Dear Church Family
Joy is often defined as a deep contentment that is not dependent on circumstances. This joy - this contentment - if it could be bottled, would be one of the most valuable commodities in the world! Of course it can't be bottled, but it can be found and known and experienced in Jesus Christ. That's why Paul says in Philippians 4:12 'I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.' And that's why Nehemiah, hundreds of years before, confidently says to God's people working in difficult times that 'the joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8:10).
I spoke at Belfrey Youth this week out of James 4. It was Tuesday - the evening of the England football game against Colombia. My talk became the half-time team talk, and I spoke on joy. We know we have joy by the way we react - not so much when things go well, but more when things go badly. When, for instance we lose at football! When get ill. When we're criticised. When opposition comes. How we react to difficulty is both telling and important.
Of course, I hope we win at football! And I'm not wanting me or anyone to be ill. I'm not seeking out difficulties or opposition. But they come. And they will come. Which is why much of the Bible's teaching - including James 4 - is about how we react to such hardships. James tells us that instead of quarrelling (v1) or being jealous of others (v4) or speaking badly of others (v11) or making silly plans (v13) we should do things like pray (v2). We should ask for more grace (v6). Resist the Devil (v7). Come close to God in worship (v8). With humility (v10). Doing good (v17).
Joy - biblical joy is evident in how we react.
I expect you're enjoying the warm weather. I expect, like me, you hope it continues. But if it changes and rains for the rest of the summer, how will you react?
I trust you're enjoying the World Cup and England's success. But if it all goes wrong tomorrow, how will you react?
The world is looking for a people who have a contentedness that's not dependent on circumstances. We have this gift - the gift of joy - given by Jesus Christ. So let's express this joy. Let's allow this joy to overflow - not just in the good times but when life gets hard. Let's give this joy. And let's proclaim the joy-filled life - found in and through Jesus Christ - who experienced great suffering, that we might experience great joy.
PS. Do join us at 1pm this Sunday at The Vicarage, Jubilee Terrace for a lunchtime barbecue. This is particularly for the 11am (XI) congregation and friends, but you'd be welcome to come, even if you don't regularly worship at the 11am service. If you've never been to The Vicarage before, do come. Or if you or your family just find yourself free, it would be lovely to see you!
Also, please pray for me and the team I'm taking with me from The Belfrey tomorrow as we lead a Prayer Ministry training day for churches in the Teesside area. Please pray for the Spirit to be at work, empowering and equipping. Thank you!