Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10 TNIV).
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Smiles. Laughter. Enthusiasm for life. Warmth, openness, and generosity with others. All of these were in ample supply as a group of us visited a village down the dusty, bumpy road outside of Kampala, Uganda.
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My heart is blessed just looking at the pictures of these people and their precious faces, as I remember the incredibly difficult circumstances many of them face in their daily lives.
Where do they get such genuine joy?
Do you have that kind of deep and abiding sense of joy?
I'm not talking about getting the right Sunday school response to that question. Please, listen to your heart. Does your heart tune itself to joy? Or, has true joy been crowded out of your life by the distractions of the daily routine, the aches and pains of aging, or the trials that circumstances can bring?
Do you have a deep and abiding sense of joy as you face life?
I'm not talking about your sense of happiness or your experience of pleasure. I'm talking about the basic orientation you have toward life at the core of your soul. Do you orient your outlook around joy or do you see all the things that are negative, discouraging, lacking, or incomplete?
As I look back on my trip to Africa, I've had to ask myself this question again and again. As I look at the pictures of the joyous faces of those trapped in difficult life-circumstances, I wonder if I would be so joyful under such circumstances.
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe there is any great joy in poverty — I'm not going to romanticize circumstances that are often awful. In the circumstances I witnessed, there were plenty of folks I saw who were not filled with joy. However, I did find it refreshing that many people who have so few of the trappings of outward success were actually filled with deep and abiding joy. Where did this sense of joy come from?
Then I noticed the common element in the three Scripture quoted at the beginning of this article: the Lord! The Lord is the basis of true joy.
So I'm wondering, is Jesus really Lord in my life? Do I recognize his lordship over all things? Do I understand what he has already done for me? Do I anticipate his return with expectation? Do I love the fellowship and food I share with other believers?
Hmm ... maybe it's time to pick up my Bible, open it to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and see how Jesus brought true joy to people?
Maybe it's time to start praying that I can see him when he shows up in my life?
Maybe it's time to quit saying maybe and start living with joy!
What steals your joy?
How do you hang on to your sense of joy?
Why does pursuing Jesus as Lord bring you joy?
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If you received this by email, please check out the following blog entry and also see the video of these faces!)