One of the most important elements of living our lives as the Lord wants us to is joy. There is so very much the scriptures tell us about it, but tragically, it is often overlooked.
Even in the times before Christ, the Lord's people were told how valuable joy is. Neh. 8:10 tells us, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." In the light of more intellectual pursuits (such as the authorship of Hebrews, or whether Revelation was written before 70 A.D. or 96 A.D.), the subject of joy tends to pale. But this is not as it should be.
We are told that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). What does this mean? Jesus tells us that by a person's fruit we will know him (Matt. 7:20). People will know us by our fruit. If we do not have joy, it is logical to say that we are not of the Spirit of God.
Jesus tells us that one purpose of His teaching is to facilitate our joy. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (John 15:11).
One of the greatest feelings to me is to be in need, ask the Lord for help, and to actually see His hand actively working in my life by meeting the need for me. I would suppose that most of us are the same way. To see the Lord working in our lives shows His concern and His love for us. Jesus said, "...ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full" (John 16:24). This is done, in my opinion, for just that reason that I stated above. So that seeing the Lord active in our life will encourage us and make us glad.
Joy is a good barometer to measure our relationship with our brothers. Paul referred to his brothers as "his joy and his crown" (Phil. 4:1). Have you ever left an assembly thinking you may have been able to get more out of the football game that was on TV? Have you ever told someone in your car on the way home, "If I'd known that Brother Soanso was going to be preaching this morning, we would've gone to Ekklesia Avenue?" I would suppose that almost all of us have at one time or another. Can a person love the Lord, but hate to meet with his brothers and sisters in the Lord? I believe so, but it sets a dangerous precedent, because the discontent can easily lead to apathy. If we Christians are anxious and delighted to meet and study, we wouldn't have that problem. If we mean what we sing, then we would be able to prevent the song "Praise Him! Praise Him!" from sounding like "Night with Ebon Pinion." If Jesus has succeeded in making our joy full, then we wouldn't have to worry about our meetings being stale.
James tells us that when we are confronted with difficult times we should be happy. To quote him, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (Jas. 1:2). That falls right in line with the account of where Peter and the apostles were happy about being flogged because the Lord had honored them by allowing them to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41). When Paul and Silas were called upon to suffer, they sang praises to God and everyone around them could hear their joy, despite their discouraging circumstances (Acts 16:25). Paul said that along with righteousness and peace, the kingdom of God is joy (Rom. 14:17).
After all this, one may want to say, "I know that as a disciple of God I am supposed to have joy, but what exactly am I suppose to be happy about?" This is a good question, because not only is it important to know what you believe, but WHY you believe it. We have just seen a few of the reasons why we should be happy, but the most important reason is because that despite our stupidity and our stubbornness, we can still get to Heaven! How 'bout that! (Rev. 5:5).
Has anyone ever said to you, "You always seem like you're in a good mood. How come?" People have said this to me on occasion, and I'm ashamed to say that I've given them stupid answers, such as, "Oh, I don't know. It just takes a lot to get me upset." What a wasted opportunity, and I have vowed never to do it again. Next time you are in that position, you shouldn't either. What a perfect opportunity to say, "Have you ever read the Bible?" Then it would be so easy to explain what really makes us happy, we are God's children which is our hope of living forever with God.
Finally, have you ever done something really nice for someone? Maybe stretch your finances a little further than you should have to buy an expensive gift? Maybe you did something more suitable than that, like give up something very, very important to you on behalf of another. Maybe you suffered a lot of pain so someone else wouldn't have to. The plain truth is that at one time or another we have all done one or all of the above for someone that we love. But did you ever do it and not get thanked for it? Did the person not appreciate it enough to be happy about it? If that has happened to you, do you remember how it made you feel? The ones we love can hurt us more than anyone else, and that's natural.
Did you ever kill your son to save the life of another? Probably not, but we both know Someone who has. If we do not have joy because of the unselfish, merciful love He has shown, how do you suppose He feels?