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Enjoying joy

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! — Philippians 4:4

Church leaders are well aware that disagreements among participants in church life are not uncommon. Music is one of the most controversial areas.

One minister had a problem with his choir, who decided to withdraw their services unless their demands were met. He responded by writing a hymn which included the line “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our Lord!” This may have helped the minister feel better, but it probably did little to resolve the conflict.

Styles of music vary so dramatically and musical tastes have been nurtured by such widely divergent experiences that music too easily becomes a battleground, a test of spiritual orthodoxy, or a determinant as to what constitutes worship. No wonder someone said, “When the devil was thrown out of heaven, he landed in the choir loft.”

Notwithstanding the struggles and pain surrounding music in the church, it is still one of the greatest means of expressing praise, giving thanks, and generating joy in the company of God’s people. And praise, joy, thanks, and delight are integral parts of the believer’s life.

This should not surprise us, because God is a joyful God! Zephaniah tells us, “For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song” (Zephaniah 3:17). A singing God? A joyful God? Undoubtedly! So, of course his people should be a joyful people.

Paul, writing from prison, insisted, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). It adds poignancy to this instruction to realize that these words were penned in a dismal prison cell by a man under sentence of death. “Always” in Paul’s mind apparently meant always!

But isn’t this rather unrealistic? Aren’t we allowed “down days”? In fact, didn’t Paul get discouraged and depressed and even despair of life itself on occasion?

He did, but he was not contradicting himself. Note carefully what he actually said: “Always be full of joy in the Lord.” To be “in the Lord” is to be conscious of being part of His salvation, kept in His love, guarded by His grace, comforted with His compassion, convinced of His faithfulness, and secure in His hand.

It is not in our circumstances that we find the ability to be “full of joy.” Circumstances often won’t allow it. Joy resides “in the Lord” in the midst of our circumstances. This is worth singing about—and agreeing upon!

For further study: Philippians 4:4-9

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.