There have been many places where joy found me. Last year at Chariton Hills Rodeo Bible camp was one of them. I watched from the top row of a sale barn/chapel, as two young men shared the gospel with some of their bullriding students. I didn’t know what to call the feeling then, but I certainly do now.
It found me at the Burlington Pizza Hut. Sitting around 3 large pizzas with a group of young rodeo athletes as our talk transitioned from a book to the gospel, it hit me. I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling, but I can now.
It arrived at Hog Wild BBQ around my second helping of seasoned fries. I was discussing the attributes of God with a young man when we got on the topic of grace. Then the feeling struck me. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but can definitively explain it now. It wasn’t the heartburn from the two helpings of brisket, or the numerous seasoned fries…it was the same thing that made Paul sing in spite of his chains. It was joy.
Paul found joy in the preaching of the gospel. The communication of God’s love for humanity, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, and the reconciled relationship between us and God. This is what brought Paul joy in Philippians 1.
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Philippians 1.18)
The backstory here is fairly simple. Paul, once again, is in chains. While sitting in a jail cell, he passes the time by writing to some of the congregations that he began during his early travels. He is writing this letter the the Phillippians. They know about his checkered past because his first visit there resulted in his imprisonment (Acts 16).
As discussed prior, Paul’s circumstances didn’t dictate his demeanor. He was joyful in every surrounding, even a prison cell. But while he is in prison, some have begun to preach the gospel for profit and fame. They are doing it for selfish reasons, for rivalry and competition (1.15). Yet, Paul’s attitude about it is not what we would expect. He takes the same approach as he does toward everything else. It doesn’t get to Paul because the outcome, regardless of motive, is the preaching of the gospel. Christ is preached…I rejoice (1.18)
The gospel, the good news of salvation, has always carried with it joy. Luke 15, “the lost chapter”, there are three parties. When the shepherd finds his sheep he says “rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15.6) When the woman finds her coin she says: “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” (15.9) When the prodigal son returned his father said: “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.” (15.24)
When the gospel is preached, when it is experienced, when it is lived, joy is the natural by product. Luke communicated the connection in his “lost chapter”. He was, after all, a traveling companion of Paul. I wonder where he picked this up at? It was modeled and lived by Paul.
Paul saw the connection between the gospel and joy and wanted the Phillipians to catch it as well.
When you are down on joy, search out the place where the gospel is being preached. Surround yourself with those on the front lines of evangelism. Write a missionary, volunteer with a youth group, join the welcoming committee. Do something to place yourself in a place where the gospel is being lived out and taught to those without it and there you, like Paul, will find joy.