Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! – Nehemiah 8:10, NLT
A life of joyful obedience. This is a statement I have heard our pastor, Jeff Noble, make during some of his sermons. I’ve scribbled these words down on my blue Northstar bulletin many times. The other day, I came across one of those blue bulletins. Across the top, I read those words again… a life of joyful obedience. I allowed those words to roll over in my mind. What does a joyful life of obedience look like? Does it mean I’m happy all the time? Am I living a life of joyful obedience? If not, how can I?
There is a verse from a song I grew up singing in children’s church that I still sometimes find myself humming…
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart!
Down in my heart!
Down in my heart to stay!
‘Cause the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.
Living a life of joyful obedience does not mean being happy all the time. Jesus promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).” I may feel happy some of the time, but because my joy is found and made complete in Jesus, I can be joyful always. This means I can be unhappy and still have joy.
We spent some time during BIG small Group this summer reflecting on the words of Paul from Romans 5. Paul tells us that we can rejoice in our suffering. “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:2-3a, ESV).”
Suffering does not make me happy. But can I rejoice in my suffering? This is a bit confusing. The word “rejoice” brings to mind trumpeting angels! But I think rejoicing can look different, especially in times of suffering. It may look like bowing your head to pray, or it may look like tears rolling down your cheeks as you sing the words of a praise song. Rejoicing may look like being still and quiet.
How can we live a life of joyful obedience? We can live a life of joyful obedience when we commit our lives to Jesus. He is our hope. He is our source of joy. Remember, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. The world suffers. But you and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, can know “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3b-6).”
Put simply, being obedient means doing what you have been asked to do. If we know that Jesus is our hope and our hope can never fail or disappoint us, we can joyfully obey.
Thank you for Jesus! We have full and complete joy through Him. Help us to rejoice in our sufferings. May we remain close to You and seek You through the hard and challenging parts of life. Give us a confident faith to know that our hope in You will never put us to shame.