Here’s some background for what I want to write about today. I grew up in a joyless home. As a child I never saw my dad exhibit anything akin to joy. Early in life I learned to fear his volitivity. My relationship with him was characterized by fear, not joy. We were not allowed to talk at the dinner table. Laughter was not allowed. “Behave, be quiet and do your work” was the mottos tacked on my heart. If you grin you must be up to mischief so don’t grin.
When I committed my life to Christ, I was already conditioned to believe that I didn’t measure up with my heavenly Father. In my eyes he, like my earthly father,was wanting more from me than I could provide. So, I kept trying to appease a joyless God. While I’m forever grateful for the church I attended, the message that I consistently heard was, “You haven’t tried hard enough to witness! You need to pray more! You need to stop sinning! Read your Bible for an hour every day.” Translated: God wants more out of you and he won’t be happy until you get your act together.
I’m being truthful with you when I say that for the first 40 years of my life I didn’t believe that the God I served was a happy God. But somewhere along the journey a verse in the book of Nehemiah began to penetrate my consciousness and establish a foothold in my spiritual trek. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” More and more that truth began to challenge my thinking. I wasn’t experiencing that joy but I couldn’t deny that it was true.
The longer I read the Word of God the more I recognized the consistent twofold theme of a joyful God and his commitment to instill joy in his children.
As you read this, I want to ask you, “Is your God a joyous God?” Does he smile, laugh and celebrate with his children? I’m guessing that some of you who read this are unsatisfied with your walk and troubled with all that is going on in and around your life and don’t find inner joy. We live in a troubled world and are being taught to worry and fret about the world’s problems.
Consider these thoughts: 1. You’ll never find fulfilling, lasting joy in the world. 2.Being thankful is not the same as being joyful. 3, Biblical joy is internal, not external.
The big truth that has been working itself out in my life is that our God is a happy, joyous God. In Psalm 16:11 the psalmist says, “in your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Not just joy, but fulness of joy. Our Lord has an abundance of joy.
Remember the account of the prodigal that Jesus spoke of. The prodigal returns home, penniless, permeated with barnyard odor and ashamed of his behavior. Yet his father is overjoyed that his son has returned. He covers the boy’s shame with the best robe and then insists on celebrating with a party. Jesus is telling of a joyous Father. It’s not about the son’s worth, it’s about the Father’s love. The opportunity to demonstrate undeserved love excites our God and he expresses it joyously.
Perhaps the most powerful witness of our Lord’s joy comes from Jesus’ own initiative. In John 15:11 Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Three things capture my attention:
1. Joy is cultivated by what Jesus has said. I believe it is rooted in his promises.
2. Jesus’ goal is that his joy reside in us. The joy we are to experience is the inward reality of his joy.
3. Experiencing Jesus joy in us results in us experiencing full, abundant joy.
The source of joy for us is rooted in our confidence that we are dwelling under our heavenly Father’s sovereign care. I’m not filled with worry and anxiety because I genuinely believe that he watches over me. Joy is also rooted in a settled peace because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. I’m not filled with anxiety about my standing before the Lord since Jesus’ death for my sins assures me that I can come into his presence without condemnation. And joy is rooted in an intimate relationship with this blessed Savior. It is in that intimacy that joy thrives. If my life is filled with busyness, stress, competing passions, etc. I will have difficulty hearing his loving words that fill me with peace and joy.
I’ve learned that this inner reality of spiritual joy comes as I take seriously the biblical promises. For example, Paul writing to the Galatian believers says that the fruit of the Spirit is “Love, joy, peace. . . (Gal. 5:22). It’s obvious that our triune God is not making idle promises. The Lord really intends that every day we are filled with an inward delight, gladness and happy contentment.
I have to say again that this joy is not dependent of the circumstances we encounter. Paul spoke of joy when he was confined to prison. He urged his followers to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” (Phil, 4:4)
Here’s what I concentrate on as I continue to appropriate this joy filled relationship.
One, I practice looking into my heavenly Father’s eyes by faith. The Psalmist said that “Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” (Psa. 34:5)
Two, I endeavor to see clearly who I am and what the nature of my relationship with Christ is. I meditate much on the promises of God and take them seriously.
Three, I train my eyes and ears to tune out distractions around me. We allow ourselves to be robbed of joy by occupying our mind with things that that are none of our business, in spite of the fact that friends, the news media, and others tell us that I should be worried about situations and problems that really have nothing to do with us.
The bottom line is this: Our joyful God is calling us to discover a joy filled life.