I’ve always gotten a kick out of the simple, trite story about a little boy asking his mother, “Are Christians donkeys?” To which his mother said, “No, and why did you ask that question?” The little boy replied, “Because so many of them have long faces.”
If any persons should have joy in their lives it should be Christians. God the Father sent His Son that we might have joy in our lives. When the wise men realized Mary’s child was the Christ, the scriptures say, “They rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10). The early Christians were “filled with joy” (Acts 13:52). Joy is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus “endured the cross for our joy.” Then Peter said that we should “rejoice with joy inexpressible” because we believe in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:8). Maybe that’s why so many Christians have long faces; their joy is “inexpressible”. Ha!
We just passed the season to be jolly, and in which a greater emphasis is put upon the coming of Christ. I’m glad for that even though the significance of the Incarnation is often buried in our materialistic, pleasurable pursuits at Christmas time. Nevertheless, as believers well know, the gospel means “good news”, and we should manifest a joyous response to the grace of God, not only in December, but all year long. The merchants do their part to extend their selling longer and longer each year (I saw seasonal merchandise in the stores as early as September last year.). We should outdo them by emphasizing and manifesting our joy all year long. Here we are, blessed by God, physically alive to begin another new year, but more important we are saved by grace through faith. That’s the basis for “joy inexpressible.”
It is my opinion that many Christians have long faces, so to speak, because they haven’t accepted and realized the full impact of the grace of God. They are laboring under the concept of legalism. They are relying upon their works to be saved, or at least partially. This affects them emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. They don’t really know whether or not they are saved. It depends upon the ledger when they die. Then think of all the distress and stress connected with the disfellowshipping, divisions, and sectarianism that are spin-offs of legalism.
Readily I admit that from a worldly standpoint we are not living in a joyous world at the present time. This makes the above all that worse.
From a worldly standpoint, since the fall of man this has not been a joyous world. It never will be as long as man remains and functions in his natural state. Man is a sinner, selfish, self-serving, self-seeking, and self-willed. He wants to be his own god and not accountable or responsible. Because of this we have ache and pain, crime and war, hurt and misery in our world.
Yet despite all of these carnal circumstances, the Christian should be a joyous person. Our faith and hope should enable us to rise above or see through external, temporary circumstances in anticipation of a better, brighter day.
Our “long faces” are often reflections of what occurs in our assemblies. Under the legalistic “the worship” concept they are viewed as sacrifices wherein God is watching us meticulously and we will jeopardize our eternity if we are not exactly correct in our procedures and understanding. If God isn’t watching us many of the brethren are.
Certainly our assemblies are not to be light and superficial, but neither are they to be sad, staid, and perfunctory, lacking enthusiasm, involvement, praise, and spontaneity. They are to be times of mutual edification and celebration of God’s gracious love, not primarily times for enhancement of the party platform. Robert Lewis Stevenson once wrote in his dairy: “I have been to church today, and (surprisingly) I am not depressed.”
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Rather than living “abundantly”, laying up “treasures in heaven”, we have been subtly seduced by the world. We have sought joy in money, pleasure, power, and temporal things.
No doubt money brings temporary happiness, but if that is your primary goal you will never have enough or be fulfilled. The fear of losing it will sap your joy. We all need some pleasure and relaxation at times, but if that is for what we live, our lives will be empty. Those who seek power aren’t joyous. A good example of this are sectarian leaders. They are constantly worried for their control and working constantly to enforce conformity. Lasting joy doesn’t come from temporal things. Someone once said, “The most miserable people I have known have not been those who suffered from catastrophes – which they could blame on fate or accident – but those who had everything they wanted, except the power to enjoy it.”
Christians are to be, or are on, a different frequency than the natural man and the world. We are to march to a different drummer. While the world hears no hope, we hear eternal life. When the world hears pain and sickness and sadness, we hear ultimately no pain or sickness and no tears of sadness. When the world hears nothing but death lies ahead, we hear glorious victory. The world hears despair, we hear joy.
If there is no joy in our lives we need to change our focus or perspective. We need to take the LONG LOOK. We need to remember that it’s not just us against the world, it’s God and us.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 30:5 which says, “weeping may endure for a night, buy joy cometh in the morning.” A glad, joyful morning is coming for believers. May this new year bring joy into your lives.
J. James Albert