What is it that brings you joy! Obviously, it’s different things for each individual. Have you ever heard something like this? “Life is good! I never dreamed I would ever make a six figure income. Well, I did dream it, but I never really believed it would actually happen. I just got the promotion I’ve always wanted. Look at me, new red Mercedes, a house in the suburbs and fine clothes. Life can’t get much better than this! What‘s the problem? I’m still not happy. Where is the joy?”
Over the span of time, you might have also heard, “I deserve to have some pleasure in life. I worked hard fifty to sixty hours a week, for thirty years for the same company, now I’m retired. My children are grown up with families of their own. It’s about time I just kick back and have some fun, but it’s not like I thought it would be. I’m still missing something. There’s no joy.”
“I’m young, why sit around like some old person, I should take advantage of everything I can, while I can. At this time of my life I should be exploring my options, not waiting around as if my life is over! Before you know it, I will be forty! I hear my parents talking about the old days, in the 80, when life was different, so much better, ‘the good old days’ they called it. 2015 is about the begin, it’s time to think about myself and what I want out of life. You only live once.”
Ask anyone. Everybody in the world wants joy. So, many do what feels good, what’s right in their own mind. “Didn’t God give us five senses so we can think for ourselves? This is my life; I know what’s best for me. So from now on I’m going to put myself first, my needs, my desires…I’m going to make my own way and think about my future. The first thing I need to do is to find out the best way to manipulate the system. I’m still miserable.”
I recently read a devotion by Rick Warren, entitled Joy No Matter What. He states, “What’s the easiest thing for you to lose? Your glasses? Your keys? Your mind? The easiest thing of all to lose is your joy. You can lose it with one phone call or email, a letter or conversation. You can watch a commercial on TV and lose your joy. It’s the easiest thing in the world to lose. And a lot of people in a lot of circumstances are conspiring to rob it from you.
When God’s children aren’t filled with joy, it makes God look bad. Cranky Christians are a bad witness. They look like they’ve been baptized in vinegar because they’re never really smiling. And that makes God look bad.
Why? Because God wants us to be witnesses with our countenance.
The Bible tells us that the Christian life can be summed up in three words: goodness, peace, and joy. The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17 NLT).”
Even as believers who seek to live according to the Bible, some continue to live miserable, defeated lives. These believers look very similar to nonbelievers, always complaining, things are never right, constantly finding fault in others and themselves. I had a friend who was always depressed and I constantly found myself suggesting ways to hopefully ease the burden. The question was asked, “Why can’t you just let me be depressed.” There was a part of me that wanted to bring some comfort. The truth was, the only way I knew how to discontinue the cycle of misery I put myself in, while attempting to encourage her, was to separate myself from the situation and pray.
There is a song we sing often, as recent as today I was singing it to myself. “This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.” In many instances the world doesn’t take away our joy, we give it up freely, even without anyone asking, by exposing ourselves to the fallout of this world. The joy possessed by people of God, should be dissimilar from joy to the world. Joy to world is temporary, but for believers joy is eternal. Joy to the world is dependent on external conditions; joy to believers comes from the heart. Joy to the world is conditional, joy to believers is unconditional. However, there are times when we can barely see the difference between the world and believers. The change in the manifestation of joy in our lives, begins with a change in our relationship with Jesus.
How is joy different for a believer? Does it mean that we are always smiling and feeling happy? Isaiah 53:3-12 reflects the sacrifices, hardships, and trials Jesus would face. The world is not asked or expected to make sacrifices in the same manner as Jesus. What we are asked to do is to believe, trust and obey. When we face difficult times we are sometimes asked to do what appears to be impossible, James 1:2-4, NIV says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of you faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its good work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. For many people, this scripture makes no sense. Get real! Who in their right mind will be joyful while facing hardships, trials and despair? It takes constant prayer, reading, studying, meditating on God’s word and fellowship with other believers, to appreciate the joy of suffering at any level. How many believers are still in the nursery, drinking milk as an infant, twenty or thirty years after being saved, still not mature enough to feast on meat? In l John 1:1-3, John elaborates on what has been seen with our eyes and heard, as similar to proclaiming the Word of God and how this allows believers to have fellowship with each other and with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. Verse 4 states, We write this to make our joy complete, (NIV).
Unspeakable joy, complete joy and everlasting joy is only found in Jesus. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord, Ephesians 5:8-10. The difference between joy experienced by believers and joy to the world is as much of a contrast as living in joy or sorrow, between wrong and right, day and night, darkness and light. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and Heaven and nature sing.