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June 23, 2024

True Joy Is Not Optional

Pastor KJ Kim

Philippians 4: 1-9

In today’s passage, Paul’s plea for rejoicing, saying in verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice,” challenges each one of us about “how.” We may think of joy as a private sense or feeling in response to happy circumstances. For Paul, joy is shared, not individual; a byproduct, not an end in itself; a discipline of Gospel living, not a feel-good factor; thus, joy is a command, not an option, not depending on our circumstances. How can we be joyful, no matter what our circumstances are?

Look at Paul, today’s passage author, where he was when he wrote this letter to the faith community at Philippi. Paul was in the prison cell. But Paul rejoiced in there, but his joy was incomplete unless it was shared with his beloved friends in Philippi. And the circumstances at Philippi they faced were not joyful either—facing opposition, disagreement, and struggle that threatened the unity of the faith community at Philippi. So, Paul urged his friends and us to seek joy and peace in the midst of opposition and disagreement, which is an outcome and a sign of the presence of Christ.

In reality, the world might still give us a sweet illusion of money that makes everything possible. But we know this—“Although we can buy a house, we cannot buy a sweet home; Although we can buy a clock, we cannot buy any time; Although we can buy the food and tickets for someone to accompany us for one day, we cannot buy a friend; We can buy a romance novel, we cannot buy love; We can buy a nice leather Bible; we cannot buy true joy and peace.”

Words for “joy” and “rejoicing” appear more than a dozen times in the book of Philippians, which is the letter from Paul’s prison cell. While Paul was in prison, he chose life and looked beyond the surface of his circumstances. So, Paul’s prison was no longer the place of lost hope and death. Rather, Paul’s prison was the place of meeting God and the of God’s mission as he perceived and rejoiced in living there.

Paul’s message may still challenge us because, depending on our circumstances, our joy may become too optional and emotional.

As we start the process of transition, I’d like to invite us to keep doing ordinary things and acts to be and do a church together. I pray that we all can hear and live out Paul’s words, especially for this time—“Rejoice in the Lord always.” So, this season of transition can be the season of meeting God and listening to God’s voice more often rather than being overwhelmed or frustrated.

Joy is not optional or an emotional feeling. Joy is the practice of believers and the fuel that makes us one community. Joy is one of the best ways to represent God’s grace and blessings.

Thanks be to God.

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