Here's how you can be filled with joy in your every day life and especially in the dark days, the darker months, and the darker years. Paul gives us the example to follow. I believe He has drawn truths from some Old Testament verses, wisdom from King David and King Saul. Consider Proverbs 3 where Solomon writes, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." Consider also Psalm 37:4-5 — "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it."
I believe Paul lived these verses throughout his ministry and that he personally applied them in order to be able to manifest trust and trials and joy while in jail.
First, we need a quick overview and understanding of the theology of joy from the Scriptures. First of all, joy is not an emotion. Joy in the Bible is an inner character strength. Follow me to Nehemiah 8:10 — "The joy of the Lord is my strength." And if we combine that verse with Hebrews 12:2 — "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross..." we soon see just how much strength joy can give us! In truth, Jesus faced the cross as a fully innocent Savior, never giving into temptation to stop the suffering — the great suffering — that would cause him to drink in all of our sins and be separated from His Father and die. For the joy set before Him, Jesus was able to endure the cross. Joy — Jesus' joy — is the strength to endure anything.
Now, the question is: How do I get Jesus' joy? Here's the really cool part of the Bible. If you're a Christ-follower and believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He has made a great promise to us all that He freely gives His joy away. In the final instructions to the 11 believing disciples, Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15:9-11)
Jesus is emphasizing with his soon-to-be world-changing disciples that they must obey and abide. Obedience is the key to getting the joy of Jesus. In fact, Jesus says He will fill you with His joy if you obey His instructions. So the strength to endure anything comes from when we choose to obey the commandments of the Lord. If you find yourself weak mentally or spiritually or emotionally or in any other way, you need to evaluate what truths you are following and what truths you are avoiding. In my journey with the Lord, I have found that, much like King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, I can fool myself into believing I am fully obedient. But, a more careful examination (2 Corinthians 13:5) reveals I am only partially obeying.
So, what commands do I need to obey? Answer: All the ones that I know. Sadly, my evaluations go something like this:
"Well God you say not to murder" - ok, i'm good. God you say not to steal.. ok i'm good" God you say to love my neighbor. Ok.. well I love most of them- but the one who lets his tree limbs fall against my fence, and never cleans up his yard and plays loud music late at night...I'm uhhhmm, I'm working on that. And then God you say I should "study (labor) to show myself approved a workman of God whose not ashamed." .. ok I do study. I study at church a few times a month. I'm tired when I get home from work, so I cant really study then. I mean I can spend two hours reading statuses on Facebook. I can play Warcraft, Madden football, or read a great article about deer hunting or Alabama football. I'm just too tired to read the Bible. And then I know God You want me to talk about my faith in Him to others, but i'm actually an "introvert" so that doesn't apply to me."
- 1 Samuel 15:22 "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice. Saul had been commanded to slay utterly all the Amalekites and their cattle. Instead of doing so, he preserved the king, and suffered his people to take the best of the oxen and of the sheep. When called to account for this, he declared that he did it with a view of offering sacrifice to God; but Samuel met him at once with the assurance that sacrifices were no excuse for an act of direct rebellion.
- The sentence before us is worthy to be printed in letters of gold, and to be hung up before the eyes of the present idolatrous generation, who are very fond of the fineries of will-worship, but utterly neglect the laws of God. Be it ever in your remembrance, that to keep strictly in the path of your Saviour's command is better than any outward form of religion; and to hearken to His precept with an attentive ear is better than to bring the fat of rams, or any other precious thing to lay upon His altar. If you are failing to keep the least of Christ's commands to His disciples, I pray you be disobedient no longer. — Spurgeon
- Paul trusted in God for his future.
- Philippians 1:6-7 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. NASU
- Philippians 4:19 - And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
- Paul put Christ in highest place in his life.
- Philippians 3:6-14 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.NASU
- He discarded things of earthly value
- Paul prayed his burdens onto Christ.
- Philippians 4:4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NASU
- HE prayed with thankfulness
- Paul literally delighted himself in the Lord.
- Psalm 37:4-5 Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. NASU
From a jail cell in ancient Rome, eating prison food, sleeping on prison furniture and with an uncertain and possibly dark future, Paul writes for his friends to "rejoice in the Lord." He adds that for him to live is Christ to die is gain and that He is fully satisfied and content, with a peace that passes understanding. HE WAS A TESTIMONY from JAIL of a person not bound to the Earth.
When you have Jesus' JOY- filling you up.. the things of Earth do not weigh you down.
When you have Jesus' JOY in your life - you look "different" from those around you who are weighed down by the cares of this world. When you have Jesus' JOY in your life - you can testify of JESUS with confidence. When you have Jesus' JOY in your life you can testify to your family that something is different, and better.
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. NASU
In His presence, is fullness of joy; fullness of His strength flowing through you. If you want to unlock the strength of Jesus joy in your life, you have to become serious about obedience. Take an inventory this week of Bible truths you know you should obey. Be honest with yourself and work on being fully obedient without excuses.