By Benjamin H. Liles
"Let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. They have seen Your procession, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went on, the musicians after them, in the midst of the maidens beating tambourines. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God! ~ Psalm 68:3-4, 19, 24-25, 35, New American Standard
For a while now I have used many scripture verses to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ. From verses that have talked about God destroying those who oppose Him to verses declaring the captives to be set free, these types of verses I have used and spoken of in great detail. But what about those moments of joy? Wait, what!? Yes, a Christian and those of the Jewish faiths are to live their lives in joyful celebration of their Maker, Creator, Savior, and King.
And while the psalmist makes it clear how he completely feels about God and His spectacular ways, and just how very joyful he feels, do we truly believe that being joyful is a good thing? Sadly, we do not. I think it's time I address this issue.
While there are times where a sense of somberness and sadness fills our hearts, is there anything more sad than the loss of a loved one than that of a sincere Christian who cannot and will not show or experience any kind of joy in his or her life? It is far more sad, to my mind's eye on this. What makes these types of people so seriously minded that they can't muster up any kind of excitement that shows they enjoy having fun, laughing when it's needed, partaking in one another's happiness and joy? I admit I have been this way and more than once, but it was due to my own ignorance of what God truly enjoys. So, we're going to go through this.
If we go back to the beginning, to Genesis and we see God being active, at the end of what He considered a "day" He would see what He did was "good" (Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Every time He accomplished something and what He made was great and wonderful, He was more than just pleased with Himself. The word we find as "good" in the English is a Hebrew word meaning "beautiful." Other words associated with this are sweet, agreeable, fair, happiness, well, and even excellent.
So with everything God created He felt accomplished in and of Himself. He knew He could do it and He did it! Nothing is too small for Him. To this I recall a line from a movie I enjoy a great deal with my wife: "Your attitude is like the aroma of your heart. If your attitude stinks, it mean's your heart's not right" (Grant Taylor, played by Alex Kendrick, Facing the Giants). What we do and to the fullest of our heart, in accordance to our attitude, it smells to God. I agree the line is funny, but when you think of how serious this is in how we think, how we act, and treat others it means if we're not right, God can't do what He plans on. We must be right with Him as well as ourselves to begin to do any kind of good.
I have never, ever seen a football team, in my life, walk off the field after they won the game with heads hung low, and muttering, "Did you see that kick into the end zone? Man, it stinks!" Or even hear any of the players say, "Way to go goober for the way you got into the end zone!" Not one person who has helped a team win at something has ever come out and sounded so bitter, so upset over winning. I know I haven't. It's more of "Wow! Way to go, man! Did you see that play!? Dude, you rocked!"
My point is that having any kind of celebration is inevitable. From turning sixteen, to getting your first car, from graduating high school, graduating college, celebrating life with your family and friends, and so forth and so on we all will celebrate and take joy in one another's lives. But...and this is a huge BUT, there are some people who say things like, "Heaven will be boring!" and other things such as "Worshiping God will be dull!" Wow, talk about the aroma of the heart there!
C.S. Lewis was quoted saying, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven." Even D.L. Moody said, "The Lord gives his people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to him."1 And this is the mark of a true believer in Christ, he is no longer mournful of things when he is made new by Christ's shed work on the cross. He appreciates all of what Christ has done for Him. His mourning has turned to joy! The burden he once felt for the sins he lived in has been lifted. His joy has been completed. He is no longer a defeated and worldly creature. So, how do some people believe such a thing that Heaven will be dull and boring when we go home to God?
I believe it has everything to do with living an earthly, unsatisfied, heavy-hearted, and following after materialistic ways that some say such things. They do not know the immeasurable joy, the celebrations that can be had and shared in a new and fulfilling life in Jesus. Yes, we will experience trials and tribulations, but it is up to us to determine how long and hard those times are due to our perspective on it. Paul said, "For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles" (2 Corinthians 4:17, Berean Study). In other words, pain and suffering to him was so temporary that joy surpassed that into the vision Christ gave him of Heaven.
And even before the New Testament was written a prophet said this about having joy, or rejoicing: "For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" (Zephaniah 3:17, New Living Translation). How much of a lovely picture is that? God rejoicing! Over us? Wow! If He shows us that having a spirit of rejoicing then by all means we can have a spirit of rejoicing as well.
As much as I have enjoyed always giving you the gospel of Jesus Christ over and over, I simply felt it was time to address this issue of having joy, to celebrate, and to show it's okay to have a happy heart. For if your heart is happy, the Lord is happy too. Even though happiness is fleeting, joy can be experienced over and over regardless the circumstance. Again from Paul, "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Philippians 4:11, New American Standard). The Greek word that we get content from means satisfied. And it is evident in Paul's life that he was this way fro sure, but it was due to God's fullness being shown and shared with him through Jesus Christ.
I cannot begin to express the kind of life that can be had and experienced without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are times I fail and don't do what I feel is right because I am literally "in the dumps," but even after all that I come back and continue on as I am truly joyful with Jesus Christ as my portion and my all. He does what He says He will do. "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful" (John 14:27, Holman Christian Standard).
We can be joyful, to celebrate life at its fullest, and to spend each and every day in being content regardless of our circumstances due to the fact Jesus paid the penalty on our behalf. We have access to the Father as He went before us, paying the price for our sinfulness so we wouldn't have to be separated from the love of the Father. Jesus paid that price once and for all. "No more sacrifices" should have been emblazoned on the cross, and yet Jesus cried out as He was leaving this world, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). We need to have joy stream into our hearts and to let it be filled to overflowing so that not only others will know we are forgiven, but we're also free from shame and guilt. That is why Jesus could claim, "Your heart must not be troubled or fearful." I pray this has blessed and encouraged you to live your life in His joy and peace. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
1 "18 Wonderful Quotes about Joy," Christian Quotes, https://www.christianquotes.info/top-quotes/18-wonderful-quotes-about-joy/#axzz4rBAcIoGS, (August 29, 2017)