03 Oct Why Are So Many Christians Not Joyful?
Apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always. I say again: You must rejoice!” Joy is one of the most direct blessing that God has given Man. Some may ask, “Why do you like to have a handphone or a house? Why do you want to get married? Why do you want to have children?” However, no one will ask, “Why do you want to be joyful?” This is because joy is an inherent need in Man and it is a proof that Man has received blessings. When God blesses Man, within that blessing contains the joy of God’s presence. Therefore, we do not need to explain why we want to be joyful but we may need to explain why we want money, get married, etc. Hence, we Christians, must ask ourselves a very vital question today, “Am I joyful? If I am not joyful, what is the reason?” On the other hand, if a person says he is very joyful, he must ask himself what is the basis of his joy? Does his joy disappear when things or surroundings change? Or he now hopes for a beautiful outcome, and when this outcome cannot be achieved, would his joy disappear? Sometimes, we have lots of uneasiness and worries, or desires and fears hidden in our hearts, but we are unaware of them as we have yet to be triggered by the environment, such that we do not realise that the joy we have is false. Actually, a more serious problem than not being joyful is when we allow our hearts to be deceived, thinking that we are not joyless. Indeed, it does not look good and it seems vulnerable to admit that one is not joyful or is troubled. However, when we are able to recognise that we are not joyful, it is a form of humility, and a request for intercession. That is actually a journey of us moving away from “relative” joy and entering into unwavering joy. Many believers actually live in worries, helplessness or temporary contentment, and they think that they can rely on their strength and will to go on. Thus, they do not receive the intercession of the Holy Spirit. However, a believer who has truly tasted the joy from God’s presence and treasures it, continues to battle and anticipates to enter into the unchanging joy in Christ, he will often pray honestly to God, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” <Ps 42:5> He will continue to battle until for Christ’s sake, [he] delights in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties…<2 Co 12:10>. Truly, many Christians do not have real joy. Many of them rely on their own natural will or happiness to live. Because many of them also have not lived in real lack and challenges, they consider such comfort zone as joy. Actually, when they face some trials or situations where they cannot control, they will easily lose their joy. Sometimes, we can see ourselves falling into stress and impulsiveness in a day’s busyness. Truly, we should not easily misconceive feeling of comfort as joy. The joy that the Lord has given believers has foundation, battle and mission. The foundation comes from the unchanging promises that God has given us in Christ. The battle comes from using prayer to triumph over our own desires and the trials that occur again and again. Mission lies in us living out the calling the Lord has given us, becoming a blessing to the people around us and sharing the gospel to them.
After man has departed from God, he is also separated from the joy given by God
We all derive joy or the lack of it from our gains and losses
Because the consequences of sin is upon us, there are injustice, gains and losses, separation of life and death, etc on earth. Therefore, in the state where one cannot see God’s salvation and glory, man’s joy is derived from what he has gained (e.g. good friends, good results, health, wealth, marriage, children, etc), but at the same time, they lose joy because of their losses. We just cannot enter the joy of God’s glory. David said, “Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.” <Ps 35:9> Such joy is hidden from people who have departed from God. Although many believers accepted the Lord, because they do not know God through the truth, they misunderstood the joy in Christ, thinking only health, wealth and success can be reasons for joy. Therefore, such an understanding of faith will also cause us to enter a joyless state.
Ask yourself honestly, why are you not joyful?
- What do you want? What man wants cannot surpass what God gives. We need money, but we cannot steal or take advantage of others. We need love, but we cannot cohabitate or cross God’s boundaries. Love, material things, relationships and life all come from God’s grace, and it comes with the boundaries set by God. Therefore, if what we want is our selfish desires, we cannot be happy. On the contrary, we will be tormented by our selfish desires. Our state would be like what <Jas 4:2-3> describes, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”
- What do you rely on? Man is always searching for something to rely on. This is because man needs security to have joy. Some people rely on marriage, some rely on money, some rely on power, some rely on wits. Actually, whatever man relies on, that is his God. If he is not relying on God, he is relying on an idol, and he will suffer more and more <Ps 16:4>. Therefore, when man is relying on money, money controls him. When one relies on a doctor, the moment medical science is not working, he immediately becomes helpless. Man’s heart must rely on the One who is faithful and all-powerful, in order to be joyful. Therefore in <Ps 16:8-9>, David said, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”
- What have you done? What man has done is like sowing. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life <Gal 6:8>. If what we do grieves the Holy Spirit <Ep 4:30-31>, we will not have joy. However, <Gal 5:16, 22> tells us if we walk by the Spirit, we will have joy in us, as the fruit of the Spirit. We can absolutely not separate what we do and the joy in our hearts. No matter how tough the road is, if we have done the will of God, the heart will be filled with joy. As <Jn 16:21> said, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” Indeed, when we are unwilling to go the difficult path, not doing what should be done, we will not be joyful.
