Character Trait No. 33
Definition: Speaking to myself in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in my heart to the LORD as a result of being in agreement with God and others (shows on the countenance)
“...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the LORD. Ephesians 5:19
The quality of being joyful is like being Spirit-filled: Although all Christians possess the gift of God’s Spirit, yet He not always fills them. Likewise, joy is the possession of each born again individual, but all are not always joyful. It’s another character trait that must be learned and practiced in real-life situations. The Lord is the source of our true joy, and as the recipients, we must exercise this joy in us to point where we have joy-fullness. This the open “secret” to living victoriously in Christ – believing that whatever qualities we are commanded to demonstrate in daily living are already ours by faith. We merely act upon our potential until it becomes a realized fact of our lives. We need not, on our own, create joy in our lives, because the Spirit of Christ is the source of unending joy – “rivers of living water”. Jn. 7:38 Thus we don’t have to beg God for what is already our inheritance by default simply by having Christ living within us. Just claim His promises and act as if they were really true – which they are! “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. For there is no partiality with God.” Rom.11:29 & 2:11
Understanding that every Christian receives the same measure of joy simply by obtaining the gift of Christ’s Spirit at immersion obviously eliminates all of an individual’s excuses for a grumpy, joyless attitude. We must work out what God has worked in (us). We walk by faith, not sight. Learning that our attitude is not dependent on any external circumstance is essential. Joy that is dependent upon things like: good health, nice weather, delicious food, adequate rest or anything else is mere worldly happiness rather than God-given joy. Under the right conditions, any uncircumcised Gentile can be happy. But the joyful Christian has something special from a heavenly source. The world didn’t give it to him and the world can’t take it away!
So then, what does enhance our joyful attitude, and allow us to express it fully? Look at King David’s exuberant joy when accompanying the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem:
“Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.
So it was David, with the elders of Israel and the captain over thousands, who went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom with joy”.
David was practically “carried away” with joy on this day, dancing and making merry in his simple undergarments after removing his royal robes. Some would justify some emotional hysterics based on such verses, but the fail to note the significant difference between the New Covenant and the Old. What was physical and outward in those days is now primarily driven inward and is spiritual. Now we follow the teachings and examples of the church as seen in the New Testament (Covenant) writings. Paul, for instance, said that all things “be done properly and in an orderly manner.” I Cor.14:40
Our worship of God is now done in “Spirit and in truth”. Since the new creation is always in Christ, he is also always in the Spirit and in the Truth. We are now seated by faith with Christ and have continued spiritual communion with God via the Holy Spirit. Rom.8:26-27
Unlike the Jews in their dispensation, Christians don’t yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem, slaughter sheep, goats and bulls, or prostrate themselves before the temple. These things are replaced with inward and heavenward communion for the most part.
So what is the appropriate response to God’s goodness in lives? How do we express our joy properly according to New Testament example?
- By living lives of gratitude by serving others and winning them to Christ.
- By maintaining our great attitudes when outside circumstances our bad.
- By keeping a constant focus on Christ in glory and glorifying Him in our bodies as living sacrifices, proving what God’s will is – that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom12:2
- Singing uplifting, edifying and spiritual songs and making music unto the Lord wholeheartedly. Col.3:15-16; Eph.5:18-19 (This is not to be limited to Sunday only).
Illustrative of the issue of acceptable expressions of joy in our age, is the question we face in Africa: Can Christians dance in their assemblies? This is a somewhat complicated question. We must not speak where the Bible is silent. Motives are very important. We don’t have any precedent in the New Testament record of such. Silence is not always prohibitive, but it does matter. In this writer’s opinion, we must avoid “showboating” or making entertainment of our assemblies. One so often seen the least spiritual people dancing the most, here in Ghana. Its irksome to see them dancing so enthusiastically and knowing how immature and shallow they really are by their fruit. That, of course, doesn’t make it a sin for others to dance. It is merely an observation. We must not pander the fleshly side of man in attracting people to our assemblies. Otherwise we will build our congregations with such people. What you win them with is what you win them to. Nevertheless, it seems that occasional spontaneous outbursts of exuberance are not harmful, and might even be necessary, especially for new babes in Christ who cannot adequately internalize and communicate on a only a more spiritual plane. Cultural expressions of joy should not all be squelched unless they’re obviously not done properly or in a decent manner.
One last thought on this subject: Emotions are a very poor source of lasting motivational power for the church. If they’re “manufactured” by professional music and tear-jerking stories, (that would bring tears to a glass eye!), then they will disappear like the early morning mist. Solid conviction based on the factual knowledge of God’s unchanging word is the high-octane fuel we need. So avoid the hype, and settle in for earnest study and prayers as the best means of keeping high the morale of the spiritual revolution’s troops. What happens when the band stops playing, the lights go off, and everyone goes home ... when emotions are the source of joy? You know the answer.
The joy of the Lord is our strength! Joyful Christians are attractive Christians to lost souls discouraged and beat up by life’s difficulties. Famous English author C.S Lewis wrote that depression among Christians was one of the greatest impediments on evangelism. Long, sad faces ill speak of God’s gracious care and goodness. Let us be joyful on all occasions, especially when things are tough, to demonstrate that Christ is our source of joy, not this stinking, soon-to-be-burned-up world. Face the world with a smile, brother, and let them see God’s countenance in your radiant, joyful praise!