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Praying for a Breakthrough of the Joy of the Lord

Praying for a Breakthrough of the Joy of the Lord

Dear Friends,

Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life—without it, we cannot magnify Jesus and attract others to Him.

Three times in his letter to the Philippians, Paul commands God’s people to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (3:1; 4:4). Paul is “firmly happy in the Lord,” and like a good doctor of souls, he is writing  the same prescription for his readers: Rejoice!

If I had to pick one word to summarize Philippians, I think it would easily be the word JOY.  And I really like the old Sunday School definition of J-O-Y = Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. A joyful life is a life in which Christ is preeminent, serving others is constant, and self-centeredness is repugnant.  

Ray Ortlund writes that Paul is urging the Philippians to join him “in the sacred environment of gospel gladness.” Oh that New Covenant Bible Church would be a sacred environment of gospel gladness!

Listen to how Paul describes his joy in the Lord as I draw out a few verses from Philippians.

In 1:3-4, Paul says his prayers are full of thanksgiving and joy: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

In 1:18, Paul can say that even though he has rivals who are trying to undermine his ministry, he is still filled with joy—how? Because “in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

In 1:25-26, Paul says that one of the goals of his whole ministry is to enhance the joy of God’s people: “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus…”

One of the most astonishing statements of joy is in 2:17-18: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Paul finds immense joy in pouring out his life for the sake of Christ and his gospel.

Do you find Paul’s joy attractive? Does it make you want to be a more joyful Christian?

There’s only one way we can live a life of joy, and Philippians says it loudly and clearly: “Rejoice IN THE LORD always.  Again, I will say rejoice!”

Paul was full of joy because his joy was in Jesus.  He gloried “in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). For Paul, “to live is CHRIST and to die is gain” (1:21).  Living is all about Jesus—dying is all about MORE of Jesus.  

We are praying this month for a breakthrough of the joy of the Lord in our lives. There are two books in our Resource Center that will encourage you to pursue this joy.

Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and its Cure, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones: This is a classic treatment of the subject, written with wise pastoral sensitivity. Lloyd-Jones argues that "Unhappy Christians are, to say the least, a poor recommendation for the Christian Faith; and there can be little doubt but that the exuberant joy of the early Christians was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity.” He understands the struggle, and as a skillful spiritual physician he prescribes a remedy that cannot fail to revive the fainting spirits of believers. I turn to this book again and again and always find in it the healing balm of the gospel.

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, by John Piper. Anyone who has followed Piper’s ministry knows that he is all about desiring and delighting in God. Piper writes this book for those who have found his message to be both liberating and devastating—liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy and devastating because it reveals that we don’t desire God the way we should. Piper skillfully answers the urgent question: “What can I do if I don’t have joy?”

Above all, the Word of God is full of promises that assure us that it is God’s intention to fill his believing people with this attractive fruit of the Spirit called joy. Promises like Isaiah 29:19:

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD,

and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

The joy of the Lord is our strength!

Pastor David Sunday