Has joy become a socially-distanced friend with whom you need to become reacquainted?
I wouldn’t be surprised if your joy-meter is registering lower than usual. (True confession: mine is hovering below its normal level.) Depending on how you measure it, it might seem there are fewer reasons to be joyful in 2020 than in previous years.
Perhaps, like me, you’re searching for joy in the wrong places—like in returning to a rhythm of normalcy or getting back into the groove of successful ministry programs. It’s no wonder that we search for joy and come up empty-handed.
It’s hard to be joyful when we obsess over what we’ve lost or the resources we lack. It’s tough to radiate joy when the people we lead push back against the new ways of ministry that have, at least temporarily, replaced the old. Are there times when joy is simply out of reach? According to Scripture, never.
Christians are created as reservoirs for joy.
Yes, there are times when joy is temporarily interrupted, like when we receive crushing news or a dreaded diagnosis. But joy doesn’t walk out and slam the door. Joy continually resides within us through the Spirit of Christ.
There is inexpressible joy found in belonging to God and being in His presence. The joy offered by Jesus fills us to the brim (John 15:11). When Jesus prayed for the church in John 17, at the top of the list was for His joy to become ours (John 17:13). Since joy is a gracious gift of the Spirit, there’s even access to joy in suffering.
Friends, joy is never out of reach.
But before you jump to conclusions, it’s not up to us to discover joy. We are made to receive joy as His gift. So cancel the search party; embrace the joy of Jesus. In discovering Jesus, we discover joy.
A Four-Day Bible Reading Guide to Inexpressible Joy
Fellow leader, may I hand you a spoonful of joy over the next four days as we feast on the Word and have deep fellowship with Jesus through the letter to the Philippians? Let’s pile our plates high with truth and open our mouths wide to receive the joy that is ours through Christ. On this four-day jaunt, we’ll uncover:
- A cause for joy through the sacrificial life of Christ.
- A power for joy when united with the suffering and strength of Jesus.
- A pattern for joy in the humility and obedience of Christ.
At the end of four days, I’m praying you will “shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!” (Psalm 20:5).
Start the Parade
Let’s parade through Philippians, a short letter that’s long on the countless reasons to rejoice no matter what trials of life come our way. Its author knows a thing or two about joy; the reality of the gospel engulfed this former enemy of Christ in explosive joy. He also knows about suffering. Paul writes while facing execution in Rome, practically forgotten by almost all of his friends except Timothy and Epaphroditus. As you recall, he’s the apostle who encountered near-death and persecution numerous times—run out of town, beaten, famished, exhausted, shipwrecked, and constantly in dire straits.
What’s the secret? When joy in ministry stems from knowing, loving, serving, emulating, and prayerfully relying on Christ, we cannot escape lasting joy. One joy-exuding leader creates a domino effect of flat-out joy through an entire church.
So get ready to kick up your heels; this reading guide will reignite inexpressible, nothing-can-curtail-it, Jesus-infused joy.
Day 1: A Joyful Perspective on Life
Read Philippians 1, noting repeated words.
Joy Verse: Select a verse from chapter 1 that causes joy to well up in your heart. Write it out for meditation today.
Tastes of Joy:
- Express gratitude to someone who’s partnered with you to advance the gospel.
- Use verses 9–11, 27 as a guide to pray for yourself, your family, and your ministry.
- Take an honest heart check: is there any trace of “envy and rivalry” toward another person in ministry (verse 15)? If so, confess and take the first steps toward reconciliation.
- Do one thing today to stir up joy: sing a joyful song, draw a picture representing joy, or write a praise note to God.
Day 2: A Joyful Pattern for Life
Read Philippians 2, noticing the theme of this chapter.
Joy Verse: Select a verse from chapter 2 that causes joy to well up in your heart. Write it out for meditation today.
Tastes of Joy:
- Read aloud verses 1–11, worshipping Christ for His humility and suffering on your behalf. Ask God to expose any hidden pockets of pride, and express your desire to serve with the same heart and mind as His.
- Consider whether you’ve allowed circumstances to cause “grumbling or disputing,” expressed either in private or public. Turn away from those sins and turn back to God to shine as a light in a crooked and twisted world (verses 14–15).
- Pray for a younger woman (like a Timothy or Epaphroditus) who you can encourage in the Lord.
Day 3: A Joyful Power for Life
Read Philippians 3, comparing cross-references that spark your interest.
Joy Verse: Select a verse from chapter 3 that causes joy to well up in your heart. Write it out for meditation today.
Tastes of Joy:
- Is your ministry confidence based on your title or religious resume (verses 2–7)? Make a list of things that may cause you to place confidence in yourself. Count each one as a loss compared to having confidence in Christ, who provides all that is needed for ministry (verses 8–9).
- Thank God for the specific ways suffering is drawing you into deeper fellowship with a crucified and resurrected Savior (verses 10–11).
- Considering your citizenship is in heaven, is there anything hindering you from living with a heavenly mindset? What joys of heaven are you anticipating (verses 12–16)?
Day 4: A Joyful Provision for Life
Read Philippians 4, considering the qualities of a gospel-centered church thriving in joy.
Joy Verse: Select a verse from chapter 4 that causes joy to well up in your heart. Write it out for meditation today.
Tastes of Joy:
- Does your ministry lack unity? Is there disagreement between ministry workers? What step can you take to restore harmony (verses 2–3)?
- What recurring thoughts nag your mind? Do they prompt you to lean into Christ or stew in anxiety? Pour out your heart in exchange for God’s provision of peace (verses 5–8).
- Describe the secret of contentment in your own words (verses 11–13).
- Apply verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” to your present circumstances. How does it encourage or comfort you?
- Share your reignited joy with someone else.
If this Bible reading guide has renewed you with fresh joy, will you take a minute to share it with another leader or ministry team?