“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
A life-defining moment came for me in my seventh-grade gym class. The school year had just started, and it was my very first opportunity to join the mysteriously exclusive club of jocks and athletically gifted students. I was publicly known to be a last-to-be-picked-for-the-team kind of kid, but I had faith that my seventh-grade gym class would change my reputation and put me right on top of the social ladder.
The school year started off with football being the sport of the season. Only a few days had passed out on the field, and I already had full confidence that I was destined to be the star quarterback of my middle school team. After the first week of practice, my coach sat me down to ask me a few questions.
“Jeremy, how are you liking football?”
“Coach, I love football so much.”
“Are you sure? I don’t think—“
“Coach, football is what makes me happy. It is my whole life now.”
“So, do you think you want to keep playing football?”
“Coach, football is my favorite thing in the whole world. I love football.”
“How would you feel about switching your elective to choir?”
It was a devastating blow to my twelve year old ego, to say the least.
Reflecting on that incredibly low point, I’m now able to see things with much more realism and clarity. At the time, I was obviously not built to operate in any athletic capacity. I could barely throw a paper airplane across the room, let alone a football. However, the idea of being the star football player brought me such a high level of satisfaction that I created a definition of joy which was rooted in my abilities.
Joy has nothing to do with my abilities! Joy has nothing to do with the positions I hold or the circumstances I find myself in. Joy is not how much I have, and joy is not where I’ve been. True joy can only be found in Jesus! Nothing in the world will ever be as satisfying or compare to the life I have in Christ.
In Psalm 4:7, David writes “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.” In this, he is proclaiming that the joy he has in the Lord is more fulfilling than any physical or material increase the world could ever provide! To make this point even more clear, he says not even grain and wine – two symbols of wealth and prosperity – could compare to the greatness of joy in the Lord.
So many times, I find myself looking for joy in the wrong order. I have hope that, if circumstances turn out the way I want, maybe I’ll find joy. Or, if I get the things that I want, maybe then I’ll find joy. Instead, we are supposed to live with the joy of the Lord, and then rejoice in His goodness regardless of the outcomes of our situations! Joy is not fleeting, and joy is not variable. Joy is a product of a life lived with Christ.
The joy of the Lord is that God chooses to look at us, even in our sinfulness. He chooses to love us. He sets us free from our bondage, and He gives us access to Himself. He gives us more than we could ever find in the pursuit of pleasure. That is the joy I want to define my life. In the end, it doesn’t matter if I am the star quarterback or up singing the National Anthem. My joy is not dependent on who I am. My joy is solely dependent on who Christ is.
Lord, forgive me for the times I have sought joy in my own works and positions. Help me to find true satisfaction and fulfillment in who You are. Allow me to live my life rooted in Your joy. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.