Joy is not determined by your circumstances. It sings in spite of your circumstances.
On my way to work each day, there is a woman who literally dances down the street listening to her iPod happy as can be. If this were a one time occurrence, that would be one thing, but after seeing her do this day after day with a huge smile on her face, her infectious joy brings a smile to my face every time I see her. Not because she looks a little funny swinging her arms while dancing down the street, but because she is invading her world with joy. She is a carrier of joy and spreads it wherever she goes.
About a thousand yards up the road is the local convenience store that I frequent on my way to work each day. Because it is one of the more popular convenience stores in the area, they have anywhere from 5 to 10 people working at this location, depending upon the time of day and day of week. Usually when I check out, I find that the last place that the cashier wants to be, is at the counter working the register. They will almost always greet you with, “Hi, how are you?”, but you know they don’t mean it when they ask. You can so easily tell by the tone of voice that they use. This one particular day, however, I was REALLY greeted. In fact, while waiting in line, everybody before me was REALLY greeted. Joy was oozing out of every word that she said. Her Joy impacted everybody that she came into contact with, including me.
Joy Changes Your Atmosphere
Like these nameless women, when you choose to wear joy, you change the atmosphere wherever you go. Joy does to ‘doom and gloom’ what light does to darkness. It completely changes the environment.
Paul and Silas in Prison (Acts 16:16–34 -ESV)
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The Philippian Jailer Converted
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
You do not have to convince somebody that you are full of joy. Joy is obvious. It’s not something that you need to conjure up, but rather, it’s something that exudes from what is already within your heart. It’s an attitude that oozes out of you, regardless of your circumstances. But why? How is this even possible? Because joy finds its confidence in the Lord.
How Big Is Your God?
You see, the one who is joyous in the worst set of circumstances knows how big his God is. His focus is stayed on the Lord, and nothing else. This understanding does not excuse grief or pain that he goes through, but in spite of the pain, hardship and grieving process, he knows that healing and restoration are right there with him. He knows that God is right there with him in the midst of his hardship. So big is his God, that he has confidence that the Lord will take care of him, and address all of his needs. It’s as though joy shouts from within his circumstances yelling, “I am right here!”
The more you focus on Him, (not your circumstances), the more you recognize just how big he is. That recognition births confidence which leads to joy. It’s as simple as that. Focusing on Him leads to joy. Is that easy? Of course not, but it is the key to living joyously regardless of the situation that you find yourself in. Stay focused, and joy will find you. It found Paul and Silas.
Your Joy Will Impact Others Around You
25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them“. Paul and Silas had already fixed their gaze on Jesus, and knew just how powerful he was. They had crazy confidence in him which brought about a heart of praise and worship. They sang . . . “and the prisoners were listening to them”. Paul and Silas had something that the prisoners did not have. They had joy.
We know that this joy impacted the prisoners, because when the earthquake loosened their chains, they did not escape. The text reads: 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” Not only did their joy impact the prisoners, but it also had a life-changing impact on the Jailer and his entire household. In fact, we are told that “he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God” (vs 34). The NIV reads, “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole household”.
The Ministry of Joy Leaves an Enormous Impact
Fix your gaze on Jesus and recognize just how big he is. The more you look at him, the bigger he becomes. But don’t hide behind a process, thinking, “in time, joy will find me”. No. When you focus on Jesus, that’s when joy knocks at your door. The more you stay focused, the more joy you will have.
Dance yourself down the hall at work. Cheerfully serve others throughout your day. You don’t know how great of an impact your joy will have on those around you. It may just bring a smile to someone’s face, but then again, it might cause an entire household to place their faith in Christ. Be a carrier of Joy and wear it wherever you go!