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Finding the Joy in Christianity

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Finding the Joy in Christianity

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Perhaps you have participated in a word association exercise in the past. Someone says a word and you are asked to say the first word that comes to mind. As an example, the person conducting the exercise may say “smile” and perhaps you would answer “happy” or “cheerful.” If the person conducting the exercise said “Christian,” what words would come to mind? Perhaps you would think of “disciple,” “faithful,” “obedience,” “overcoming,” “enduring,” etc. All these words are associated with our calling. But how long would it take you to think of the word joy?

Joy is one of the fundamental aspects of a true Christian. But, unfortunately, joy is not often immediately associated with Christianity. Oliver Wendell Holmes once remarked, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” Joy can be described as a strong feeling of pleasure, gladness, cheerfulness or celebration.

Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit and therefore should be a fundamental characteristic of all Christians. It is interesting to note that the Greek word that is translated “joy” (chara) and the Greek word that is translated “grace” (charis) share the same common root word. As Christians, we experience a great deal of joy through the grace of God. Prior to baptism we were condemned to die for our sins (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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; 6:23). But we received a pardon; we received grace from God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, an appropriate response should be gratefulness and joy.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 Romans 15:13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
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). We are filled with joy through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the words used to describe God and His Kingdom is joy. King David wrote, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11 Psalms 16:11You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more.
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). David indicates that there is fullness of joy in the presence of God, and therefore God’s Kingdom will be a kingdom of joy. The apostle Paul echoes this in his letter to the church in Rome: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 Romans 14:17For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
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).

Christians can be joyful even during times of trial. James wrote to members of God’s Church, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1: 2-4). Later James adds, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12 James 1:12Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
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). During a time of trial, Christians can experience joy by looking beyond the trial or obstacle, realizing that God is in the process of perfecting their faith. Jesus Christ endured the crucifixion and the shame associated with it by focusing on the joy of being reunited with His Father (Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
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).

What are some of the ways that Christians can experience joy? One way is to simply slow down and relish the moment—enjoy the life that God has granted us. We live in such a fast-paced world that we can become quite irritated over the slightest interruption. (Which just occurred with me as my 3-year-old son interrupted my concentration on this article.) As Christians we should slow down and enjoy the journey toward the Kingdom of God. Solomon wrote, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 [7] Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God now accepts your works. [8] Let your garments be always white; and let your head lack no ointment. [9] Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of the life of your vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity: for that is your portion in this life, and in your labor which you take under the sun.
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). As Christians we should experience joy in the many blessings that God has given us.

We should rejoice for the preaching of the gospel. Luke recorded in the book of Acts that the city of Samaria experienced great joy when Philip came to them preaching the gospel (Acts 8:5-8 Acts 8:5-8 [5] Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them. [6] And the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. [7] For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. [8] And there was great joy in that city.
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). The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi that he rejoiced for the preaching of the gospel regardless of the motive (Philippians 1:12-18 Philippians 1:12-18 [12] But I would you should understand, brothers, that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel; [13] So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; [14] And many of the brothers in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. [15] Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: [16] The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: [17] But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. [18] What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
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). Christ instructed the Pharisees and scribes through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son to rejoice when someone repents (Luke 15). The Church continues to preach the gospel to the world and people are continuing to respond to that message and therefore we should rejoice! The apostle Paul informed the members in Philippi that he experienced joy in praying for them (Philippians 1:3-5 Philippians 1:3-5 [3] I thank my God on every remembrance of you, [4] Always in every prayer of my for you all making request with joy, [5] For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
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). We can experience joy as we pray for one another. John wrote that he experienced great joy in hearing that members he knew continued to remain in the truth (3 John 4).

These are just some of the ways that Christians can experience lasting joy. You may have noticed that real joy involves touching the lives of others in a positive way. It’s the way of giving, sharing and outflowing concern for others. Joy follows love as a fruit of God’s Spirit and the expression of love brings real joy to our lives. UN

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