When I was a young prodigal leading an errant lifestyle in my home town, there used to be a purple and white bus that roamed the streets, highways, and byways of the area with the words “JOY BUS” boldly emblazoned above the windshield.
I never saw any Christians hanging out the windows shouting for joy nor did I hear songs of great joy being sung inside the bus. At the time, it seemed kind of silly.
But joy is not silly.
Yes, I was a prodigal, but God drew me back to Himself through a Damascus road event involving a tornado that forever changed my life. (See https://kinshipradio.org/home/the-call/) Since then, I have been blessed to experience the tremendous joy that is only found in Him.
Last week, Guest Blogger Anna Lokensgard shared some beautiful thoughts on spring cleaning, including spiritual clean-up. She included a brief story about how she paid for someone else’s meal at a drive through and experienced great joy as a result, only to have an unbelieving co-worker utter the sentence, ““The problem with you Christians is that you do these kinds of things only to make yourself feel better.”
And that, brothers and sisters in Christ, is a lie straight from the enemy of our souls.
Anna stepped out in faith and obedience when she paid for that meal. She most certainly did not do it with the objective of being rewarded, let alone it being her only motivation. The joy she felt is the natural outflow, a blessing of the LORD Himself, as a result of trusting Him and acting in obedience and love. Make no mistake, demons and sour-faced Pharisees mock Christian joy and say things like this to get us to stop doing things that bring joy to us and to others because joy is contagious and they know it.
Jesus Himself said, in John 15:10-11:
When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (NLT)
Jesus is not talking about the “Oh yeah, that’s nice” kind of joy here. He’s talking about an overwhelming, overflowing joy. This is joy that brings you to Holy Spirit tears –and there’s a very good reason joy is second only to love in the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Joy is a powerful weapon in our fight against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places because it proceeds directly out of the most powerful force in heaven and earth –the love of God.
Yes, I know that not every day in the life of a Christian can be a mountain-top experience and that the valleys are where things grow. But that does not negate nor diminish His holy fire or the earth-shattering power of joy.
I have stood on a pastor’s porch in the Dominican Republic and experienced just an inkling of exactly how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is solely through the word “amo.” (Spanish for “love.”) I have had my heart stirred to tears on more than one occasion watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. I have bawled my eyes out on the Mount of Beatitudes. I have felt that same power singing “Reckless Love” sitting on a plastic chair at a plastic table in the Guatemalan night. I have almost had to pull over while driving as I prayed for my wife and God told me, “Dan, I love her more than you can ever know.” And, most recently, I had tears welling up a half-dozen times while watching, “Jesus Revolution.“
And all of this is underlain by the day-to-day, never-ending joy that I wake up to every morning.
No, joy is not silly. I will not apologize or feel guilty for joy, because it was what we were designed and built for from the moment He breathed His own Holy Spirit into that man of dust. (Genesis 2:7) It was His plan from the very beginning. The joy of the LORD is our strength! (Nehemiah 8:10) It is the light we are to shine before all mankind, that others would see that joy and glorify our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
So, for those who say that Christianity with too much emotion isn’t reverent or there is somehow something wrong with feeling joy in worshipping the LORD and serving Him in obedience and faith, that’s a bus with flat tires. And, if you can’t find joy in the King of Universe, the Maker of Heaven and Earth loving you so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for you and rise from the grave so that you would have eternal life, the wheels have fallen right off that bus.
But don’t worry, I know someone who can help put them back on. Hop aboard (There’s plenty of open seats.) and let me tell you a little more about this Jesus!
You’ll want to bring some tissues.
1 Peter 1:8
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (NIV)
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)