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February 7, 2008

Finding true joy and making it complete

by Dave Malnes

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something that we cannot generate on our own.  We seek and sometimes receive happiness, but find it so fleeting. In stark contrast, true joy touches our inner being. It’s both lasting and eternal. 

Christians proclaim to the world an all-important message that we can have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In sharing this message, the Spirit of joy will not only be in you, but the joy will be made complete.  

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  (Phi. 2:1-2) 

What does it mean to complete our joy? 

A good example is when you visit the doctor. He tells you the amazing news that your malignant cancer has disappeared. You have been miraculously cured! That’s great news! Your joy cannot be restrained, so you quickly call your family and friends to proclaim that you are cancer free. Your joy has been made complete by telling the good news with others so that they may share in your joy.

A Christian completes their joy by sharing with the other the amazing news of what Christ has already done for us.

The Apostle Paul is encouraging Christian believers that one of the ways we express our joy is being united with Christian believers who are like-minded in their commitment to follow Jesus. Many blessings come in the form of encouragement, comfort, and fellowship. Notice Paul uses the word “if” as to question whether the Philippian church really owned these blessings or not.  However, “if” can also mean “since” in the original Greek. Paul is saying that since the Philippian church have these blessings by being united with Christ, then they will be able to exercise these blessings as they interact with other brothers and sisters in Christ.   

Another way we express our Christian joy is in expressing tenderness and compassion. The literal meaning of the Greek word for tenderness means bowels or internal organs. This term was frequently used to describe the heart of our emotions or the source of our passions. From our “tenderness”, we have compassion, pity, mercy, and kindness. Today, instead of saying “bowels”, we use the word “heart”. We say to others, ‘I have a heavy heart” or “I have a heart for classical music,” or “C’mon, have a heart!” God displays great compassion and mercy toward all men, thereby serving as a model on how we can show compassion to others. Paul is now saying that we should have “a heart” toward other people as God shows compassion and mercy on us. 

Since the blessings of being unified in Christ were apparent in their lives, Paul is now ready to make a special request. With a sense of challenge to take full advantage of being in Christ, there is more they can do to “make my joy complete.” Paul wants them to seek a greater measure of harmony in how they interact with each other as a Christian congregation. Selfishness, pride, and jealousy can severely cripple the spiritual and numerical growth of any congregation. This seems to have been a problem with the Philippian congregation. Later, Paul mentions a personal rivalry between two prominent women of the church.   

To mature in the faith, we will rely on the Word of God to instruct and empower us. We can love unselfishly and give without expecting anything in return by finding our motive and example in the love of Christ.

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