Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! ~ Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Someone wrote: "The word happiness evokes visions of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning...being surprised on your birthday...or vacationing in some exotic locale. Everyone wants to be happy; we make chasing this elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, and the party's over? Often happiness flees and despair sets in."
"In contrast to happiness stands joy," the author continues. “Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God's love and work in our life--that He will be there no matter what."
When you read the above Scripture from Philippians, you can almost picture Paul sitting on a beach somewhere with a quill in one hand and a cocoanut flavored drink in the other. As he dips the feather one more time, he looks up to see the last golden beams of the sun majestically spread across the ocean horizon. The water shimmers like sparkling glass.
Who wouldn't think about joy in a setting such as that!?!?
However, that is NOT where Paul is writing and it is certainly NOT what he is seeing. Paul is in a dirty, dungy prison--the only view would have been the stone walls of his stench-filled jail cell.
So how can Paul speak of joy in such a place?
It is because he had quit living for the fleeting happiness that this world offers and instead started living for Christ. Having traded temporary happiness for lasting joy, it did not matter where he was or what his circumstances happened to be. All that mattered is that he was connected to Christ.
If you find yourself lacking joy, it may well be that you lack Christ. If so, run to Him, embrace Him. Seek out the joy He offers. His well never runs dry!
In prison or free. Full or empty. Rich or poor. Alone or in a crowd. It matters not. If you have Christ, you have abundance. As Paul would also say from that prison cell, I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12,13).
Have you learned that secret?