I imagine that the majority of you who have been reading Shout For Joy for a time, especially what Peter has to say, will realized that we have finished commenting on both of his letters. So we are moving to Paul, specifically his letter to the believers in the ancient town of Philippi. You may remember that on Paul’s second missionary journey the apostle and his companions crossed the Aegean Sea and soon arrived at Philippi, the leading city of that area of Macedonia. (Acts 16:11-15). After a significant ministry there, including the conversion of Lydia and a time in prison, he continued on toward Athens. At one point, he wrote a letter back to his good friends in Philippi. We know it was written from a prison but scholars are divided whether that was in Rome, Ephesus, or Caesarea. The letter is the most personal of Paul’s writings and is best described as the Letter of Joy.
In what we call the first chapter of the letter (the current division into paragraphs took place in the 13th century) we watch the note of joy appear. In verse 4 Paul tells the believers that in his prayers for them he always prays “with joy” and in verse 25 he speaks of their “progress and joy in the faith.” A lot of secular literature has been written about the subject but much of it seems to consider joy as a synonym for happiness. The Greek word, however, suggests that joy arises from deep within rather than being a pleasant experience on the surface of life. I am happy should I win the lottery but joyful when a lifelong friend shares with me a story of recovery over a life-threatening disease. Happiness makes me laugh, joy often makes me cry. At the next marriage you attend watch the tears at that moment when the young couple are declared man and wife. Happiness may last all day, but joy is forever.
Joy is such a blessed experience because it is an attribute of God. Mark Twain was right when he noted that “to get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with” and we are privileged to share it with God. Peter reminded us that to have a personal relationship with God is to be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:9). And way back a thousand years before Christ David calls on us to “shout to God with cries of joy” (Psalm 47:1). It is in fellowship with God that we rather suddenly become aware of joy, that profound sense of wellbeing that arises from deep within.