One of the most infallible signs of the presence of God is joy. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms. I don't know who came up with the idea that to be sanctified means to be sad, but I reject that. After all, we are called to preach the good news.

But you should note there's a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is vacillating; joy is fixed. Happiness goes up and down depending on the happenings, but you can go through horrible, unhappy circumstances and still have joy.

The apostle Paul knew this well. He wrote the letter of Philippians, which overflows with unmistakable joy, from a Roman prison cell, not knowing whether he would soon be acquitted or beheaded.

How was this possible? The real reason for Paul's joy is found in the very first verse of Philippians, where he described himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ. The word bondservant, doulos in Greek, usually referred to a person who lived to serve another willingly. Paul was voluntarily devoted and surrendered to Jesus Christ as his Master. That's where his joy came from.

Now, joy is a funny thing; it's elusive to so many people. That's because true joy isn't found by direct pursuit—it's a byproduct of pursuing Christ and His will. As long as you try to find joy by living for yourself, you won't find it. The more you do as you please, the less you will be pleased with what you do. But when you choose to serve Jesus Christ, the byproduct of that is joy.

Think of it like this: Buckingham Palace in London is the palace of the British royal family. Whenever the sovereign is in residence there, a flag called the royal standard is flown overhead. In the same way, joy is the flag flown over the castle of your heart when the King is in residence there. It's the badge, the sign of a bondservant: "The King is here."

As we make our way through select passages of Philippians in the coming weeks, I pray the Lord would give you that precious gift, that byproduct of seeking Him and surrendering to Him: "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8, KJV).

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