Suppose you are in financial need and someone gives you a valuable cheque and you hide it away. Will your situation improve? Or, suppose you receive a prescription for a health problem, and instead of having it filled you put it aside. Will you find the relief you need? One of the precious gifts often mentioned and promised in the Bible is joy. We must open our lives to receiving this gift. The Psalms bid us to rejoice every day, for every day is the Lord’s making. Worshipping is rejoicing in the goodness and greatness of God, who is our joy and delight. The whole of creation is invited to join in the celebration of God’s providence.
The remembrance of God’s blessings fills the mouths of the worshippers with laughter and they are filled with joy. The blessing offered the righteous is, “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” (Psalm 68) Psalm 149 states, “Let the saints rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their beds.” John the Baptist compares his own ministry to the preparation and waiting for the bridegroom, who is Jesus. Now that Jesus has come his happiness and joy are complete. Jesus promises his disciples complete joy. When he was comforting his disciples towards the end of his earthly ministry he told them to remain in his love by obeying his commands. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15: 11) This joy promised by Jesus and also mentioned in the New Testament letters is nothing shallow or simple.
It is a profound experience, nurtured by a trusting relationship with God and expressed in action and attitude to all. It is victory over what threatens to depress and distress us. We do not rejoice because everything is working out fine, but we rejoice because we know who God is and what He has done and can do for us. Paul calls the Philippians to rejoice with him even as he poured out like a drink offering. (Philip 2:17 ) He wants them to rejoice in the Lord always. (Ch 4:44 )
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. First Peter addresses a congregation at a time when persecution was imminent. But though the believers cannot see Jesus Christ in the physical sense, they love him and believe in him, “and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8, 9) Joy glorifies God and witnesses to others of our faith in our Creator and Redeemer. We do not have to wait until something marvellous , exciting and unusual happens in our lives to know this joy.
We can seek this joy, receive this joy in the most ordinary and inconspicuous times and places. There is no situation so harsh and bleak that it cannot be transformed by an attitude of joy. The prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament knows the secret power of joy. He is waiting patiently for the day of restoration and vindication of his people, but meanwhile, though the crops fail, the fields are unproductive, there are no animals in the pens and stalls, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Saviour.” (Hab. 3:18) Paul asks the Galatians a question he may as well put to many of us. “What has happened to all your joy ?”(Gal.4:15 )