Key Scriptures: II Corinthians 11:23-33, Philippians 4:11-13, Numbers 11:4-20, Habakkuk 3:17-19. Psalm 32:11, 118:24, 98:4-6, I Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4-8, Galatians 5:22, Romans 14:17, Proverbs 10:28, Romans 12:12, Psalms 33:21, 119:110-112, John 15:10-12, Psalms 126:2-3, 92:4-5, Romans 15:13, James 1:2-4, I Peter 1:3-9, II Corinthians 8:2, Proverbs 17:22, Psalm 30:11
Guiding Questions: How can we have joy in all circumstances?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in a lot of your students’ favorite treats. Set it out and encourage them to eat as you talk. Keep urging them to eat more. While they are eating, ask them what makes them happy. Have them share what things they think would make them happier. Then ask the students why they stopped eating. Remind them that the food is a special treat they can eat as much as they want because you can keep bringing out more. Ask them why they won’t keep eating until that entire treat is your city has ben eaten by them tonight. (Leave whatever they say “on the table” without comment from any adults and begin the lesson.)
Lesson: (Questions for the students are in bold italics) Read II Corinthians 11:23-33. What are some of the things that have happened to Paul so far? He had received 40 lashes minus 1 five times. The Jews weren’t legally allowed to kill anyone under Roman law, so this was as close as they could get. In fact, they say a doctor usually preset and would stop the eating if the person would die with the next lash. Yet that wasn’t all Paul had experienced. Three beatings with rods, one pelting with stones, three shipwrecks, a night and day in the open sea, constantly on the move and in danger, sleepless nights, no food and more were Paul’s life. How would you feel if you were Paul at this point? Read what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13. How was Paul able to content in spite of everything bad that happened in his life?
Paul understood something we often forget. True godly joy doesn’t depend upon our circumstances. Have you ever gotten something you thought you really needed to by happy, but it didn’t make you happy like you thought? What happened? (Don’t worry if no one shares; just continue to the example in the Bible.) Read Numbers 11:4-20. The Israelites weren’t joyful even after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt. They weren’t happy even though God provided manna. They just knew if they could eat meat they would finally be happy. So what did God do? What lesson do you think He wanted them to learn? Did getting to eat quail make the Israelites as joyful as they thought it would? Why not?
Read Habakkuk 3:17-19. Habakkuk agrees with Paul, doesn’t he? What clue does Habakkuk give us about the source of pure, lasting joy? That sounds good – until we have a really bad day or a lot of bad days. Then you might begin to wonder what Habakkuk really meant. You may even question whether or not God expects us to be joyful when everything is so bad.
The Bible tells us God’s expectations of us regarding joy. Read Psalms 32:11, 118:24, 98:4-6, 68:3-4, I Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4. Do these verses sound more like suggestions if you are having a great day or expectations of God’s people in all circumstances?
So how could Paul and Habakkuk claim joy is possible in bad circumstances? They knew the source of true joy is God. But how does it work? What do these verses teach us about joy?
- Galatians 5:22 and Romans 14:17 – Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s a sign the Holy Spirit is in us. Remember Acts 2:38. How do we get the Holy Spirit? It’s a lot easier to be joyful if you are a Christian because you received the gift of the Holy Spirit when you were immersed in baptism.
- Proverbs 10:28, Romans 12:12 and Psalms 33:21 – Joy is possible when our trust is in God and His promises.
- Psalms 119:110-112, John 15:10-12 – Joy comes from obeying God
- Psalms 126:2-3, 92:4-5 – Joy comes from remembering all of the blessings God has given us and thanking Him for them.
- Romans 15:13 – It comes from God and is connected to peace and hope.
- James 1:2-4, I Peter 1:3-9 – Joy is a choice. If we suffer persecution and trials for we know God gives our salvation and eternal life to us.
- II Corinthians 8:2 – Joy is not connected to wealth. These people had joy, even in there extreme poverty. They were even able to be generous because of that joy.
- Proverbs 17:22 – Joy is good for our physical health.
- Psalms 30:11 – We still will have things that make us sad, but God can transform that sadness back into joy.
One last tip about joy, read Philippians 4:8. Brain science has shown that this scripture is also part of the source of our joy. Those who removed ugly, frightening evil things and replaced those books, songs, movies, games and more with things that could be described by the terms in Philippians 4:8, found it much easier to by happier.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Have students complete the first part of the “Joy Worksheet” by listing the things that are currently robbing them of their you or have caused them to lose their hoy in the past. Reassure the students that they won’t be forced to share what they write, so they can be completely honest.
Using the information from the lesson have the students brainstorm ways to put those principles into action. Make sure a great deal of focus is placed on two areas in particular:
- Ways to become more connected to God through Bible study, prayer, obedience, serving others and sharing their faith. (If there are students who have not been baptized you may also want to discuss how to become a Christian. See our free baptism study for help).
- Ways to replace the negative dark, depressing and angry things in their lives with things that are rue, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.
If time allows give them the materials to create something that reminds them of Philippians 4:8 for their homes, your church or your community.
Depending upon the talents of your students and your budget, the project could be music, art, food, crafts, gardens etc. It should be something that brings joy while also pointing them to God.
Application Challenge: Read some of the stories in Acts about the life of Paul. Then read Philippians 4. Review your “Joy Worksheet” and add things to your day that will increase your godly joy.
Author: Thereasa Winnett