Over and over in the New Testament, Paul tells the churches to rejoice. Many of them were going through difficult times, and it seems sort of inconsiderate of Paul to be making light of their pain! However, Paul was not ignorant of what was going on, nor was he naive concerning their suffering. Paul himself had gone through multiple persecutions, beatings, and even a stoning! He knew what it was like to suffer for the name of Christ. Yet he says over and over that he rejoices, and he expects these new Christians to rejoice too. Now, of course, we know that the Holy Spirit led Paul to write these epistles; so there must be a deeper meaning behind these verses. Paul was not simply some weirdo who just loved being beat up. He was a normal human being with feelings just like us. He did not look forward to being put in the stocks, whipped, beat, spit upon, or kicked out of town. Paul was not stupid! He knew what would happen if he confronted the Jews; yet he did it anyway. Why? How did he keep his joy? It is painfully simple: Paul trusted God. Even though he was aware of what was ahead, he depended on God to take care of him, and provide all his needs. Paul made a mental decision that no matter what happened, he would not lose his joy. He would obey God no matter what, and follow wherever he was led. Paul kept his joy by trusting God.
Christians today in America do not face the same level of persecution that Paul did. You might get laughed at, or made fun of, or even snubbed; but it is not very likely that you will be burned at the stake. Yet we often walk around sad and depressed with a woe-is-me attitude, because we don’t have joy. So how do we keep our joy? Here’s how.
1. Make sure that you are saved.
If you do not know that you will go to heaven when you die, you cannot have joy. It is impossible. You must know for sure that Jesus Christ is your personal Savior. To know this, you must repent of your sins, and ask Jesus to save you on his merits alone. Unless you trust him to save you, you cannot expect to have joy.
2. Decide to have joy.
You cannot just say, ‘Oh, I think I’ll have joy today.’ It has to be a life time decision to continually have joy. Sure, sometimes you’ll fail sometimes and be a bit of a grump, but that’s life. Get up, brush yourself off, and try again tomorrow.
3. Read your Bible and pray daily.
To have joy, you must have a relationship with God. Not a Sunday morning sort of relationship, but an every day one. Choose a time each day when you sit down somewhere quiet and talk to God. It doesn’t have to be an hour, and you don’t have to read 50 chapters a day, but you have to have a schedule that you will stick to: otherwise, you will never walk with God.
4. Be with God’s children.
Go to church every time the doors are open. Go to the activities, and soul winning times, and impromptu barbeques. Get there early. Stay late afterwards. Make friends with people who believe the same things that you do. You’ll never regret giving up a little of your free time to fellowship with fellow believers. It will give you comfort and joy.
5. Don’t let your past ruin your present.
Just because something bad has happened in your life doesn’t mean that you have to walk around all mopey faced. I know that really bad things happen, and I’m not trying to minimize that, but some people will walk around depressed about something that happened 10 years ago! Get over it! Make peace with the person that hurt you, and go on with your life. Nobody’s life is without pain, and believe me, there is someone out there who was hurt a whole lot worse than you. If you are bitter about your past, you will never have joy in your future.
6. Have fun!
Get out and do something! Ride a bike, go to an amusement park, throw a party, play a board game; anything that makes you smile! How can you expect to have genuine joy if you sit in your room and mope all day? I don’t care if you read your Bible 5 hours a day, God did not intend for us to sit around and do nothing! Go soul winning, take a new convert out to eat, start a Sunday School class! You will simply waste away spiritually if you never put your beliefs into practice.
7. Trust God.
If you are continually doubting God, you cannot have joy. Joy does not come from worrying about what tomorrow may bring. It comes from trusting God to take care of it. Get in the Will of God, and stay there. You will never regret not going down the path of destruction. Trusting God will bring you a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.You will never be joyful if you do obey the Lord.