Sunday ended with blessed weariness. In the morning it was my privilege to pray with others, to share in acts of worship, and to bring the Word to our congregation. There were shared tears as well as words of affirmation in that gathering. Later in the day, I shared a lesson with children in our Christian Education program. At the end of that time, two little children made their way to me and when I knelt down to look them in the eye, they shyly hugged me. I found some handmade cards in my mailbox at our academy that thanked me for leading chapel services last week. Though I have experienced many sorrows, I am thankful to find joy in the journey, available to those who love and are loved.
At the opening of this new week, I want to ask you – will you find joy or will you somehow hope for it to discover you?
When I was a kid, we sang a song in Sunday School that said: “Jesus, Others, and You; what a wonderful way to spell JOY.” The idea that we can find fulfillment in giving ourselves away, letting go of the desire to be served, in setting aside self-indulgence and replacing it with service runs counter to a swift current of Self that flows through our culture. “Find yourself.” “Find your bliss.” “Do what makes you happy.” All these slogans, and a thousand more, promise us joy when we have finally shaped our world to feed our needs. The wisdom of God is exactly opposite. We are called into the Body of Christ where we can be most alive only when we deeply connected to others in interdependent relationships.
Peter urges us to “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV)
So how do we find a rich experience of joy?
- Be hospitable! The word “hospitality” is not just about hosting a dinner party! It involves opening our hearts to one another, giving and receiving love, accepting those who are like us as well as those who are not, for Christ’s sake. Do others find you an encouraging presence? Is your heart open, willing to set aside judgment and criticism? Those who are most loving, find the most love!
- Use your gifts to serve! Some use their gifts to gain influence. Some use them to find favor, others with the desire for applause. The Word teaches to know what God has equipped us to do and then to “faithfully administer” that divine provision so that God gets the glory and others are strengthened. The most joyful Christians that I know are those who are connected and who embrace opportunities God presents to them to make their world a better place. In our fellowship, Bob guides a crew that makes the grounds look good, honoring Christ with their excellence. Terry leads a team that lifts their voices in song and carries us into God’s Presence in Worship. Pat and her team lug boxes of food into our pantry, repack it, and present – with love – to those in need. Several leaders pull together small groups in homes to encourage discipleship. Matt and his team open their hearts to teens in our downtown youth center. Cindy and the staff at our academy love children to life as they teach them. Laura and her team at Awana bring fun and learning to little ones weekly. And the list goes on . . .
Those who roll up their sleeves and get to work to serve Jesus, His Body, and the world in His Name have the potential to become content, fulfilled, steady people. Yes, of course, they tire in their work a nd they may become dissatisfied with results. Those who serve will endure criticism but they are the “company of the committed” who are focused on Another and others. They know the great joy of being connected in a meaningful way with other people – something that is of great value.
This Monday morning as you go off to your responsibilities, do not wait for joy to find you. Find joy by accepting and serving. These are not just principles for ‘church life.’ They are for all of life. Our nation is in terrible shape; divided and conflicted, because of selfishness. Let’s make a difference, in the Name of Jesus.
Here is a word from the Word, a Psalm that uses ancient images to convey the joy of community. Though they may be somewhat lost to us in their fullness, the sense of full joy still seeps through these words Read them, live them. Find Joy today.
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133, NIV)
Oils, precious and refined, were poured on the heads of the priests symbolizing the Presence of God. The fragrance spread to those watching. Everyone was enveloped in the experience, part of the rite even through the sense of smell! Mount Hermon, the highest peak in Northern Israel, was the place from which the waters of the Jordan flowed, bringing life to the desert areas of Mount Zion in Jerusalem. God gave the snowfall that fell on that high peak. As it melted and flowed down into the Jordan the whole region was watered, the fertility of the ground preserved. All were blessed by something happening far away. When God’s people work together, sharing grace, loving – it is the best of the best, spreading out to touch many lives. Get in on the party! Join the family. Find a place to participate in what God is doing. Forget yourself as you focus on the work. You’ll find joy!
A Charge To Keep I Have
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age
My calling to fulfill.
O may it all my powr’s engage
To do my Master’s will.
Arm me with jealous care
As in Thy sight to live,
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give.
Help me to watch and pray
And on Thyself rely,
Assured if I my trust betray
I shall forever die.
Charles Wesley © Words: Public Domain