Can you be truly happy and joyful in a world of confusion, sadness and corruption? Can you be so without false pretention? Yes, you can and you should, if you are a true Christian. Joy is an attribute of God. It is of God. It is a "fruit of the spirit" — the second fruit after love — followed by "peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). If you are only joyful when things go right, when you are in good health, successful and prosperous, then you are only a part-time Christian, and no part-time Christian will ever enter the Kingdom of God! Christ suffered more than any other being on the face of the earth. He was misunderstood, mistreated, persecuted and crucified. Yet, He was a man of joy! He knew why He was born, He was aware of His mission, His eyes were constantly on the goal, beyond the troubles and sufferings of the present. Notice the instructions He gave His disciples during one of His last meetings with them, just before His crucifixion: "And ye now therefore sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:22-24). Joy is a by-product of faith; if you trust God, if you know that all things work together for your good because you love Him and are called according to His purpose, then you can't help but be joyful, truly happy and confident in all circumstances. Do you realize that love itself cannot be full unless working hand in hand with joy? True love is giving, and Christ said that it is much "more blessed [cause for joy] to give than to receive." When you seriously examine these things, you will understand why the apostle James tells you to "count it all joy... when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [patience]. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4, Revised Standard Version).
Was Paul a man of joy?
Even though the apostle Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles, he was nevertheless directly taught by Jesus Christ. He labored as hard as any of them. He suffered even more. Speaking of this, he writes: "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often... in cold and nakedness" (II Corinthians 11:24-27). How would you have reacted if you were in Paul's place? Would you have been depressed and discouraged? Would you have lost faith in God? Paul didn't. Throughout his epistles, he exhorts us -to be always happy, courageous and joyful. He tells us to look forward to that which is ahead. He commands us to have a positive attitude, to see the good in people, to count our blessings, to have implicit faith in God. He even tells us how to achieve this: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things • are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). For centuries, psychologists and philosophers have tried to tell us how to be happy, how to succeed and have peace of mind. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. But the apostle Paul, under God's inspiration, sums up in a few words what others have not been able to convey in endless volumes. What allowed him to maintain this positive attitude despite trials, persecutions and sufferings? What made him able to say, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (II Corinthians 4:8-9)? And again, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (II Corinthians 6:10). Could Paul, on his own, have overcome all his problems and difficulties? You know the answer: God's Spirit worked through Paul. It gave him all the help he needed to remain on the right track and to be joyful. God is a God of joy. When you receive His Spirit you also receive His nature of joy. The Spirit of God, which filled Paul with courage, patience and faith, will also help you, provided you do your part. The question is: Are you willing to submit to God as did Paul? Is your life thoroughly given to Him? Do you live to serve and to encourage others? Do you allow "the fruit of the spirit" of God to shine constantly in your life, in all of your activities, so that others might see it and glorify God? If so, then Paul's exhortation of joy will have an echo in your heart: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). It was God's Spirit in Paul that made him able to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in everything. The same Spirit of God in you will also help you act in like manner if your mind is primarily on your calling and not on yourself.
The Kingdom of joy
The book of Psalms is an anthology of praises to God, songs of comfort, thanksgiving and joy. It unveils God's magnificent plan for mankind, His love and deep concern for us. How often do you read the Psalms with these truths in mind? Time and again, David not only praises the Lord, but he also expresses his joy in keeping God's commandments; he rejoices in the goodness, mercy and justice of the Lord. That's what the Psalms are all about. No wonder David was a man after God's heart! Have you ever used this remedy in time of need? You should! When praises are continuously on your lips and in your heart, you cannot be sorrowful. It is not possible. Isaiah wrote: "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying" (Isaiah 65:17-19). Did you see how many times God speaks of joy and of rejoicing in these few verses as He describes the world tomorrow, a world totally different from ours, where all people will have a converted mind and attitude? You probably have read many times the parable of talents Christ gave in Matthew 25. You know that the man who traveled "into a far country" is Christ Himself. It is He, Christ, who gave His servants — each according to his ability — whatever talents they needed in order to use them and bring forth fruit. But have you ever noticed the way Christ defined the Kingdom of God? Upon His return, He told two of His servants who had multiplied the talents He had given them: "... Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matthew 25:21, 23). Read it again! Christ said: "Enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Doesn't this prove that to enter the Kingdom of God is to enter into His joy? Once you grasp the depth of this statement, you can't help but literally leap with joy! You will feel like the "man lame from his mother's womb" who received healing instead of the alms he asked of Peter and John. "And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God" (Acts 3:8). Before God opened OUT minds, we too were lame and blind and deaf, spiritually speaking. He granted us a spiritual awakening — the healing of our minds. In His mercy and compassion, God gave us infinitely more than what we asked for. Isn't this enough reason for us to rejoice? God called us out of this world and forgave our sins. He begot us with His Spirit, which allows us to bear fruits, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." If we live and work with them, then we too may hear Him say: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant... Enter thou into the joy of the lord."
A message of good news
The Gospel of Christ is a message of good news — happy, thrilling and rejoicing news. Why do we sometimes forget this? Why do we overlook His promises? Of all the people on the face of the earth, we in God's Church have a chance to become someday His children, literally speaking. Isn't this a good enough reason to make us overlook our problems, set our eye on the sublime goal and bounce with joy? Paul wrote: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). He assures us that there is no condemnation in us if we are in Christ (verse 1). Read carefully the whole chapter. It contains the most encouraging promises you have ever dreamed of hearing! As a member of God's Church, you have received "the spirit of sonship." You are an heir of God — a joint-heir with Christ! Doesn't this really fill your mind with joy? Imagine! The whole creation is waiting eagerly for you to become a spiritual son of God! Can't you be joyful when you realize that Christ hears you and makes intercession for you when you pray to God? (verse 26). Do you have the right to complain when you know that all things work together for your good? God tells you that nothing can separate you from His love for you. Nothing, absolutely nothing! Neither distress nor persecution, nor famine, nor poverty can have power over you. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (verse 37). Why then do you sometimes let depression or discouragement pull you down? Whatever your problems, difficulties or trials, they are only temporary. What really counts is what's ahead — and what's ahead surpasses by far all of your expectations! As Christians, we are bearers of a special passport with which to enter God's Kingdom. It reads: "The bearer of this passport is a begotten child of God. He expresses love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." In all circumstances, whether favorable or not, we must show this passport and prove that we truly are its legitimate bearers — that we do have these fruits. We are spiritual members of God's Family in the making. We have His nature, His Spirit, His joy — here and now. That's why we don't have the right not to be happy! We must radiate joy!