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"Keeping your Joy in the Lord"

How joyful are you? Are you full of joy? After encouraging the disciples to remain faithful, Jesus said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). It is clear that Jesus was concerned about the happiness and attitudes of His followers. John, one of the followers who heard Jesus speak the aforementioned words, wrote, "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:4). Likewise he wrote, "Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full" (2 John 12). It is apparent that John learned how to be full of joy by applying the teachings in his life that the Master taught to him. If John was able to be joyful in the midst of severe persecution and he was (Acts 5:41), then we must be able to also.
           The first principle of being joyful is found in forgiveness. James writes, "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness" (James 4:9). The mourning of which James is writing concerns our being sad over the fact that we have transgressed the Law of Christ. When one comes to the realization that he has sinned and that sin is an affront to the Holy God of the universe, it can produce one of two effects. First, one may realize that he is a sinner and desire not to change. This was the case in Acts 7 when Stephen was preaching the Gospel to those with hardened hearts. Second, one may realize that he is a sinner and desire to repent (II Corinthians 7:10). This was the case in Acts 2 when Peter and the eleven were preaching the Gospel to those present on the Day of Pentecost. The Bible records the words of Peter as, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38-39). Those who repented and were baptized were forgiven of their sins, added to the church, continued in the Apostles doctrine and "
did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46-47). Likewise one may read of the Ethiopian Eunuch who "went on his way rejoicing' (Acts 8:39). When one realizes that his sins have been forgiven he receives a joy and a peace that "passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). If you are a faithful child of God, during the times you lack joy, think on the fact that God has forgiven you.

            The second principle of being joyful is found in fellowship. John wrote, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 4). John walked in the light and was in fellowship with the Father. The brethren were walking in the light and were in fellowship with the Father. Therefore, John was in fellowship with the brethren to whom he wrote. The fellowship that each member of the Body of Christ enjoys is first established in God. Paul wrote, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:9). When one is baptized into Christ, he becomes a member of the family of God, the church (Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 1:22-23). The purpose of salvation is fellowship with God. One who is not faithful to God cannot be in fellowship with Him. Likewise, that one cannot be considered to be in fellowship with the brethren. Paul wrote, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). Joy comes when one is in fellowship with God and the church. Within fellowship there is love, comfort, peace, support, strength and joy. John wrote, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). If you are a faithful child of God, during the times you lack joy, think on the fact that you are in fellowship with God and His church.

            The third principle of being joyful is found in service. It is true that when one is feeling blue, the best thing for that one to do is to serve. First there is service to God (Luke 16:13). One cannot be joyful as a Christian if he is not doing the will of the Father (James 1:22).  Second there is service to others. Service to others is the basic tenet of the Golden Rule (Luke 6:27-33). Paul quoted the words of Jesus in his conversation with the elders from Ephesus. Luke records, "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). When we serve others, our lights shine before them (Matthew 5:16). The purpose of letting our lights shine before men is to give glory to God. God is glorified when one obeys the Gospel (Romans 1:17), and He is glorified when His servants serve. Paul wrote, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:13-14). If you are a faithful child of God, during the times you lack joy, think on the fact that service to God and His church is a joy and a privilege.
             If you are not joyful, go to the source of joy. The ultimate source of joy is found in Jesus Christ (Romans 14:17). Joy is found in forgiveness, fellowship and service. How joyful are you? Are you full of joy? As the writer once asked, "Is your cup half-full or is it half-empty?" As a child of God, we can be filled with joy so that our cup runneth over with it. The next time you lack joy, remember the words of Peter who wrote, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).



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