Christianity is a joyful religion. Anyone who says otherwise is doing it wrong.
Consider the following verses in support of this thesis:
– “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4; ESV)
– “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22a)
– “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans14:17; ESV)
We could add many more scriptures to such a list, but these are sufficient to illustrate that God truly desires His people to have joy in their relationship with Him, and that as we practice our Christianity, joy is a natural byproduct of the endeavor. This joy comes from a variety of sources. One of these sources of joy is our relationship with other people.
Though many might deny it, and many more live as if they do not understand it, it is nevertheless a truth of life that people are more important than things in determining happiness. While many labor and toil in order to accumulate wealth and property in their pursuit of happiness, we are generally going to be happier when we spend that time on developing strong relationships.
Children are not made happy by parents who buy them lots of possessions and gifts; they are made happy by spending time with those parents and knowing their parents love them and care for them. A family home is not a joyful memory because of the size of the house, or the extent of the yard; rather it is the time spent with loved ones that we cherish in our memories as we grow older. A place is not made a great place to live because of how many shops it has, or the availability of beautiful scenery; rather it is the relationships we develop in a community that make it worth living in.
The importance of relationships is true in all matters of life, including the Lord’s church. Perhaps those who don’t find Christianity all that joyful are not developing the relationships that would contribute to that joy.
When the apostle Paul was in prison towards the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy, who Paul had trained as a preacher. One of the very first things Paul wrote in his final letter to Timothy was, “I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Timothy 1:4b; ESV) Despite his circumstances, Paul knew that just spending time with Timothy would make his life more joyful.
When we have those individuals that we love, spending time with them should be a joyful event. When God encourages His children to assemble together, fellowship together, worship together, eat together and the like, He is merely encouraging us in those behaviors which will help build the relationships that will make this life and the next better and more fulfilling (cf. Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42-47)
There is also joy to be found in doing good for others. Our Lord Jesus wisely observed to His followers that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (cf. Acts 20:35). The word blessed denotes a kind of happiness. Literally, Jesus is teaching us that we will be happier when we are giving to others than when they are giving to us.
Many of us have experienced the joy that comes from giving others presents and gifts. And yet, how often we seem to forget this basic tenet of human nature as we strive to accumulate for self in our quest for personal joy. When God teaches us to be generous people, willing to give whatever is necessary in order to help others, He is teaching us to behave towards others in a way that brings ourselves joy and fulfillment. (cf. John 3:16-18; Galatians 6:6-10)
Finally, other people can bring us joy as we see them making good decisions, especially when we know that we had a hand in teaching and training them to make those decisions. The apostle John wrote to Gaius, whom he loved, “ I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4; ESV). Knowing that Gaius was living a good live and making good and right choices delighted the old apostles heart.
This is a kind of joy that takes some time and maturation to develop. We must ourselves be walking in the truth, and then we must take time to teach others, and then they too need to be encouraged to continue in doing good, but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. Notice that John says that there was no greater joy he knew.
God has laid a path of joy down before us in Christ, and our willingness to work with and help others is a major factor in developing that joy. If joy is missing from your life, don’t try to take shortcuts in finding happiness. Listen to God, and make the time to spend time with God’s people.
It is with the greatest interest in your happiness that the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.