We discussed how there is a distinction happiness and Christian joy. Happiness is often connected with pleasant circumstances. But Christian joy is grounded in God, and the ultimate blessings made possible through Jesus Christ.
Difficult circumstances may actually help produce joy, as we see in Acts 5:41. When we trust in God, we may experience deep, abiding joy and peace. My heart bypass surgery 10 years ago gave me time to reflect on God’s many blessings and the wonderful opportunity I had to continue to serve as a pastor and live as a family member and friend.
To conclude, the group read I Peter 1:3-9 aloud together. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Key Idea: “Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.” We had a wonderful, sometimes soul-bearing, discussion of this Key Idea. As part of our discussion, we shared how we find inner contentment even when things go wrong – and we all “believe” that our individual and collective faith is the answer every time. We were reminded of the words from Sunday’s service involving Malawi – “God is Good. God is Good all the time.” And, while we all agreed that circumstances do not dictate our mood, we also acknowledge that circumstances may initially dictate our mood, but we then experience a “bounce-back” factor that returns us to “center” – and that factor is our faith. We experienced, again, that our group has become an extended family, sharing our joy and pain, and lifting each other up when and as needed.
On a personal note that I previewed at the end of our meeting, my family was blessed to experience an ultimate joy this morning (Tuesday) as Ashlyn and Andy welcomed baby Cole into the world. For you statisticians, it was 7:56AM, and he weighed exactly eight pounds. God is good. God is good all the time. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.
In our discussion of the virtue of Joy this week, our group participated in an exercise to illustrate the foundation of contentment and joy. As a group, we listed as many things as we could that bring us joy. The list included things like family, friends, exercise, music, pets, church, and nature. We then eliminated everything from the list that is not permanent. The only item on the list that remained was God. Maintaining a sense of true joy and contentment in our lives must be grounded in the permanence of God himself. All other things that bring joy can fade over time. God is the reason we receive joy through music, or family, or church. Faith in Christ is the one true and reliable source of joy!