Title: Practicing Joy
The Point: When I focus on Christ, joy and peace flood my life.
Get Into the Study
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus have been in the news lately for being in the last few months of production for the “Greatest Show on Earth.” The circus is a place full of colors, music, fireworks, animals, a singing Ring Master, and clowns. Children of all ages can be seen smiling from ear to ear with the mouths wide open as humans are shot out of a cannon, mermaids swim in the air, and tigers give kisses to their handlers. 
Today in your group you are discussing practicing joy. If we are honest, joy isn’t something that always comes easily in day-to-day life. However, we can learn to take cues from the circus. We can learn to celebrate and be joyful over little things, to use a little imagination to make circumstances brighter, and that sometimes singing a song is all it takes to makes us smile.
In your group spend some time discussing childhood (or adulthood) memories of the circus. Ask, “What were some of your favorite memories of the circus?” Find out what made them smile and how they responded to all that what going around them. As your group is talking, start to turn the conversation to how we can practice joy. You could use some examples from the circus but also from daily life as your time shifts to “rejoicing in the Lord.”
—Dr. Beth Masters works with college students at Mississippi College where she is the Director of Christian Life and Ministries. She has a PhD in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Beth loves young adults, baking, and coffee.
For information on Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus as well as an explanation of their farewell. Access January 30, 207, https://www.ringling.com/.
Study the Bible
Use the following illustration to supplement your group’s engagement with Philippians 4:6-7.
There are a lot of things that can make us unhealthy. Now, it seems that worrying about our health is one of those things. According to a recent article in Forbes, a study of people who were anxious about their health versus people who were not yielded surprising results: “Even after taking out variables that are known to be linked to heart risk, the connection still stood, with people with health anxiety having a 70 percent greater risk of developing heart disease.”
So, now we can’t just worry about our health — we also have to worry about worrying about our health!
It seems like no matter how hard we try, there’s always something to worry about. We’re told not to worry or be anxious. As Christians, we know that worrying can actually become sinful. But it’s hard not to worry, isn’t it? With life coming at us from every angle, there’s almost always something taking up our brain space.
In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul reminds us that instead of obsessing over worry or imagining a future disaster that probably won’t happen, we’re called to trust God. The opposite of worry in the Christian life is trust. When we fully learn to trust God, we’re able to lean on Him with the knowledge that He is completely in control.
— Ashley Emmert wrote this Leader Extra. She is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her sweet Southern husband and their small scrappy dogs. Find her at ashleygraceemmert.com or on Twitter @ashgemmert.
- What things have a tendency to rob us of our joy?
- What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
- If you could make something instantly better in your life, what would it be?
- When do you struggle most to feel and exhibit joy?
- How can you show Christ-like gentleness to the everyday people you meet in real life?
- What’s your initial reaction to these verses? Why?
- Why do Christians have a reason to rejoice “always”?
- How difficult is it to follow Paul’s instruction to not worry?
- What are some things we worry about that steal our joy?
- How can prayer prevent us from worrying?
- What message is our heart telling us when we give way to anxiety?
- How is prayer a remedy for our anxiety?
- What causes anxiety in your life?
- When have you felt peace as a result of God’s presence?
- When has prayer helped you find peace?
- How does the peace of God help us to wage war against anxiety?
- How do our thoughts allow for peace and calm?
- What are some lovely and honorable things on which we can think?
- How can we prevent our minds from thinking unpraiseworthy thoughts?
- What ideas or images come to mind when you read verse 8?
- What steps can we take to focus our thoughts on what is good?
- What are some specific things that tend to fill your mind with negativity rather than what God wants?
- What kinds of things are honorable, just, pure and lovely?
- What can we do to fill our minds with things that are pleasing to God?
- How can we begin to “practice” the things Paul is teaching in this passage?
Share the following with your group members as either a devotional before the group study or as a follow-up devotional:
Here’s a brief five-minute teaching video about this session: Thrive, Session 5