The Joy of Christian Living

Erma Bombeck, the late American author, and humorist once related a scene she witnessed at church one Sunday. “I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. He was just smiling.”

“Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theater off-Broadway said, “Stop that grinning! You’re in church!” With that, she gave him a belt on his hind side and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, “That’s better,” and returned to her prayers.”

Sadly, some Christians are like this mother. I suppose someone may say that the worship service is no place to smile, it’s a serious, solemn time. However, why wouldn’t we smile when we come into the presence of the Almighty God?

Christianity is not a religion to be endured, but a relationship to be enjoyed.  William Barclay observed that “A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.”

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Happiness Is a Current State of Being. Joy Is About the Future

The Bible Project creates animated videos that show the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.  They also create videos that explain the meaning behind specific Bible words in order to give readers greater understanding into the writers’ intent.

In this video they look at the word “joy.

Today’s culture would interpret that word to mean “happiness.”  The Bible does, too, and also uses “joy” to describe beauty, goodness, friendship and a plentiful harvest.

While the words can be synonymous, there is a deeper theological and spiritual understanding behind “joy.”

Happiness typically refers to a current condition. Joy speaks of future destiny.

The producers of the video explain it this way:  “Christian joy describes faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ life and love” regardless of your present condition.

Can you be joyful in the midst of pain and suffering? The video points to biblical characters who were. The Israelites roamed the desert for 40 years but Psalm 105:43 tells us “The Lord caused his people to leave with joy, his chosen ones with shouts of joy.”

And Paul, while in prison and awaiting execution, spoke of “joy of faith” and “joy in the Lord” in his letter to the Philippians.

In fact, theologians argue it would have been sinful for Paul and the Israelites not to be joyful in those circumstances. R. C. Sproul in an article titled “The Key to the Christian’s Joy” wrote,


Joy for the Helpless

Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.  Luke 1 v 78, 79.

An Expectant People?
One of the many things missing from our faith in 21st Century Scotland is a sense of expectancy.  Most of us don’t expect very much at all.  We don’t expect our situation to change any time soon, we don’t expectantly look for God to work in a powerful way in our lives or in our churches and if most of us are honest we don’t expect God to show up in our family life most of the time.  We don’t think that our prayers will be answered  Most of us plod along, going to church, listening to sermons with little sense of expectancy.

I wonder if this was Zechariah’s problem in Luke 1?  Does this explain his reluctance to hear the good news the angel brought? He was a faithful man but not an expectant one.

A Priest of the order of Abijah
Luke tells us quite a bit about this man whose incredible song at the end of Luke chapter 1 beautifully encapsulates what will happen when Jesus is born.  We know that Zechariah was a priest of the order of Abijah.  There were 24 different priestly divisions who helped out in the temple so he would only have been on duty for one week twice per year.  Zechariah was married to a priests daughter called Elizabeth.  Luke tells us they were both old and they were childless so beyond the age of hope for children.  The last thing we know about Zechariah and Elizabeth is that they were righteous and blameless.  So far so good.

A Priest without a Platform
Zechariah had been chosen to offer incense in the temple.  This would have been a career high point for the priest.  Other priests would have gone in to the holiest place but then they would have retired and left him alone.  It is here, all alone, that Zechariah comes face to face with a messenger from God.  We are told that the angel was Gabriel who said ‘I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.’  Gabriel says this after Zechariah had questioned the news that he and Elizabeth were to have a son called John but by then the damage was done.  Zechariah had questioned God’s messenger and therefore God’s message or ‘good news’.  So the priest is struck dumb.  God switches his microphone off.  He becomes a priest without a platform. Somehow he had domesticated God.  He believed that the messiah was coming, just not today, or this week or this month.


3 Reasons For Joy In Suffering

“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.”

– Sam Storms

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And My Spirit Rejoices

Luke 1:47 …and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Sunday we preached a message about keeping Christ in Christmas. It will be posted here soon – so take a listen. Sunday we talked about the joy that Jesus brought to the people.

Luke 2:10–11 – 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Jesus’ arrival was to bring great joy to the people – and not only to His people but to all who would hear and follow Him. Jesus was the Messiah – the Anointed One – the Deliverer – the One who would break the bonds of oppression for His people. Never before or since has the birth of a baby been so anticipated or sought after. Jesus’ birth was to bring great and lasting joy.

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4 Reasons to shout for joy

“If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”

– Billy Sunday


I don’t know about you, but I leak. I mean as a simple clay vessel and one well over 60, I have cracks. Every time I fill up on the Word of God, over time it leaks out, so I constantly need refilling. This means that we should seek to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Yes, I believe we’re all leaky vessels and cracked pots, but remember that’s what Gideon and his 300 men used to defeat the powerful Midianite army (Judges 7). That’s reason enough to shout for joy.

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Joyfully Lifting Malformed Hands in Worship