I Want to Be Joyful!

That was the decision, yes, the attitude of the apostle Paul.
And it can be yours also, regardless of which situation you may be in. 
Such a life will be a blessing for others.

Is this title appropriate for a senior’s page? Is it not a contradiction to connect aging with joy? One could almost believe that the signs of aging exclude joy. That is not so! The opposite has been my experience in those whom I have met who are dealing with signs of aging. They are still joyful and there are those from whom one could feel their joy without them saying a word. Of course, one also meets others in whose life joyfulness is missing. Their lives are composed of negativity. If you stay in their presence too long, chances are that you may also be infected by this negative virus.    

“I want to be joyful” is our theme. That is a decision, and it is a good one. You might say: “How is that a decision?” That is the important point. We could acquire the mindset that joy is only possible when all things in life go according to our plans. That means that all my wishes, plans, and dreams are fulfilled, and then, and only then, will I be joyful. Then our joy is a result of our life situation. If things are going well, we are joyful, otherwise….

Paul wrote to the church in Philippi the well known words: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  What does that “always” mean? I prefer to use other translations to better understand a word or saying. This “always” has been translated as “every time,” “no matter what happens,” or in a freer translation, “day by day.” That results in the following thoughts: I should be joyful every day, always, or no matter what happens. Paul demanded much. Most certainly you have noticed that he repeats and emphasizes these thoughts two times. Of importance is that Paul does not make joy dependent on our external circumstances but instead demands his readers to be joyful. This, then, becomes a personal decision of whether I am joyful or not.

Paul himself decided to be joyful. One would assume that the person who writes words such as, “Be joyful in the Lord” is doing well. However, the direct opposite was the case. The letter to Philippians is one of the so-called “prison letters” of the apostle Paul. From this connection, we immediately understand that Paul was not on a holiday trip, relaxing in the sun, but because of his faith was in prison. Paul was a man tested by many tribulations. Whoever reads Acts and his letters will always find him in tribulations. Difficulties were just part of his life. In our scripture, he is in prison but reaches for his pen and encourages his brothers and sisters in the faith to be joyful. It is also noteworthy that before he encourages others to be joyful, he speaks of his own joy. If you have read Philippians uninterrupted, you will have noticed that “joy” and “being joyful” are repeated many times.  

Let me tell you of an occurrence from the apostle Paul’s life that will more clearly show you his attitude. We want to visit him to see how he is doing. We find him in prison in Philippi, along with his friend Silas. They are locked up with shackles on their feet and awaiting their verdicts. We must also mention that they had been whipped. Not that they had committed a crime, but because they were preaching the gospel. Such a whipping was a gruesome form of punishment. Was Paul thinking about this when he wrote the following to the Corinthians: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one” (2 Corinthians 11:24)?  Let’s look at these two men. What are they doing? No, what music are we hearing from their cell? Luke wrote: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners listened to them” (Acts 16:25). Is that possible? Songs of praise in such a miserable situation? They had been mistreated, without mercy, and unmercifully put back into their cell. Much of their belongings were taken from them but not their “joy in the Lord.” This joy in the Lord remained with them, even in prison. This was the reason for the songs of praise at midnight. It is also noteworthy that all these incidents were used by God to bring the jailer to believe because of the joy of these two men.   

We have just dealt with the invitation of Paul for us to be joyful in all situations. We have found that this writer is in prison, and we realize: he practices what he “preaches.” Over and over, this joy is visible in his life. What we must understand is the source of his joy. He found his joy in God, in his relationship with God, and the grace of God, which is sufficient in all circumstances. This joyfulness must be experienced in order to really understand it. It is the “joy that the world cannot give.” That is how it is. This joy originates from God.

There is still one question which we cannot just ignore, and it is: What do we do with this scripture, this challenge to be joyful? We must make a decision. The easiest way would be to find excuses and pity oneself. Remember, we do not see such actions from the apostle Paul. He and his friend, Silas, sang a song of praise. To how many people in the last hundred years were they a blessing through their singing? Unknown numbers of people have righted themselves because of their behavior and went their way encouraged.

And us? You and I? What do we want to do? Of course, I can only answer this question for myself. I have decided to be joyful! I want to be joyful. The longer I ponder this question, the more reasons I find to be joyful here on this earth. In the future, when I have reached my goal, I will be joyful with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Before you put the Foundation of Faith aside or go on to the next article, decide to also be joyful. This may not change all your life situations, but your approach to situations may be helped and be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Who knows; maybe your behavior may be a blessing to others just as it was in Philippi for the jailer. That would be desirable, would it not?

Let us recall the verse together one more time so that we do not forget it: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).   

Harry Semenjuk

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