TO BE A MORE JOYFUL PEOPLE
- My friend Marvin Rickett tells the story of a little boy who was returning from church in
a wagon pulled by a pair of mules. "Dad," he asked his father, "are those mules
Christians?" His father responded, "Why, son, what makes you ask that?" And the boy
answered, "Well, they must be - they have such long faces."
- If that's the way people think of us, it shouldn't be.
- The New Testament is a book of joy.
- It was written so that the joy of the Lord may be in its readers, and that
their joy may be complete (Jn. 15:11; 1 Jn. 2:4).
- The story it tells begins with angel's announcement of "good news of a
great joy that will be for all the people" (Lk. 2:10).
- It says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all
circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thes.
- The church of Christ is a people of joy.
- From its earliest days, the church has been marked by "glad and generous
hearts" (Acts 2:46).
- The kingdom of God is about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Citizens of it aim to "rejoice in the Lord...Rejoice in
the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
- As a third-century man was anticipating death, he wrote these last words to
a friend: "It's a bad world, and incredibly bad world. But I have
discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a
great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than
any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they
care not. They are the masters of their souls. They have overcome the
world. These people are the Christians - and I am one of them." (Moody
Bible Institute's Today In The Word, June 1988, p. 18)
- That kind of joy will make us both healthier and more effective. The question is how to
make it a more obvious characteristic of our lives. What can we do to be a more joyful
- We could take up a study of the numerous uses of the joy words in the scriptures
in order to understand the concept more clearly. That's a worthy exercise and
we've tried it before.
- But we could also benefit greatly from considering the situations in which joy
seems to have flourished. Here's what we would learn about how to be a more
- Appreciate the meaning of gospel obedience.
- There are several indications that this is a leading cause for joy in the New
- The Ethiopian treasurer, when he had been taught about Jesus, had
confessed his faith in him as the Son of God, and had been baptized into
him, "went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).
- After the jailer at Philippi had heard the word of the Lord, had washed the
wounds which he had inflicted, and had been baptized into Christ, "he
rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God"
- And, when members of the church everywhere heard about such
conversions, it "brought great joy to all the brothers" (Acts 15:3).
- Why did this bring such joy? And why did the rejoicing always come at the point
it did in these accounts?
- It was because one was dead in his trespasses and sins had been loved by
God and made alive.
- A person who had been lost - one for whom the Lord gave himself - had
been brought back home.
- A slave of sin had become obedient from his heart to the gospel and had
become a servant of righteousness.
- Jesus said that just as there is rejoicing when a shepherd finds one lost sheep, or
when a woman recovers a coin she had lost, or when a father receives home a son
who had been lost to the far country, God, his angels, and all of heaven rejoice
over one sinner who repents (Luke 15). Surely those who share his heart but are
yet in this world will do the same!
- I saw glimpses of this principle during our session at camp.
- When I found a softball which had been fouled off into the briars and
brush, I couldn't wait to get down the hill and say, "I found that ball!"
- When Coyeatte's ring was missing and we thought we were going to have
to go up to the field to search for it, I saw the relief on faces when I was
told, "We found it! Everything's alright!"
- But when young men were baptized into Christ, I thought of what the Lord
said about rejoicing in heaven, and of the rejoicing we've read about in
Acts. Appreciating what that means will increase the tone of joy among
- Engage in genuine and grateful worship.
- More of a focus on the "thanksgiving" aspect of worship would especially bring
with it a sense of joy.
- Psalm 100 shows what I mean....When we praise God by thanking him,
joy will be present.
- The New Testament also connects giving thanks always and for everything
to the melody of the heart that sings (Eph. 5:19, 20; Col. 3:16).
- Why is the intention to offer thanksgiving as a sacrifice so closely associated with
joy? It means you have been thinking about - and are responding to - something
wonderful which has already been done for you, something you have in common
with those with whom you've assembled.
- When you sing praises, you are thanking God for who he is and what he has done
for you. When you pray, you lay before his throne thanks for his blessings. The
Lord's Supper is thanking him for the amazing grace which cost him his Son. Giving is thanking him for his good gifts. When you hear his word, you are
thanking him by wanting to do his will. Could any part of this really happen
- We must think enough ahead of time to bring thanks to offer. We can't wear
ourselves out Saturday, party way into the night, show up Sunday morning
without having given a thought to what we want to thank the Lord for, and expect
someone to fill us up with joy! Thankful worship sets a tone of joy among God's
- Be involved in faithful service.
