A wife went to the police station with her next-door neighbor to report that her husband was missing. The policeman asked for a description. She said, “He’s 35 years old, 6 foot 4, has dark eyes, dark wavy hair, an athletic build, weighs 185 pounds, is soft-spoken, and is good to the children.”
The next-door neighbor protested, “Your husband is 5 foot 4, overweight, bald, has a big mouth, and is mean to your children.” The wife replied, “Yes, but who wants him back?”
Question: What do Mack the Knife, Winnie the Pooh, and Attila the Hun have in common? Answer: Their middle names.
It’s funny, right? It’s good to laugh, be happy and joyful. But many times we have a difficult time finding the joy in life. It eludes us because we’re looking in the wrong places or with the wrong people. It remains out of reach because we think there are more important thing to grab hold of.
Some people have a hard time with being glad because they believe joy and God don’t really go together. God is good with peace and strength, faith and compassion. But joy is not one of God’s strong suits. God isn’t a happy God.
But this isn’t accurate. Paul blesses the Roman readers of his letter by saying, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
At least twice in John’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples they would have great joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
We need to turn our minds to the joy in life more often than we do. Don’t let your thoughts go to the negative so often. Stop slipping into the easy mode of seeing how hard life is.
Now no doubt life can be tough. Funerals come unexpectedly. Doctors read reports that spell out bad news. Relationships sour. Children lose their way. Stock-market losses mean dramatic change to retirement incomes, investments, and financial security.
But these facts shouldn’t push us off of our faith. We know good things are still heading our way. We will keep lifting up our hearts to the Lord in spite of what happens. As scripture says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”
A man remembers one day when he and his wife stopped at a gas station. Instead of driving up to the self-service pump, she accidentally pulled up to full-service. She didn’t realize the luxury service cost an extra fifty cents per gallon until she paid for the gas. Later she told me how the station had hiked the prices on full-service.
That extra fifty cents per gallon surely has to be a violation of some federal law, I thought. I quickly calculated that the extra seven dollars she spent on full-service would have taken our vehicle 128.33 miles farther down the road if she had bought self-service gas. The “full-service gas station robbery” had me fuming for several hours.
As I was mulling over this terrible injustice, God showed me what I had done. I had sold my joy for seven dollars! I never realized how cheaply I would surrender something so valuable. Just as Esau exchanged his birthright for a bowl of soup, I exchanged my joy for seven dollars’ worth of gas.
How quickly and easily we sell our joy.
God is a glad God who doesn’t want us to throw our pearls to swine. Hold onto your happiness. Grab tightly to your gladness. God takes great pleasure in bringing blessings to his children, and bringing happiness into our lives.
This is how it has been from the beginning. In Genesis 1, we find the expression, “and God saw that it was good.” Seven times God sees that what he created was good. Actually, six times he sees it is good, and the seventh time, after he creates us in his image and surveys everything he’s made he sees that it was very good.
The Lord found joy in creating each day. It is quite possible, if God experiences emotions like this that the first emotion our God felt was joy.
When someone serves us a piece of homemade pie and we exclaim, “This is good!” we are expressing not just our approval, but our pleasure.
Often, when we create something, such as a garden, or paint a room, or something else special, we find ourselves going back to it to take in the pleasure of what we have accomplished. We enjoy the fruit of our labor. We’re just like the one who made us.
We need to do away with separating God from gladness. If God isn’t a God of joy, then we’ll tend to feel guilty about being happy, as if it’s not our birthright. God was pleased when he made you. The Lord exalted when you were born. When a baby first laughs, it must cause God’s spirit to rise.
Embrace your need to be happy. Claim your right to be glad. Everyone else is, as the Psalms describe: “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains sing together for joy.” “The meadows are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing.”
In Nehemiah, we find this refrain: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” We might think of the joy referred to here as only the joy God gives. But there’s more than this. It’s also the joy God possesses.
God gives us joy because God is joyful. The Lord is the source of joy, just as God is source of love, of truth, of mercy, and so on. Joy is both a description of God and a description of what the Lord gives.
In Nehemiah we see how important being a glad people became.
Nehemiah gave the reason why they should be happy, and then the Levites gave the command not to mourn on that day but to be joyful. But until the people went away and practiced joy, they couldn’t do it.
Until they prepared the feast and actually sat down to taste the food, they had no idea how good the feast was going to be. Until they tasted the drinks, they had no concept of how delightful they would be. And as they followed the instructions to celebrate, they got the hang of the songs.
They realized that the Levites weren’t kidding. The day really, really was meant for celebration. They literally practiced joy! It didn’t take long for them to get used to being happy that day.
Don’t let it be so long between happinesses. Keep gladness near to your heart. Listen for singing. Watch for celebration. Initiate good news. Bring God’s joy wherever you go, and not whenever you go.
Back in the day, a man walked by a table in a hotel and noticed three men and a dog playing cards. “That must be a very smart dog,” the man commented. “He ain’t so smart,” said one of the players. “Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail!”
When we have joy in our hearts, it will be obvious to everyone. Proverbs 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.” Jesus gives us a clue as to what kind of a life he wants for us in John 10:10: “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance,” or as one translation puts it “life to the full.” Surely if abundant life means anything at all, it means a life of joy.
Now abundant life doesn’t mean every once in a while when things are going just great, when all the stars are in line, that’s when your life feels abundant. The Christian life isn’t like fifteen minutes of fame. We have to realize the abundance of God’s blessing as often as you’re receiving them—basically non-stop.
I remember driving to Iowa City one day when I was attending the University of Iowa. Across Illinois there it can get pretty flat and boring. As I drove that rural highway, there was nothing to do but drive and watch the flat land and telephone poles pass by.
Then I realized something. I wanted to enjoy the moment. I didn’t want to be bored. I then realized that I had to make a decision to be glad at that time. We need to make the right decision. Take pleasure in every minute of life, not just the exciting times. Enjoy your fellowship with others. Enjoy spending time with your family.
Savor the moments because if you don’t, the life that God wants you to enjoy will pass you by, just like those telephone poles.
In the early church, things were tough. It wasn’t easy being a Christian. Nobody knew what it was, and nobody wanted Christians around them. And yet in Acts we read, “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
This should almost read the opposite: The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit SO the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. These two together are the one-two love punch that drew the first people to the early church.
This could have just read the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. We could be forgiven for thinking that would have been enough. But it doesn’t.
Joy is the drawing card. It’s the light that others want to be around and have shine on them. People saw the disciples gladness first and then entered their fellowship and saw and experienced the Holy Spirit. If it weren’t for the disciples’ gladness and gratitude, few people would have wanted to be with them or find out what was going on.
Your faith should lift your heart. Your walk with the Lord should bring a lightness to your step. It’s tough to be someone who can draw others to Christ, it’s hard to be a church that keeps people coming back, if we aren’t a joyful people.
Now of course you have burdens. Responsibilities make us heavier. But we are to “serve the Lord with gladness.” God isn’t trying to steal your joy by giving you tasks you have to do. Serving the Lord is what ought to make us happy. What greater joy in life than to do for the church, for God, for Christ’s disciples?
Be a happy people. Lift your heart to the Lord. Return to joy often. Rejoice in your God always. Again I will say rejoice!
Can the Church say Amen?