By Brooke Holt
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:7-9
Growing up, I attended a Christian camp every summer from before sixth grade until the summer before I graduated college. I loved summer camp! Initially, I loved going to camp for all the activities and adventures afforded there. There was nothing more fun than an afternoon on the blob! Or was there? I found myself also overwhelmed by the love and joy of the Lord that I clearly saw present in the staff. I remember singing many Christian songs - songs I once would have considered “cheesy” - but they made an unusual impression on me. One of those songs was entitled “I’ve God the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart”. Being a good participant, I sang the words that were as repetitious as its title, and I marveled at how people seemed to genuinely feel the very joy of the Lord in their hearts.
Growing up, I attended church but did not understand the joy of the Lord. Church seemed boring and irrelevant to my life. I certainly had my places and experiences of joy – sports fields, friends, the beach, and vacations. However, even as a twelve-year-old child, I knew joy did not characterize my life. I wanted to sing this song with the authenticity I felt from those around me. How could I find that joy and experience it for myself?
As my first summer stay at camp progressed, I gave my life to the Lord. In asking Jesus to be my Savior, to forgive me of my sins, and to empower me to live as his beloved child, I experienced a new joy within me. It was deep and real, and I longed for that feeling of joy to continue.
Mountaintop camp experiences of joy certainly change and get tested, but the Lord would have his people live lives characterized by joy. Is that feasible in this broken and challenging world so often not aligned with the ways of God? King David would answer with a resounding yes, because joy is not based on circumstances in the world but on the “precepts of the Lord” (v. 8).
God’s Word, his way, is perfectly right. God’s Word is truth, unchanging truth, just as the character of God is unchanging. To know his truth, believe it, and obey the Lord is the way to joy and the abundance of God’s blessings. Joy is much more than happiness; joy is a fruit of the Spirit, though joy can certainly lead to happiness. As the words of my childhood song say, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay. And I’m so happy, so very happy. I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.”
That love of Jesus is real. It can fill a heart with joy and happiness. That love of Jesus then transforms a person to love Jesus and to love the ways of Jesus. Loving him and his ways leads us to experience true joy in this world – be loved by Jesus, love him back, and follow in his will and way.
Faithfulness leads to joy. Do you know and believe that? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. Locals do not understand the fuss. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
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