The High Value of Joy, Part 1

I’ve been meditating lately on Hebrews 12:2:

“For the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus was able to endure the horror of the cross because He was promised joy at the end of it. I don’t think we’ve even begun to discover how valuable joy is in the Kingdom of God.

I’m reminded of the joke about the man who discovered how to take a single suitcase with him into Heaven. The man slaved his entire earthly life in order to fill that suitcase with gold. When he finally stepped through the pearly gates and onto the streets of gold, Saint Peter asked him, ‘Why did you fill your bag with dirt?’

As Christians, we live with an eternal worldview. The things that are valuable on earth (gold/money, once in a lifetime vacations) are ridiculous in Heaven. The New Jerusalem is literally built with precious stones and gold because God is that wealthy. Not only that, but we will live with indestructible heavenly bodies that are capable of exploring the new heavens and the new earth for all of eternity, you will hardly remember your trip to Disney World.

It isn’t that vacations or money aren’t important for us right now. They are. They just aren’t the MOST important things to accumulate. Jesus talked about storing up treasures in Heaven – what I will call good deeds and good fruit. Deeds and fruit don’t accumulate in bank accounts that we can see, so we tend to dismiss them as inconsequential. However, these are the very things that follow us into eternity.

The focus of this post isn’t deeds, but joy. We can store up joy. We can live in joy, right here and right now. We can carry joy and give joy. What is fascinating about the Fruit of the Spirit is that the more we give away the more we have an abundance. Start loving other people and you find love returned to you. Start living in joy and making others joyful and the more joy you will have. This is the spiritual law of reaping what you sow.

I’m currently in the habit of laughing a lot. Joy is my chosen spiritual discipline for this summer. It is wonderful. I know my heart is in a good place with God when I don’t engage in willful sin, my heart is at rest in God’s goodness and I find myself bubbling over with laughter. Saint Paul says that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Yep.

The Kingdom is a good place to live and it is a mindset as well as a tangible spiritual space. Better yet, it is accessible to all of God’s people. Living in the Kingdom doesn’t require you to work harder. If anything, living in the Kingdom requires you to embrace being ridiculous. For me it means laughing – often and in public. My laughter almost always starts out forced – I have to make a conscious decision to be joyful. But very quickly my spirit comes into alignment and I can laugh with pure joy, simply delighted in being God’s son and feeling His Spirit in my body. It feels good, I encourage you to try it.

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Children’s Games

At a prayer meeting on Monday I had a revelation that I wanted to share here.

Children’s games may just be the best metaphors for living the Christian life.

Think of what you played in Kindergarden… Simon Says, Monkey See Monkey Do, Show and Tell. For those of you that might be far removed from Kindergarden, allow me to explain a little more.

Simon Says is where a group of kids are given series of directions that they must follow before the next one comes. Some of the directions are rather mundane ‘hop on one foot’ and some are quite bizarre ‘touch your right elbow to your left knee while jumping in a circle’. The last one standing wins. The trick is that you only follow the directions that start with “Simon says…” Following a direction that doesn’t start with that, no matter how forceful a command, results in disqualification. The take away for me is that, as Christians, we have a lot of people telling us what to do, but we need to keep our ears open so we can hear “Jesus says…”

Jesus said, “I only do what I see my Father doing” and I think that is good advice for us as well. Monkey See Monkey Do is just that, imitating the leader of the line to the best of your ability. There is no “winner” in this game, just the fun of imitating the goofy things the leader does. This game teaches me to be less “results oriented” in following Jesus and to instead concentrate on the joy of following and imitating.

Lastly, Show and Tell was Jesus’ primary ministry model. Wherever He went, these two elements came with. Wether He performed a miracle and then preached or the other way around, Jesus demonstrated the Gospel in word and deed. This is my desire as a professional minister, to Show and Tell the Gospel of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

I feel that we in the Church often treat discipleship as a heavy burden and, for that reason, tend to avoid it. But what if discipleship – becoming more like Jesus – looked more like games and childlikeness than the dull monotony of following lists of rules out of duty and obligation? Speaking of children, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”