- What have you experienced? We often think we will be happy if we acquire certain things. Actually, nothing truly belongs to us. From our life to everything we own, they come from God’s grace. <Job 1:21>: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Therefore, if a believer finds joy from something he gains on earth, that is because he has experienced God’s grace. <Ro 5:3-5> tells us that we can glory in suffering. Why is that so? Because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. In the end, we can experience the love that has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Indeed, once the saints have experienced the love of the Holy Spirit, even if there is suffering, they can rejoice. Jesus told his disciples, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Here, the Lord wants us to ask in His name, not because of the fear of lack, but He wants us to experience God’s abundant grace.
- What do you firmly believe in? When we encounter trials in our lives and when these trials do not end so soon, how can we be joyful in such a situation? The answer lies in what we believe in. <1 Pe 4:12-13> said, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Actually, what causes a person pain in trials is that he does not know the reason for his trials, or he even feels accused, thinking that there is a problem with him. It is not the case. Saints must know that the world opposes us, and when we are undergoing trials, we are participating in the sufferings of Christ, so that we can be full of hope and joy in our hearts.
This world keeps wanting to kill the true joy given by God in Christ
A generation that keeps pursuing to meet its needs will more and more be unable to know the Lord’s joy
Selfish desires are contrary to the joy the Lord gives us. If we do not know and do not deal with our selfish desires, then we cannot receive joy. <Jas 4:1-3> tells us how scary selfish desires are. They not only make us jealous (discontented) and greedy (want to acquire more), but more importantly, they also prevent us from asking from God, or even if we ask, we ask with the wrong motives. Such a heart makes us unable to be joyful in the Lord, but multiply our sorrows instead. Actually, it is nothing wrong for us humans to have needs and desires. Paul said, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed…<Phil 1:20>. Likewise, we who are employees hope to do our jobs well, we who are parents hope to teach our children well, we who have illnesses hope to be healthy, we who are singles hope that one day we can meet our ideal partner, we who are married hope to have children. Human life is filled with all kinds of expectations and hopes. As long as it does not violate God’s morals, we can desire, and when what we hope for does not come through, it is also normal for us to feel sad and disappointed in our hearts. This is not wrong. But we must understand when will our expectations and hopes turn into selfish desires? That is when we do not bring them before God to keep asking God, seek His will, entrust and cast unto the Lord, and wait patiently. If we let God intervene in our needs, He will guide us, and will let us have an assured heart to follow Him. If we keep focusing on our needs and fall into discontentment and constant comparisons with others, even developing doubts about the Lord’s goodness, then our expectations and hopes will turn into desires that do not fear God, and since they are selfish desires, they will incite us to attain our wishes by our own means. Especially, in such an era where needs are increasing, people are very smart, technologies are very advanced, and there are many methodologies, people already cultivated the habit of “instantly seeking solutions”. If believers are also like that, then they will all the more not know how to rely on the Lord (test and approve over time). Gradually, they will see that their needs keep being satisfied, yet their joy is lesser and lesser.
Wrong teachings make us unable to rejoice
<Gal 4:15>: Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me… Indeed, the God who created human souls reveals His truth to us so that we can have true peace and joy in Him. If add on or subtract from the gospel truth given by God, eventually will only blind the soul and be deceived, living in false joy. The background to Paul’s writing of the book of Galatians at that time was that Galatian believers were blinded by the so-called “circumcision sect”, thinking that besides believing in Christ, one still has to be circumcised then he can have a part in God’s redemption and blessings. Likewise, today, some teachings also add on many laws and rituals to salvation and the blessings of salvation, for example: must speak in tongues then can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, what is most prevalent in modern times is prosperity gospel, using earthly materials and carnal blessings to attract people to believe in the Lord. Such gospel teachings twist the essence of the gospel, turning the pure word of saving people’s souls into a way of getting wealth and attaining earthly wishes. No matter how joyful “believers” who receive such teachings portray themselves to be, their joy is not real. Because they have lost the original meaning of the cross. Salvation meant to bring people out of the world, and from then on, live for heavenly purpose and yearning. Such is the path of daily carrying the cross, and the path of grace. Only when one walks in this path, can it get sweeter and more joyful.
