The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy...
I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Joy exceeds happiness. It is its unchanging foundation. 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning' (Psalm 30:5). Sometimes, I am exuberantly joyful: a hand-waving, clapping, whoo-hoo'er. Joy is contagious in the best possible way.
'The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy... All the trees of the field will clap their hands' (Isaiah 55:12); 'Let the rivers clap their hands' (Psalm 98:8); 'O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy' (Psalm 47:1). God loves joy.*
Sometimes, I am exuberantly unjoyful: a finger-pointing, clanging, condemner. 'If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal' (1 Corinthians 13:1). Condemnation is contagious, too, in a cancerous kind of way.
Here's the thing: I need to practice joy. Right before God says to 'Pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we are told to 'Rejoice always' (1Thessalonians 5:16), as in to rejoice without ceasing, as in to 'Count it all joy when you fall into various trials' (James 1:2).
Here's another thing: life's trials are not limited to major catastrophes. Sometimes, they're minor annoyances, like late pickups, long lines, unfair circumstances, uninformed opinions, thoughtless remarks, forgetful servers, whining children, barking dogs or complaining friends.
Actors, models and talent for Christ: if 'The joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8:10), then practice joy like weight lifting at the gym. Because it takes muscle 'To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke' (Isaiah 58:6).
If you don't feel particularly joyful, 'Put on love' (Colossians 3:14) with a smile on your face. Does this seem fake? Not if you're real about it. Consider an example: you've had a bad day or you face a crisis, and someone asks, 'How's it going?'
You say, 'It's hard, but I'm counting it all joy' (then smile). If you're speaking to a non-believer, he'll say, 'How is that possible?' Then you say, 'I'm trusting God for the good in this. I can't see it yet, but I know it will come.'
You've intrigued the questioner. I speak with experience, because I was intrigued when Christian friends spoke of their problems in this way. Joy was a great witness to me and my house in our B.C. years. Maybe you're already a joy professional. If so, pray for me. If not, let's pray for each other to increase in this essential fruit of the Holy Spirit.**
To Be Continued...
* 'Joy is the serious business of Heaven' (C.S. Lewis).
** 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control' (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV).
** 'When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy' (Corrie Ten Boom).
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Leadership series.