Where Is the Joy?

Where Is the Joy?

 
The spate of senseless killings, rapes, robberies and untimely deaths on our streets have resulted in the question, “Where is the joy?” Admittedly, this time of the year ought to be one of joy, glee, laughter and happiness; but apart from crime, many other challenges are confronting our people: joblessness, reduced income and illness (terminal and otherwise) -- not to mention marital and family issues that are plaguing our land. Therefore the question, “Where is the joy?” is echoed.
 
Joy Is Constant
            The Bible makes no fuss about it as it simply and unapologetically declares that joy – remarkable joy, wonderful joy, unbelievable joy, real joy has come to this world with the birth of Jesus. Consider the saying of Luke 2:10: “Do not be afraid,” says the angel, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” The angel of the Lord adds, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Joy is tied to Christ. His first coming brought joy; His death on Calvary manifested a matchless love; His resurrection assures us of a sound resurrection hope as penned by Bill Gaither, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” Additionally, the fact that He is in heaven interceding for men and women provides an ongoing reason for celebration and rejoicing. In fact, I am reminded of some of His final words to His disciples, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages” (Matthew 28:20). Furthermore, I reference the well-known John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” These declarations constitute joy even in the midst of all the ills, disappointments and issues of our land. We sure do need it!
 
Are You for Real?
            Christians are accused of offering “a pie in the sky” or speaking of some future bliss, but truth be told people are hurting now, and they need answers today. How does this Christ message apply? The Christ message could not be more relevant. After all, the Bible says, “He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). Do you know of anyone like that? For South Africans and many others, Nelson Mandela who sacrificed personal freedom and endured great pain, isolation, and deprivation for the freedom of his people would come close; but Christ is more. Wiping away the tears of pain and disappointment, He offers healing, food, shelter, freedom, forgiveness, hope and companionship. These and more He provides through His church and through His people everywhere. Consider the acts of kindness you have experienced all year. Notwithstanding some of your setbacks, look at what He did. You received the favor of someone paying a bill or part of it; someone repaired your car, or appliance, or roof free or at a discounted rate. You received a loan even though you were not qualified; through some charitable foundation you received medical assistance. You received the favor of lunch, or better still groceries when you could not afford it. You have sat your exams owing tuition, and you even graduated this year and possibly you are still wondering, “How did I make it?” Your landlord gave you a reprieve on your rent. Maybe you went all year and did not have any health issues; no unnecessary marital pain; you paid all your bills on time. And even if the opposite applies aren’t you glad that you are still standing with just a few days to the end of 2013?
 
Joy Today and Always
            Joy was never intended to be a once a year encounter, or even a now and then experience but a daily and hourly one; for Jesus Himself announced, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The reality of this remarkable gift of joy dispels despair, ingratitude, worry, sleeplessness, revenge and anger. The joy that Christ gives by His presence, His Church and His Word is unquestionably real, practical and enduring. If you have not experienced it, it could be for several reasons. Maybe you do not know Him. Maybe you are looking in the wrong place. Maybe you are expecting to receive when you can be giving time, encouragement and some other form of assistance. Maybe a paradigm shift is needed in your thoughts. The Apostle Paul would tell you that to know this Christ is to experience radical change. And I could say the same. God gives me such an outlook that keeps me going daily notwithstanding my share of pain, loss and apparent setbacks; but the favors of God outweigh all of these, and as a result, I am discovering that the more that I trust Him and stay  close to (abide in) Him, I experience an inner calm, peace and joy. Indeed, joy has come and is here and will be here as long as Jesus is alive; and that my friend is forever, so let His joy become your joy today and always. This way you will dismiss the question, “Where is the joy?”  We know by experience that the joy of the Lord is present, real and long lasting!