God wants life in the Kingdom of God to be joyful. Paul tells us, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 NIV).
So, even if I take just a mathematical approach and conclude that joy makes up only one-third of His Kingdom, God clearly means for joy to be a central part of my life.
Unfortunately, joy often seems to be in short supply, as I focus on solving problems and fulfilling responsibilities. But tunnel vision on raising my child’s school grades and paying the monthly mortgage bill doesn’t lead to a life of abiding joy.
A couple of things to note here. I’m not saying that life should be an unending cascade of joy. I still live in a broken world with a relentless enemy, and I will surely mourn at times in my life. Even Jesus, known as the man of sorrows, wept. But joy is to be the recurring theme of my life.
Secondly, God doesn’t turn His back to me if I don’t live in joy. He has already stated that He doesn’t condemn me, no matter what I do, and that, to the contrary, Jesus is interceding for me if I choose wrongly (Romans 8:1; 8:33-34).
But understanding these things, let us look at three joyful things that God absolutely wants me to do that very, very few people do.
Joyful Action #1
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
One joyful thing God wants me to do is to live without anxiety. No matter what I’m faced with, I am never to worry. And that attitude will lead to joy. After all, how much joy would I have if I didn’t worry about absolutely anything?
I think of a child laughing to herself as she skips down the street. She is irrepressibly carefree, aware only of the sun shining and the birds singing. That’s the kind of joyful life God desires for me.
But I may object that Paul’s exhortation will lead to irresponsibility. People are depending on me to get things done—at home, at work, and even at church. And I can’t neglect all the critical problems in my city, country, and the world. I have to be focused and diligent. If I don’t worry about things, how will anything get done? Am I really to be so childish that I don’t let anything trouble me?
The answer, of course, is that not worrying is only half of Paul’s instruction. Living anxiety-free doesn’t mean ignoring problems. Nor does it mean determining to think optimistically. The command is not “Don’t worry, be happy.”
Instead of worrying, I can ask God for what I need. Even better, I can ask with thanksgiving, because I know my astoundingly generous Heavenly Father’s heart. Jesus tells us that the Father responds eagerly to my requests.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV)
At this point, I may want to ask, “But what do I do if God hasn’t answered? I asked Him for several things that I don’t have yet.”
Jesus has an answer that calls for faith from me.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV)
The Greek verbs in these sentences are in the present tense and thus describe continuous actions. I am to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Persistence brings breakthrough.
Questions to Consider:
What have I thought about the most this past week? Chances are it’s something that I’m worried about. Can I make a choice not to worry? Can I reject worry in Jesus’ name?
• What do I so much want God to do that, even if He doesn’t give it to me, I will keep asking for it?
I bless you in your devotional time with God to let go of worry and continue asking Him for what’s on your heart. Your reward will be a deep, deep peace. Let it be. Amen.
Joyful Action #2
Here’s another joyful thing that God wants me to do that almost no one does.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:2-5 NLT)
Very few people greet trouble with joy. I certainly don’t. When trouble comes, I run to God for relief. I ask Him to take it away.
As in the previous section about worrying, this call to joy in trouble seems like nonsense. In every adversity, my first response is to be joy? Joy can come at the beginning of difficulties instead of just at the end of them? What is God doing here? And how do we even approach having joy in trouble?
Maybe I begin by considering God’s purposes for my life. Yes, He wants to prosper me financially and give me warm and supportive personal relationships. But He also wants me to become a mature representation of His faithful Son. Could it be that persevering through trouble yields spiritual fruit that can’t be produced any other way?
A friend once commented that “patience” in the Bible is often translated as “long-suffering” and that the surest way to learn patience was to suffer for a long time.
Or maybe in my perseverance, I learn that He knows what my needs are better than I do. Or that I can love my enemies. Or that I can trust God, even if I don’t see His faithfulness now. Or that a coming of the Kingdom to Earth supersedes my individual goals.
So I can rejoice in trouble, because I know that my faithful endurance will lead to maturity. Certainly, this perspective requires a paradigm shift.
If I can’t seem to make that shift, I can ask God for the wisdom that will change my mind and bring joy now. This wisdom may not be seeing how the difficulty will be resolved, but the wisdom to trust God and persevere. Or it may be the wisdom of God’s perspective on a problem.
My example for enduring painful situations with joy is, as with just about everything in my life, Jesus.
“…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT)
When troubles hit, God calls me to be like the One who endured the greatest injustice and suffering with joy. He was happy, because He knew the Cross would bring redemption to His beloved ones. I can be happy, because I know that my choice to endure will help me grow into maturity.
Now, God’s call in trouble probably isn’t to become a martyr. Instead of suffering in silence, I can get support from others and work to change a situation. But, I must also be ready for a joyful endurance that will make me more like Jesus. This endurance will also bring joy in the future.
In the parable of the talents Jesus tells us how God views our endurance. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master'” (Matthew 25:21 NASB).
More joy—both God’s joy and my own—awaits me at the end of my life.
Questions to Consider:
• What current trouble do I wish were ended? Can I consider that God is calling me to a patient endurance?
• What wisdom do I need from God to have joy in my difficulty?
In Jesus’ name, I bless you with the desire to follow Jesus into a patient endurance of trouble. May you rejoice over the fruit that will come out of this trouble.
Let it be. Amen.
Joyful Action #3
3. Finally, here’s a third joyful thing that God wants me to do that almost no one does.
“So I’m asking you, my friends, that you be joined together in perfect unity—with one heart, one passion, and united in one love. Walk together with one harmonious purpose and you will fill my heart with unbounded joy.
“Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves. Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.” (Philippians 2:2-4 TPT)
In a society that celebrates competition and accomplishment, these are hard words to hear. The world shouts that joy comes from achieving more than others. The world sees the winning sports team, the largest company, and the richest movie star as much happier than any of their less-accomplished peers.
How can I move from seeing people as objects I can manipulate to individuals I can serve?
Once again, the example is Jesus. Before He demonstrated humility by washing the disciples’ feet, John tells us that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3 NIV).
First, Jesus could lower Himself into a demeaning task because He knew He already had all power and authority. He didn’t have to prove that He was competent and important.
Secondly, He remembered the intimacy He had with His Father—an intimacy that would soon be restored in a face-to-face relationship. Jesus didn’t have to impress or control people to have them admire Him. His Father loved Him and took pleasure in Him; He needed no other approval.
Jesus could humbly serve because He knew what He could do and that He was loved. He did not yearn for others to validate Him.
Of course, I, too, walk in divine power and authority and can have a continuing and deep intimacy with my Heavenly Father. As I know and experience these things, I can listen instead of talk, give instead of take, and serve instead of looking to be served. In other words, I can act “…to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 NIV).
How Does This Unity Lead to Joy?
“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where GOD commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.” (Psalms 133:1-3 MSG)
David tells us that in the atmosphere of unity, God commands blessing.
Questions to Consider:
• What makes it hard for you to serve others rather than be served?
• When have you experienced unity with someone else—not just conformity or agreement, but unity? What joy did you experience in that unity?
I bless you with the revelation of your power and authority as a child of God and more intimacy with your Heavenly Father. Then may you live placing others before yourself.
And I bless you with more and great joy this week. Let it be.