Do you think there is a difference between happiness and joy? What makes you happy? What gives you joy? Do you use the words interchangeably or do you make a distinction between the two of them in your mind and conversation? Webster’s dictionary indicates that happiness is characterized by luck, good fortune or prosperity, while joy is the expression of high pleasure, satisfaction or contentment.
The depth and consistency of the joy that Paul experienced shines through every part of this letter to the Philippians, doesn’t it? When he prayed for them, it was with joy. If the Good News of Jesus was preached, he was glad, even if the messenger did not have the right kind of motive. He experienced joy when his friends were loving one another and working together. Even as he was imprisoned and awaiting a sentence, he felt joyful because the palace guard could hear the message about Christ. He wanted his friends and companions to share in that kind of joy.
So, it is not a big surprise when Paul repeated this idea one more time right in the middle of his letter to them. In one little sentence he encapsulates the heart of his desire for them – “rejoice in the Lord”. This is a strong statement because the word rejoice literally means “again – joy”. That prefix is an “intensifier” and makes the meaning come alive. Review, repeat, recall, rehearse, reexamine, recount, and reaffirm what God has made possible for you through His one and only Son, Jesus. Focusing on that relationship and the power of His resurrection will inevitably result in a deep, inner sense of well-being, contentment, and joy. It means that you can rejoice!
Why is it that when life is the most challenging and circumstances are the most difficult these truths come alive? Paul knew it and lived it, didn’t he? How about you? Are you progressing in your faith journey and experiencing more joy because of Jesus? It happens one step at a time.