Joy: A Neglected Discipline

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jandthumbIt has been a delight going through the book of Leviticus on a Sunday morning and discussing the Sunday message at Grace Group. Indeed, God is a good God, who has not left His people in a desperate state. God saw the desperation of His people in slavery in Egypt and knew the environment was not conducive to worship. “Let my people go, that they may serve Me, in the wilderness.” God not only saved His people from slavery in Egypt but, through the book of Leviticus, gave His people a model and guideline for worship. If the guideline of worship was followed the people would experience true joy. If you claim to be a child of God, you must function daily with the knowledge that God has called you away from the bondage of sin and, graciously through the life and death of Jesus and through His precious Word, has given you a pattern for worship. What God’s people need to realise is that God has given us a pattern of worship so that we may experience full joy.

Joy is a word that has good vibes. It is a word that makes one feel bright. The word has this effect because it connects to the desire of our heart. After all, “man’s chief end is to glorify God and (in so doing) to enjoy Him forever.” Joy was God’s plan from the beginning. God’s purpose that we should enjoy Him, both directly in face-to-face fellowship and indirectly through enjoyment of what God created. Joy is at the heart of satisfied living. It is also at the heart of real and credible Christianity, the Christianity that glorifies God and shakes the world. I have no doubt that, as Israel sojourned in the wilderness and worshipped God, she glorified Him and shook the nations that were watching this form of worship. This joy, which is at the heart of Christianity, is commanded: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). This is not an option but an order.

What is Christian joy, actually? Yes it is our task to discern what Christian joy actually is. What we need to do is ensure that we understand what joy is not.

First, joy is not the same thing as fun and games. The restless, relentless pursuit of pleasure (sex, drugs, drink, gadgets, sports, entertainment, travel, etc.) is very much a mark of our time. These quests firstly indicate a tendency to violate God’s prescribed worship, cleanliness for worship and secondly are an indication of a lack of joy or satisfaction with God.

Second, joy is not the same thing as being the person who is always the life of the party. The person who is the life of the party can be relied on for jokes and general effervescence, and there is never a dull moment when they are around. Some Christians are like that, others are not and never will be, but this is a matter of temperament that has nothing to do with joy.

Third, joy is not the same thing as being carefree. Joy on this view will only be available to us during our two- or three-week vacation each year. This is the escapist idea of joy.

Joy is a condition that is experienced, but it is more than just a feeling; it is, primarily, a state of mind. Joy is a state of the whole man in which thought and feeling combine to produce total euphoria. True joy can only flow from true worship of God through Jesus Christ. Any who have not yet committed themselves to the risen Christ as Saviour and Master will find themselves left behind. “Rejoice in the Lord” means to rejoice in being Christ’s, in having Jesus’ Father as your Father, in being right with God the Father and an heir of His glory. We are to let joy flow from this source. Whenever the children of God are exposed to His truth we are to rejoice in our relationship to Christ—at all times. Joy should be ours always and everywhere.

The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking. It is by this means that the Holy Spirit regularly sustains in us the joy that marks us out as Christ’s. Our Lord Jesus wants our joy to be full. Certainly Jesus has made abundant provision for our joy. If God’s people focus our minds on the facts from which joy flows, springs of joy will well up in our hearts every day of our lives. This upwelling of joy will turn our ongoing pilgrimage through this world into an experience of contentment and exaltation of which the world knows nothing. From this experience will come strength for service.

Joy is a basic discipline of the Christian life, essential to spiritual health and vitality. Few Christians understand this concept and fewer practice this discipline with diligence. What a difference it would make if we would!

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