Rejoice always. Really? We ask the same question when we read pray continually or always give thanks: Is it doable? And yet we know God doesn’t tell us to do without empowering us for the doing. So the bigger question is: how do we do always joyful?
Pray continually is foundational to life patterned on Jesus (discipleship). Our daily activities and circumstances form a ‘garden’ for us to enjoy God’s company through ongoing conversation with him. But, in that 1Thes 5:17 call to pray continually, the Lord added two ‘feeders’ to strengthen prayer as a way of life, viz. always joyful (16) and always thankful (18). He placed them as bookends on either side of the call to always pray.
Always joyful doesn’t mean we try to rewire our soul circuitry to make ‘happy’ our top feeling, whatever the day brings. The joy here is deeper than feel happy; bigger than glee, cheer and a row of smileys.
Its source is in the nature of God, a timeless celebration by Father, Son and Spirit. It’s a wonderful feature of life under the rule of the great King (Rom 14:17), and his Spirit has come to express his joyfulness in us (Gal 5:22).
By being in Christ, we are participants in his always joyful life.
But having participation rights doesn’t automatically make it our experience. The Lord tells us to ‘DO joy’ (be joyful, or to rejoice). It’s more than being glad about him. Being IN him means we get to rejoice WITH him.
Without that, even our happiest times would have a joy deficit. Always needing something or someone to entertain us, or indulge our need for another ‘happy fix’. Real joy has one root only – the joyfulness of God himself, and in Christ we’re connected to it. His Spirit of grace has replaced our joylessness with his always joyful.
We’ve been drawn into the Lord’s constant celebration around two enormous themes.
God celebrates himself
The Lord’s celebration of himself is deeper than anything we can imagine. His delight in being who he is (his Glory) is the purest, deepest joy there is – and he has drawn us into his celebration. Our experience of it in this life will always be in part, but he frees us to reach deeper, until (as Peter says) our limited language gives up trying to describe our joy – we are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory (1 Peter 1:8 TPT)
The always joyful heart doesn’t necessarily feel happy all the time, but it knows that sharing in the Lord’s joyfulness can’t be reduced by mood or circumstances. In fact, the heart can experience mourning or disappointment and yet, at the same time, join the Lord’s celebration of himself. Our celebration is deep within, but strengthens when expressed outwardly (when we DO joy).
Expression of joy doesn’t rely on feelings to provide the spark. As long as the heart agrees with what the Lord says about himself, always joyful can mean joyful now. It’s an ‘admiration-response’ to truth. Emotion doesn’t start the celebration, but will be healed, released and strengthened when drawn into it (Neh 8:10).
The next post will touch on the other major theme of the Lord’s celebration
I ended the previous post with a prayer focus on one need (an asking point for a person or group in need of the powerful working of God’s goodness). I encouraged you to look for the thanksgiving gateways before launching into asking. Now, returning to that same need, approach it as a pray-er with a leaping heart (My heart leaps for joy Psm 28:7).
- What truth about the Lord (who he is, what he is like) is relevant to that asking point? Or, you can use one that always fits, such as the truth Moses & Miriam celebrated in Ex 18: the Lord reigns. Digest two or three scriptures (verses or narratives) that carry the truth.
- Voice your agreement with the Lord about himself. Allow his Spirit to draw you into his own ever-fresh celebration of himself – the joy of the Lord over that truth about his Glory.
- Decide on three ways you will express your leaping heart, your celebration with the Lord. Shout, clap, wave a flag, jump, dance, twirl, sing, laugh, or try another creative joy-expression (Sandra’s latest was to throw a handful of jasmine blossoms in the air as a fragrant celebration with the Lord).
- Now (with a leaping heart), pray your asking point. In your next session, choose three different joy expressions as you move towards your asking point.