- The epistle to the church at Philippi is the joy letter of the New Testament. Joy or
rejoicing comes us fourteen times in its four chapters.
- You can't help but notice something in its beginning. I'm not sure if we
can always tell which comes first, but joy and service are intertwined.
- Of Lydia, the first person there whose heart was opened to the gospel, it is
said, "And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us,
saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my
house and stay.' and she prevailed upon us" (Acts 16:15).
- And of the jailer, the next one we know of who became a Christian, we
read, "Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in
God" (Acts 16:34).
- Where there is eager, voluntary service there is joy. There is a work of faith and a
labor of love that we call enthusiasm. It is contagious.
- You can see it in what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the churches of
Macedonia: "For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their
extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part" (2 Cor.
- Wednesday night an announcement was made about "apples" Jill had placed on
our "Blessing Tree" which named things that could be given to help supply the
girls' camp session which is coming up. Thursday she called to ask if there were
any left that she would need to pick up. I think she rejoiced when Johnnie told her
they had all been taken. When people get involved in serving, joy grows.
- Endure hardship with grace.
- One of the surprising things about joy in the New Testament is how often it is
found where the Lord's people are overcoming difficulties.
- When Peter and John were beaten for preaching Jesus as the Christ, they
rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name
- The Hebrews joyfully accepted the plundering of their property because
they knew they had a better possession and an abiding one (Heb. 10:34).
- It was when his readers were being grieved by various trials that Peter
wrote, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Thought you do not
now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible
and filled with glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).
- These people were not merely surviving hardship through grim determination. They were enduring gracefully, rejoicing in the midst of trying circumstances.
- How could they do it?
- One reason is that no matter what was happening they could say, "My sins
are forgiven. I am a child of God and I have the hope of heaven. I have a
Father who is able to set me before his presence with joy. I can do what I
need to with the strength he gives me." That's what it means to "rejoice in
hope" (Rom. 12:12).
- Another reason is that they could see these experiences as means of
growth. James said, "Count it all joy, by brothers, when you meet trials of
various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces
steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be
perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Js. 1:3,4).
- The joy of enduring gracefully was beautifully stated by the prophet Habakkuk:
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of
the olive fail and fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there
be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of
my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he
makes me tread on my high places" (Hab. 3:17-19).
- Make a habit of walking by the Spirit.
- Someone wrote, "Joy is a habit of the heart, induced and sustained as an abiding
quality of one's life through the discipline of rejoicing. Joy is not an accident of
temperament or an unpredictable providence; joy is a matter of choice."
- But, according to Paul, it's not merely a choice between being happy or sad; it's a
choice between living a life dominated by the flesh or a life ruled by the Spirit.
- One who decides to gratify the desires of the flesh can expect the works of
the flesh to follow .... (Gal. 5:16, 19-21). Be honest. Do you see any joy
in such a lifestyle?
- On the other hand, one can, if he will, walk by the Spirit, be led by the
Spirit, live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25). If he does, the Spirit will see
to it that fruit follows...(v. 22-23).
- Joy is one aspect of the fruit that belongs to a certain way of life. You
can't have it in isolation from the other parts of that way of life.
- One writer observed, "Joy in Christ requires a commitment to working at the
Christian lifestyle. Salvation comes as a gift but they joy of salvation demands
disciplined action. Most Christians I know have just enough of the Gospel to
make them miserable, but not enough to make them joyful. They know enough
about the biblical message to keep them from doing the things which the world
tempts them to do; but they do not have enough commitment to God to do those
things through which they might experience the fullness of his joy." (Tony
Campolo, Seven Deadly Sins, p. 21)
- Theodore Parker put it this way: "The joy of heaven will begin as soon as we
attain the character of heaven, and do its duties."
- To be a more joyful people we can appreciate the meaning of gospel obedience, engage
in thankful worship, be involved in loving service, endure hardship with grace, and make
a habit of walking by the Spirit.
- But what we're really looking for beneath all of this is the joy of his salvation.
- Ogden Nash once wrote:
"There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball,
and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all."
- "None at all" won't work. David tried it once and ended up being convicted of a
terrible wrong. Crushed by his guilt, he prayed, "Purge my with hyssop, and I
shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and
gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice....Restore to me the joy of
your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit" (Ps. 51:8-9, 12).
- The gospel of Christ is the Lord's answer to that prayer!