The fastest road to joy

Did you know that children don’t have to be threatened with punishment every day if they have a healthy and loving relationship with their parents? Discipline and punishment is important at appropriate times, but that alone can’t be the driving force that keeps a family together. Smart parents discover quickly that their little ones have an innate joy in pleasing Mom and Dad, which can be nurtured to the point that disciplinary measures rarely need to be harsh, if ever. By the time these kids are teens, an environment of serving their siblings and their parents can become so ingrained and pleasant, that it affects the way they treat everyone around them. Maybe you’ve never seen a family that functioned that way – believe me, it happens when God’s principles of serving one another are practiced daily, and of course it has to begin with the parents.

People balk at the thought of serving, as if it’s a form of oppression or injustice, but serving is a natural response to love. It’s probably because we’ve never seen anything outside of worldly, emotional giving. Godly service knows when to give and when not to give, what to give and what not to give. An example of emotional giving is when you feel so guilty to be driving a car while a homeless man is on crutches, that you empty your wallet every time you see him, and the next guy on the road, and the next… Giving out of guilt is not faith, and Romans 14 says that whatever is not from faith is sin. Spiritual serving listens to God, gives wisely without complaining, and trusts fully that God is pleased.

Interestingly, the same people who give and give out of guilt, can also throw a fit when asked to serve their spouse or be submissive to someone in their church. Guys, if you can’t find joy in loving your wife like Christ loved the church, or ladies, if you hate the verse in Ephesians that tells you to submit to your husbands, you will never know what a real relationship with God is like. It begins with the closest people you know, and it has nothing to do with demeaning yourself or being oppressed. It’s discovering and pursuing the joy of servanthood.

I stand in the cold wintery winds, handing out flyers to passersby, many turn their face away from me and treat me like a pest. I invite people to come for prayer knowing that they look at me with suspicion – who is this American? What does he want with us? What kind of religion is he peddling? But I’m filled with joy because I’m planting seeds of faith, and God promises that I will reap what I plant. I’m even happier knowing that God is happy with me, that He knows how much I want to share Him with others, and that He is preparing the right people to come my way. And He does answer me, but the point is that I find pleasure in making Him happy, even more than just getting answers to prayer. The answers will come, but the happiness I give Him in being obedient is something only I can do.

My relationship with God is built on this pleasure. And knowing that my faith makes Him happy makes me so confident that I become unshakeable. This joy also can manifest in a holy anger, a holy revolt against the devil’s attacks to block others from knowing Him. This seems crazy to the world, but I can be filled with both deep happiness and a holy rage all at the same time. It’s just a reflection of God’s character, and it should become second nature to all of us who are His.

All this is to say: run after the joy of serving. If you give begrudgingly or to impress people, if you serve your spouse or children with hidden resentment that snaps when they don’t respond the way you hope, you’re missing the point. Serve God like a child who finds joy in pleasing his parents, and that alone. Serve with the confidence that He is pleased even if everything seems to be going against you. An innate joy that comes from serving Him was built into us from Creation – that’s what we were made for. Live in that joy and be fulfilled.

Remember the former days, after you were enlightened, in which you endured a great struggle of afflictions. In part you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and afflictions. And in part you became companions of those who were so abused. For you had compassion on me in my chains and joyfully endured the confiscation of your property, knowing that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession for yourselves. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which will be greatly rewarded. Hebrews 10:32-35, MEV

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