“Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
The Life of Joy
As I read the Bible I find that joy is to be an integral aspect of the Christian life:
- “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
- “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
- “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” (Galatians 5:22)
- “I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25).
- “and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Good, Solid, and Real Reasons to Rejoice
The joy associated with the Christian life is not simply an emotion that has to be manufactured and separated from what is happening in the real world. It is far deeper than the “it is all good, it will all work out, wish upon a star, cross my fingers type of joy”. Rather, of all of people, we have the most authentic reasons to rejoice. It is a level of joy that can thrive and exist in the most difficult of circumstances (2 Corinthians 8:2).
- We have experienced the joy of finding the truth: Matthew 13:44
- There is the joy associated with having all our sins forgiven and being reconciled with our Creator: Acts 8:39; 16:34 “and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household”.
- There is the joy that happens when we contemplate our over the top, amazing and completely undeserved reward with God in heaven. “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).
- There is the joy associated with seeing others learning the truth, coming to Christ, changing their lives for the better, being saved and as a result making everything better around them: “Describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren” (Acts 15:3; 8:8).
- The message we are allowed to share with the world is a message of great joy, teaching that God so loved us that Jesus came and died so that we could be saved: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the peoples” (Luke 2:10). “And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to the disciples” (Matthew 28:8).
“Get Back to Work”
I can understand why faithful Christians can tend to be serious. Similar to a certain kind of grandparent that exists in the world. There are grandparents who are really into spoiling the grandchildren and for example make for them pancakes in the shapes of cartoon characters. By contrast, there are equally the “I am reading the newspaper and you are bothering me kid, so move along” kind. Then there is another category you may have experienced. I have called this category the “get back to work” grandparents. And there are equally “get back to work” parents, aunts and uncles, employers, neighbors and teachers. You are young and you are having some good clean fun, being silly, making a joke, and a “get back to work Grandma” (who has been up working before the sun came up), looks at you and says, “What do you think this is, Pixie Land? Get back to work!” So in the Bible there are many passages that I would call the “Get back to work” passages. We are to rejoice, but life here is dangerous. Passages that fit into this category include:
- “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14).
- “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).
- “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
- “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).
- “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’. Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this is your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
- “That those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
- “Do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).
- “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
- “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
- “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).
- “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
- “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
Easy for that Joy is Disappear
Someone has noted that it is very easy for a faithful Christian, someone who is truly trying to follow the Bible, to become ground down by the world in the process. Some believers who are ground down, simply stop following God. Others compromise and bend verses to fit what is popular and others hang in there, but seem to have lost their joy for the journey. While we need to be serious about the things of God, we need to remember that deep joy needs to be a component of our lives as well. Non-Christians often expect a level of seriousness from anyone who holds onto biblical or conservative values. Let’s also show them how delighted we are to be one of God’s obedient children.
What the World is Often Not Expecting
I was thinking the other day of the misconceptions that the world has about Christians (the same was true in the First Century, see 1 Peter 2:12). And what often can shake such misconceptions and bring people around to consider the claims of the Bible, would include:
- The world is often surprised by the Christian who actually knows a wide range of specific Bible verses, knows where they are located by chapter and verse and what they teach. This is far beyond the “it says it somewhere” type of believer.
- The world is surprised at times by the Christian who knows why they believe and has biblical, rational and logical arguments that back up such beliefs: 1 Peter 3:15. That they are leading their lives with their head and not just emotion.
- What can equally catch the attention of the world is the Christian who is dead serious about God and yet manifests a deep and unending joy. The Christian who actually truly enjoys being a Christian.
Waiting for the Joy? Psalm 122:1
One mistake that believers sometimes make is that they hold off on doing something commanded in the Bible until they get the happy feeling to do it. Yet, what would happen if we did not go to school, study for a test, clean the house, go to work, parent, mow the lawn, have needed surgery, go to the doctor, get up and attend to a crying baby in the night – until we had a joyful feeling to do it? We need to realize that many of the right things to do involve work, and may not be pleasant at the very start (Hebrews 12:11).
Understanding How You Give Others Joy
In the Bible I find the writers frequently talking about how the faithfulness of other Christians was a significant source of their joy:
- “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).
- “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you” (1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:9).
- “Longing to see you… so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4).
- “So that your joy may be made full” (2 John 12).
- “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
So let us remember that one of the many benefits of our faithfulness to God is that such brings joy to God and joy to other believers. Let’s live in a way that fills up rather than empties the joy of those around us (be a facet and not a drain), and remember to share our joy in being saved with others.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017