I have listened to this John Piper sermon on repeat in the past, on those days when I’m feeling crabby or just plain discouraged. You should check it out (here is the link), because he says really articulately how we are able to fight for joy.
It sounds a bit counter-intuitive to “fight” for joy. Joy is a spontaneous emotional response to a desire fulfilled, not something that we can bring about through our own strength. It seems a bit confusing then in Philippians, when God commands us to be joyful. He says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4. Not only does he command us to be joyful, but also he commands we do so always. We should recognize that God commands we delight and rejoice in Him because He is worthy of our praise and joy. Now, it may seem a bit mean spirited of God to command us to be joyful, but we know that God doesn’t command us to do something that He does not also enable.
He says, “Be joyful always,” but we shouldn’t stop reading there. Paul continues: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”–Phillippians 4:4-7
How can we be joyful always? Because the Lord is near; He’s at hand. It means that God is a good God who intervenes like we spoke of in the post. God keeps his promises by fulfilling them in Jesus. That means that the God of the universe is here working in our hearts and our lives to enable us to carry on.
If we are Christians, God gives us the Holy Spirit and if we pray to Him and ask Him to fill us with joy, then He will. God will use the Holy Spirit to give us hope and desire for God, even when we can’t find the desire within ourselves. One of the best ways that God enlivens the heart through the Holy Spirit is through His scripture. That is one of the surest ways to find your heart rejoicing in God. The Scripture all points to Jesus and God uses it to change us and to encourage our spirits.
How do we fight for joy? We pray for God to change our hearts and we meditate on God’s truths. God does the work of turning that obedience into beautiful joy.
Rejoice with me in the truth of this Scripture:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8: 1-17