Friday, January 11, 2013

Joy

Back in the fall, our congregation had a Gospel Meeting.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Gospel meeting is similar to a revival.  We have a service every night from Sunday to Wednesday, complete with singing, prayer, and a sermon.  The sermons are usually delivered by a guest preacher about some particular theme.  As tough as it can be to get three children to church four nights in a row, I am so glad we made the effort.  The preacher we had was truly a delight.  He was an older man who had years of preaching behind him.  Long after Brother Pate's lessons fade from my mind, I will remember the joy he exuded with every word he said, every smile he smiled and every song he sang.  He loved children and took delight in giving them their own lesson every night.  On the last night, he led the children, along with the adults, in a song I had never heard, "Isn't it Grand to Be a Christian?" I smiled the rest of the evening.



Joy is one of those fruits of the Spirit we tend to gloss over.  Oh, we talk about it.  We talk about how joy is not the same as happiness and that we should have it no matter our circumstances.   However, we tend to stop there.  It's true that without the Holy Spirit, I will never have joy, but I can't sit back and just expect it to appear magically.  Just like other fruits, it takes work as well as prayer.  We talk all the time about how to cultivate our other fruits, like love and patience, but we seem content to define joy and assume we will display it if we are Christians.  I am convinced, though, that developing joy takes the same kind of effort as any spiritual trait, effort which starts with Bible study.

It is easy to find women in the Bible who express joy.  The first three that come to my mind are all women who expressed their joy in song.  After God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites rejoiced by singing.  Miriam led her own band of rejoicing women. "Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.  Miriam answered them, Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea" (Exodus 15:20-21).  I can't think of anything much more joyful than singing and dancing!

Hannah and Mary must have agreed because they each sang their own songs of thanksgiving, songs which are very similar.  Hannah's song is almost bursting with joy: "My heart exults in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation" (1 Samuel 2:1).  Mary's song, while more tranquil, is not less joyful: "My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, For He has had regard for the humble state of his bondslave" (Luke 1:46-48).

With these three women, we learn that one way to grow our own joy is to sing as they did.  I dare you to try to keep a scowl on your face while singing "Heavenly Sunlight" or "When We All Get to Heaven."  We may not have the inspiration that Mary and Hannah did to compose songs on the spot, but we all know a hymn that will help us increase our joy.

As I read about these women, I thought to myself, "It's easy for these women to be joyful; they've just been immensely blessed."  Then I had to confess!  Didn't the Son of God die for me?  Don't I have direct access to the all-powerful Creator of the universe through the blood of His son?  I am blessed!  And that's not even counting all my material blessings and relationships.  Mary and Hannah counted their blessings.  If we want to grow our joy, we can do the same thing.  A friend of mine recently put a quote on facebook: "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for." Her son died at age seven in a house fire.  If she can be thankful, then I certainly can.

Not all Biblical women sing for joy, but if we read their stories carefully, we can see joy splashed all over their lives.  What about Dorcas?  What the Scripture actually says about her is that she "was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did" (Acts 9:36).  Although joy is not specifically mentioned, we know that her death was particularly hard on the widows she had served.  Do you imagine that if she was a sour persimmon that the ladies would have been so heartbroken over her death and overjoyed at her miraculous resurrection?  Probably not.  Maybe this is a stretch, but it seems to me that Dorcas shows another way to build our joy.  We can serve others who may not have all the material blessings that we have.  I have found it true in my life that if I begin to serve, even if I struggle to do so cheerfully at first, that the right attitude follows if I am being sincere.


As I serve, I want to grow to be the kind of Christian Brother Pate is.  I want people to see the joy of the Lord bursting forth from me in a smile I cannot hide, songs I must sing, and service I must do.  As I count my blessings and remember that Jesus died for me, that I am washed in His blood, I want to go through life answering this question to the world: "Isn't it grand to be Christian?"  Yes, it is!
Melissa
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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