Therefore, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to fight the battle and receive the joy from the Lord.
We must frequently return to (confirm) the joy of salvation
The root of joy comes from salvation. Salvation gives us eternal life, and all the blessings we received on earth exists because of eternity. Therefore, sometimes when we are happy with the outcomes on earth, we must next ask if the outcomes are related to eternity? Sometimes, if we feel disappointed because of failures on earth, let us come before the Lord and be satisfied by the salvation He has given us. Because nothing is longer than eternity and no blessing is better than the blessing of salvation. If we can be joyful always because of Lord’s salvation, our priorities will naturally be corrected, and you can see all things through heavenly wisdom. Let us take reference from <Hab 3:17-18> Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
We must always cast our anxiety on the Lord, and experience the Lord’s provision through this
<1 Pe 5:7> tell us to cast all our anxiety on God because He cares for us. In a busy and cruel life, one easy mistake we make is to endure pressure while putting in all our efforts to rush ahead. Sometimes, unconsciously, we will become one who just focuses on effectiveness and results, but not on the process (communion with God). In this, we will easily be devoured by the roaring lion <1 Pe 5:8>. Sometimes, if we do not cast all our accumulated anxiety about life and about our loved ones, one by one on the Lord, they will build up in our hearts, and become contents that will give us insinuations unconsciously. Those who know about spiritual battles will know the importance of having peace in the heart, so they will commit those unbearable burdens to the Lord in their daily prayers.
Listen to more testimonies of people of great faith and blessed brethren
Sometimes, as we walk on the path of faith, we truly need to integrate the life testimonies of all saints, because the Holy Spirit is indeed doing His good work on every person whom He loves. <Ep 3:18> tells us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, together with all the Lord’s holy people. Although we have received the revelation of salvation and have relied on the Lord through prayers, no one person can rely on himself in fighting the spiritual battle. We have to always get encouragement from the life testimonies of people of great faith and our brethren. Therefore, the way to receive joy is to be in close contact with brethren, to know, support and encourage one another. Indeed, when we meet with holy people to share God’s grace, we will be strong in our hearts, and the worries in our hearts will also naturally reduce.
Bring our eager expectations and hopes before the Lord, and witness His beautiful fulfilment as we obey Him
Some believers always think that God does not fulfil what they need, but always makes them walk the difficult path of the cross. This is a huge misunderstanding of God. Because Paul said he eagerly expected and hoped that he will in no way be ashamed. David also said that apart from the Lord, he had no good thing. But why is it that our hearts always have such thoughts from time to time? Honestly speaking, that is because we have not obeyed the Lord, but always walk ahead of the Lord. Sometimes, in order to get what we want, we strive for it at all costs, even going beyond the boundaries permitted by God. All these make us unable to see the best blessings of God. <Ro 3:4> says, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” Let us not replace God’s truth with false thoughts. In all things God works for the good of those who love him <Ro 8:28>. If we submit to God’s guidance and timetable, our hearts will eventually be able to praise the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.
Centre our living more on loving and blessing others
What Paul eagerly expected and hoped in his life was related to the lives of all people being benefitted. He loved seeing everyone’s faith grow and that they enjoy the benefits of the gospel <Phil 1:25>. Therefore, the joy in his life came from his giving, not receiving. We believers are all people who received the Great Commission of the Lord, our destinies are related to the blessedness of all saints. Think about it, if we received this life-saving gospel yet all the striving of our lives is for our own earthly blessings, then how can we be joyful in the Spirit? At least, our lives should be the joy to people around us, such as children should be the joy to their parents, husband and wife be each other’s joy, then we can receive the joy of the Holy Spirit. When human love grows colder and colder, let us saints live out the calling of the Lord, centering our living more on loving and blessing others, so that we can experience the joy which people of the world cannot understand.