with a sense of gratitude for the everyday blessings from the Father. I would like to believe this will be a happy season for all who are reading this article, but without a doubt we will all be confronted with stresses of various kinds. It has become that kind of season! Happiness really isn’t the issue anyway, but walking through this season with a joyful heart is more than just a possibility.

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 moment’s 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 just to 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 live a perpetually joyful journey. Happiness always is not realistic, but rejoicing always 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 just writing “happy talk,” but 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 (NIV)

All Christ-followers have the same opportunity for joy that Paul spoke of in challenging 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’s sad but true, many 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 with perpetual joy. Studying this passage of Scripture shows that rejoicing is 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 our challenge and opportunity today any different? I don’t think so!

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, 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!

The race to Christmas is upon us, and this year don’t let the pace dampen your joy!


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