I’m pretty certain everyone would say being joyful is better. It’s a no brainer. When we are joyful, people want to be around us; when we are critical, no one wants to be around us. More than that, science shows evidence that people who are joyful are healthier than those who are critical. I read in an article recently that “(Joy) may also help combat stress, boost your immune system, protect your heart and reduce pain. What's more, it may even increase your life expectancy.” Clearly Joy is where it’s at.
But so often in today’s world, people are choosing to be critical over being joyful. Why? It’s simple: choosing to be critical is easier than choosing to be joyful. Politics, jobs, family, etc. all have a strong influence over our lives. It’s easy to get swept up with criticizing other people’s decisions, blaming others for our decisions. In today’s world, it seems that we have excuses for our excuses. This morning I was reminded of a young man I met about 20 years ago.
I was a freshman in college, and he was homeless. “Charles” (I changed his name) was about 6’5” and 270 pounds, solid muscle, and he sat at the same spot every day near one of the buildings at school. There were a few homeless people in the neighborhood, but Charles always looked clean, had a smile, and talked with people. He was different. I saw him almost every day, and talked with him most days. I soon learned that he woke up at 5:00 am every day, walked to a nearby gym to clean it, mop it, and sanitize it in order to “pay for his use”, and then he would lift weights, all before 8:00 am. He taught me how to survive on $1 per day, how to save money, and how to brighten people’s days. You see, even though Charles was homeless, he was going to school too (It took me a while to catch on that he was going to a small junior college while I was going to the big university). He told me that he had dreams of playing in the NFL, but made bad decisions in high school. He couldn’t get into any colleges, and all his scholarship offers were taken away. He had been in prison a few years before we met, but his dream never faded, so when he got out, he found his way to the town where I went to college, and he started saving up. Even though he was homeless, he was focused on his future. A few years later, I transferred to a different university and bumped into Charles again! He was playing football for the school, was on full scholarship, and was on the Dean’s list. He became an All-American, and eventually became a professional football player.
Why did I tell you about Charles? Because every day, Charles chose joy over being critical, complaining about all the problems in his life, and playing the blame game. He could’ve blamed his circumstances on many things, but he chose Joy. We have many scriptures that tell us to choose joy, and it must be said that Joy is a major characteristic of Heaven.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” – James 1:2
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:17
“In Your presence is fullness of Joy.” – Psalm 16:11
I love the phrase “fullness of joy” because that means there is so much joy that there is no room for anything else to exist. Full means full. It doesn’t mean mostly full. For something to be full, it means there is no room for anything else. If a bottle is full of water, there is no room in that bottle to get anything else inside, without causing something to overflow. That is beautiful in my opinion.
Being critical of others causes the joy that God put inside of us to diminish. Focusing on negative things sure makes it hard to stay positive. I have heard comedians talk about how when they focus on the news, current events, and politics that their jokes suffer, their timing isn’t as good, and they become miserable. Conversely, when they find joy in circumstances, their material improves. This happens for all of us.
The problem is, that being critical is so easy. It is almost effortless to focus on negative things, and it can be very difficult to see the bright side, to stay optimistic, or to choose to be joyful when everything around you is falling apart. The reason we need Jesus in our lives, and why we need to be in the spirit as we walk through this life is because He did. Jesus chose joy.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
If our eyes aren’t on Jesus, joy is not possible. Happiness is, but joy is not. And if you aren’t in the spirit, joy is fleeting because it’s part of the Kingdom of God, which is a spiritual Kingdom. I love Hebrews 12:2 because it shows me that Jesus embraced the cross. He didn’t worry about the shame that people would have when they saw Him up there, He was focused on the Joy set before Him. Jesus was joyful while He was on the cross, not desperate or troubled. Jesus chose Joy. Walking with Jesus will allow you to choose joy as well. Walking in the spirit, as Jesus did, will allow you to walk in Joy the same as Jesus.
I know circumstances can be rough, that some days are just bad days, and that not everything is great these days. I’m not asking you to pretend that everything is great, either. I’m telling you that Joy is as much of an option as anything else, and that we as Christians and Ambassadors of God have been commanded to choose Joy in order to look like Him and imitate Him. God is Joyful, His Kingdom is Joyful, and when we are near to God we are joyful , too.
So today, I hope that you choose joy. God bless you.
Written by a few for the many.