Emotions have a place in the lives of the godly. Let’s consider some things which should bring us joy.
1. David worshipped with joy.
He wrote, “I will praise You, O LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2). The word “rejoice” appears in some form 66 times in the book of Psalms. The word “joy” appears in some form 34 times in the book of Psalms. Consider Psalm 95:1-2 – “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him psalms.”
Worship is to be in both spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Worship is not to be “in truth” only (John 4:24 cf. John 17:17). It is to be “in spirit” (John 4:24 cf. Joshua 24:14). Worship should involve the “whole heart” (Psalm 9:1; 111:1; 138:1).
Is this the manner in which we worship? Guy N. Woods asked: “How can we expect to enjoy heaven if we find sixty minutes of religious activity boring and uninteresting, and we are glad when the service is over so that we may resume our earthly and secular pursuits?” (Woods, Shall We Know One Another In Heaven?, p. 47).
Let us be able to sincerely sing – “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, opening to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the darkness of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!/ All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays, stars and angels sing around Thee center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flow’ry meadow, flashing sea, singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee/ Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depths of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are Thine; Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine/ Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o’re us, Brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife, joyful music lead us Sunward in the triumph song of life” (song: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee by Henry van Dyke).
2. Jesus taught that the righteous could rejoice, in spite of persecution, because they have a great reward in heaven.
He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Never lose sight of the prize. Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Again, he wrote “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
3. Jesus spoke in two parables of those who have joy over finding the truth.
He said, “Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).
People come to the truth, and discover the Kingdom in different ways. (1) Some happen upon it. Nathanael discovered the Lord unexpectedly (John 1:45-51). The Samaritan woman found far more than she expected when she went for water (John 4:6-26). The Philippian jailer learned the message of the Gospel on the night in which he was about to take his own life (Acts 16:26-34). (2) Others are actively and diligently seeking for it. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-21). He no doubt wanted to know more. He was seeking. The Ethiopian eunuch was pondering scripture wanting to understand, and humble enough to ask for help (Acts 8:26-40).
However, regardless of how they come to discover the truth of the Kingdom, those with the proper values rejoice in finding it. The Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). The Philippian jailer “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34).
Do we so value the truth of the kingdom? Do we rejoice in it, or does it bore us?
4. Jesus endured because of the joy set before him.
The writer of Hebrews wrote of Jesus: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
What was the joy set before Him? (1) It must include the idea of returning to glory. He prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). Moreover, the seems to fit the context. Albert Barnes comments, “He endured the cross and is now exalted to the right hand of God” (Barnes Notes, Vol. 13, p. 289). (2) It must have also given Him joy to know what His death on the cross would accomplish. He told His disciples, “For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). (3) It must have given Him joy to fulfill the will of the Father. “I delight to do Your will, O My God” (Psalm 40:8).
Jesus not only taught that one could rejoice in the midst of persecution (Matthew 5:11-12), He, Himself, did such. We should follow His example.
5. Paul had joy in church unity.
He pleaded with the brethren at Philippi, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). He desired unity.
Others have as well. Jesus prayed for the unity of the disciples (John 17:20-21). David remarked, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Do we value unity? Does such bring us joy? Do we strive to maintain unity?
6. Paul had joy when brethren support his work.
He wrote, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now your care for me has flourished again… Not that I seek the gift, but I seek that fruit that abounds to your account (Philippians 4:10, 17).
Wayne Jackson comments, “The apostle is not interested in his own financial security (only – B.H.); rather he is anxious for the growth of their spiritual bank account which results from their generosity to him” (Jackson, The Book of Philippians, p. 89). The good one does to others, and for the cause of Christ, does not go unnoticed by God (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 10:42; 25:31-46; Luke 14:13-14).
What is our attitude toward giving? Do we give cheerfully? (2 Corinthians 9:7). Do we rejoice when others are caring and committed enough to give liberally? (2 Corinthians 9:12-13). Have we truly given ourselves to the Lord? (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
7. It would bring Paul joy for brethren to be united with Jesus at His coming.
He said to the brethren at Thessalonica, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). Similar thought is also expressed to the brethren at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:14b).
The idea seems to be that Paul would be crowned with joy to see these brethren, in the end, in a proper state before the Lord. David Lipscomb comments, “To witness that spiritual transformation which he had inaugurated carried on to completion gave the future a greatness and worth which made Paul’s heart leap for joy” (Lipscomb, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p. 36). J.W. McGarvey comments, “The passage is a beautiful but effective rebuke to the idle fears of some Christians that they will not recognize their friends in the hereafter. If Paul could not recognize the Thessalonians, how could he present them as his crown, or glory in them? (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, pp. 11-12).
Are we trying to take others to heaven? Will we have this joy of seeing those, whom we have converted to Christ, in heaven?
8. James indicated, that with a proper attitude, it is possible to have joy in the trials of life.
He wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).
The trials of life provide opportunity to prove our faith, and to grow spiritually. Rubel Shelly comments, “Don’t whine, cry and give way to despair, when you have a difficult situation to face or a hard problem to solve. Celebrate! Sing! Rejoice! What? Celebrate because you have a loving and powerful Lord who will bring you through your problems and turn them into stepping-stones toward your spiritual maturity! Sing because you are not alone! Rejoice in the knowledge that you don’t have to let things get the best of you?” (Shelly, What Christian Living is All About: Studies in James, p. 10).
How do we react to the trials of life? Do we remain optimistic? Do we believe that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”? (Romans 8:28).
9. John rejoiced when brethren were found walking in the truth.
He wrote twice of such. He said to the elect lady: “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father” (2 John 4). He said to the beloved Gaius: “I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 3-4).
Do we rejoice when we find, or hear about, brethren doing good and living faithfully? Does such excite us? Do we throw bouquets to such behavior? Do we commend such to others?
In a world full of evil and error, it should be refreshing to find others faithfully doing good, and walking according to the truth. May we look for such. When we find such, let us commend such. Doing this may accomplish a few positive things: (1) We may develop a more positive outlook by focusing on the good. This may help prevent us from having a sour disposition. (2) We may encourage those doing good to continue doing good, and even motivate them to do even greater works. Who does not want to feel appreciated? (3) We may encourage others to do good. When good behavior is recognized and commended, it may have an affect on others, causing them to also want to do good.