I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.~Philippians 3:14 NKJV
A trip to the theme park Pirate’s World was every teenager’s dream. And popcorn at Pirate’s World was the best.
During my freshman year of high school, we took a class trip there. I was elated, and yes, we studied. I’m not sure what we studied—rollercoaster mechanics or something–but it was school-related. At least, that was the guise. As our bus reached the gates, our classmates piled up and over the turnstiles, nearly crushing me in the process.
I had fun exploring the aisles of games. There was everything from bean bag tosses to ring-around-the-bottle to various shooting, darting, throwing, and slinging games. I explored the rides–my favorite being the giant slide. The dust wafting as we’d disembark provided great entertainment, as did the various chit-chat at the top. We asked the attendant if we could share a burlap mat, slide backward, slide without the mat, or do anything else we could dream up to get him to chuckle while he said, “No.” And then there was the food. I gorged myself on a candy-coated apple followed by cotton candy. I had more sugar on my fingers than in my mouth.
My excitement waned when a classmate asked me when I was going to ride the Steeplechase rollercoaster. Not wanting to appear as terrified as I was, I presented logical excuses.
“We have all-day passes to ride as many times as we want,” Charlene* said.
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
Charlene didn’t wait for an answer. She pushed a bag of popcorn into my sugar-coated hand and scooted us toward the roller coaster. Seconds later, I found myself crushing the bag as we boarded Steeplechase. We followed this by riding the log flume, which dropped a watery twenty feet at its peak. I could hear the clashing metal wheels squeal to a stop because I’d finally stopped screaming.
“Let’s go again!” Charlene said.
I dug my heels into the dust and refused to be dragged back onto either ride.
“Okay then, let’s go to the little one. It’s called the Mouse.”
I relented as Charlene pointed out how much easier it would be. After all, my bag of popcorn and I had conquered two rides already.
“Focus on dropping popcorn. That’s your mission,” she said. “It’ll help you overcome fear.”
This two-tiered ride provided us the joy of hitting classmates who were on the lower deck with kernels while we were on the upper deck. Charlene and I separated so we could hit each other, and when she left to ride other rides, I stayed and became an expert at popcorn bombing.
I thought about these fun times while reading Philippians. Paul encouraged his disciples to let two spiritual fruits fill them: joy and rejoicing. “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:17-18 KJV).
Seventeen times in this slender four-chapter book, Paul uses the word “joy” or “rejoice” or another variant. Joy is defined as “to curb or bridle” while rejoice means “to celebrate.” Because Paul chose the discipline of having bridled joy, he had opportunities to celebrate even when circumstances did not align with natural happiness. He knew he must model joy and habitually rejoice to guard his followers from discouragement.
Paul had plenty of reasons to fear. He was even imprisoned while writing Philippians. Nonetheless, his mission-minded focus, coupled with a positive attitude, enabled him to let joy and rejoicing have their perfect work in him and in those he influenced. This empowered Paul and Silas to sing songs when they were imprisoned and fettered with heavy chains. Their positive attitude showed they were believers. Who else could sing in a dungeon? This resulted in the jailer and his household being saved, but it didn’t stop there. While on house arrest in Rome, where every six hours he was chained to a new guard, Paul spent time witnessing to each man (see Philippians 1:13-14). I wonder if some guards requested turns to be chained to Paul.
We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose our focus. Let’s lead our families, friends, and co-workers in an uplifting, God-honoring way, empowering them to share the gospel as Paul did. Whether times are easy or dire, when we model joy and rejoicing, we have the promise that our witness will hit its target like a well-aimed kernel.
Have you chosen to joy and rejoice in all circumstances?
Father God, empower me to model the spiritual fruits of joy and rejoicing so that regardless of my circumstances, my loved ones and I can share the gospel effectively. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Genre: Creative Non-fiction
Copyright 2021: Popcorn at Pirate’s World: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
Published: Jan 2021: Inspire a Fire: Senior Editor Martin Wiles; Executive Editor Cindy Sproles
Published: October 2022: Christian Broadcasting Network: Senior Producer Beth Patch