Joy is a learned skill – mastering the right perspective in the midst of trials (James 1:2-4) and seeing God’s hand in even the most difficult of situations (Romans 8:28). Sometimes joy is an automatic response to something beautiful or unexpected, but other times we have to dig deeper for it.
Who better to teach us about joy than the apostle Paul?
Paul endured pain and suffering that we can’t even imagine (2 Corinthians 11:24-26) in order to reach others with the Gospel, teaching them how to walk in Christ and become disciple makers themselves. Even in the midst of unthinkable hardship, this process brought joy:
- He stuck it out with the Corinthians and watched with joy as they finally started to get it (2 Corinthians 7:4).
- The Thessalonians brought him great joy as they received, lived, and shared the gospel in the midst of persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
- Disciples-making-disciples was Paul’s heartbeat and brought him the greatest joy (Philemon 6-7).
When we are short on joy, we might consider what Paul discovered: joy is present when we remember what we were called to do and are committed to that call (Matthew 28:19).
As we approach the celebration of Christ’s coming (here in the middle of a pandemic), what can we do to further the gospel right where we are? First, you can’t share what you don’t have. Are you struggling to believe that God loves you? Seek out a Christ-follower in your life and ask them to meet with you regularly to walk through what it means to be a disciple.
To take some baby steps in reaching out to others, gift your neighbors with candy cane cookies and a card with the story of the meaning of the candy cane. Prepare gallon-sized zip-loc bags to keep in the car filled with items that a homeless person could use along with a note of encouragement.
May you find true joy today, in whatever circumstances you find yourself. And might we all heed the call to reach out to those in our sphere with the good news of the gospel.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — I Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)