Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Friday, March 7, 2014

Give Me the Joy!

Unfortunately, when many people think of Christianity they think of grumpy old men in three piece suits who sit around with scowls on their faces as they talk about the long list of things they don’t do because they are Christians. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with older men, three piece suits, or the truth that the Bible clearly commands Christians to abstain from certain activities. There is, however, something decidedly wrong with joyless Christianity. Of all the people of the world, those that follow Jesus Christ and know Him as their Lord and Savior through faith in Him alone should be the possessors of great joy.

But sadly this is not always the case. Quite often Christians plod through life just trying to “get by” and make it through another day. Life seems overwhelming and the thought of joy in the midst of a hurried life that seems chaotic at best and depressing at worst seems unimaginable. The problem is that many are looking for joy in all the wrong places. Some seek joy through their career and advancement up the corporate ladder. Others look for joy in material possessions and the accumulation of things. While some search for joy in relationships or titles or power or influence or…you get the picture. In the mid-seventeenth century Blaise Pascal wrote, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all labor to this end. This is the motive of every action of every man.” The point is that the human heart longs for joy and will not rest until it is found.

It may seem shocking to some that the Bible actually commands us to seek joy. Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice; Shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” The same theme of joy is seen in Psalm 37:4 which instructs us to “Delight yourself also in the LORD.” Jesus Himself told His followers to rejoice that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:19-20) and to “leap for joy” as they await their future in heaven with Him (Luke 6:22-23). The Apostle Paul in his joy saturated letter to the Philippians commands Christians to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4).

But joy for the Christian is not simply joy for joy’s sake. Nor is it a joy that comes from our circumstances or the things that we possess. Rather, ours is a joy that is found in Jesus Christ. The fountain and the source of the Christian’s joy must be the person of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for us in His life, death, and resurrection.

At this point some of you may be wondering how the pursuit of joy can coincide and be reconciled to some of the demands Jesus made in the Gospels. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Later He said, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). How can self-denial, cross-carrying, and the forsaking of all things coexist with the pursuit of joy? These twin truths are reconciled as we realize that it is in our giving of all for the sake of Jesus that our joy is realized. The removal of these counterfeit joys from our lives frees us to focus upon the only thing in the universe that brings true and lasting joy: Jesus Christ.

This truth is driven home by Jesus as He taught a one verse parable on the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven (knowing Jesus Christ) to a treasure that is buried in a field. A man found the treasure, hid the treasure again, and then sold all that he had to buy the field so that he might posses the treasure. He gives up all that he has to so that he might have this field and thus gain the treasure. But what motivates the man to buy the field in order to get the treasure? Joy. His motivation was joy. Because true joy was not found in all that he possessed; true joy was found in the treasure. When compared with the treasure everything else seemed to have no value at all (Philippians 3:7-10). Jesus’ point is that knowing Him is more valuable and more precious than anything else. And as such, He is the source of all true joy.

So the next time you think about what a Christian is like dispel the notion of the scowl and the three piece. Instead, think about the treasure in the field and the joy that moves us to give all to obtain it. Think about Jesus “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” that we might find our joy in Him (Hebrews 12:2).