How to Have Joy

Although the Bible usually speaks of laughter as being bad, or associated with God’s judgment, it does say a lot about rejoicing and joy.

Laughter, according to the Bible anyway, is not necessary to rejoicing or joy.

One thing I noticed while looking at many verses about joy and rejoicing is how often it is tied in directly with righteousness. Here are some examples:

Proverbs 21:15– It is joy to the just to do judgment
Psalm 32:11– Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Psalm 68:3– But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
Proverbs 29:6– In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.
1 Corinthians 13:6—love rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth
1 Thessalonians 5:15-16– See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore.

If you are not righteous and are not doing righteousness you have no reason to rejoice.

One of the greatest sources of joy, based on these verses, is doing what is right. People who do what is wrong may appear to have more fun. They may laugh a lot. But true joy comes from being and doing what is right.

In our excitement to tell people to be happy and have joy, we often skip the basis of that joy. Our true message should be: Be made righteous in Christ and then go do what is right. Joy flows from that. Joy is the end, not the means.

The modern American message of happy-happy all the time pulls the rug out from under the joy it promises. The church today bases joy on temporal happiness, not on righteousness.

Our flesh will tell us this is a lie. Truly happy people live in sin and let it rip.

Sorry, not true. Not true from the Bible nor from experience. I know lots of people who lived in sin, bragging about how happy and fun life is. It’s lies. You can’t live in sin and have joy. You can’t.

Joy is based on righteousness. Don’t forget it. Want joy? Be righteous.

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

Crying is the physical manifestation of sadness; laughing is the physical manifestation of happy.

However, in the Bible, the vast majority of the mentions of laughing have to do with laughing at the destruction of others.

Often times, “laugh” in the Bible is followed by scorn, as in “they laughed him to scorn.”

David wonders why the evil laugh at the righteous. God laughs at the plans of the wicked. The righteous will laugh when the evil are punished.

One exception is Sara laughing when the angel tells her she will have a son in her old age. She thought that was a joke.

Laughing in the Bible isn’t about jokes, it’s about seeing bad stuff happen to your enemies.

So, what’s that do for ya?

Does it bug you the Bible is so vindictive to laugh at the downfall of enemies? How does this fit with love?

I personally am not bothered by that. I love the fact my God laughs at wicked people who think they are so superior. I like that the righteous are described as laughing when the evil get their come-upins.

I don’t mind that, but I know others do. Others who are all touchy-feely and about being “fair.” I laugh at you.

What does it do to humor? Should Christians be funny?

One problem with humor is that it easily crosses a line. Every little kid who gets people to laugh will eventually run out of jokes and resort to poop and fart jokes. Happens every time.

Comedy shows and movies always cross the line into innuendo and scatological references.

Humor is dangerous. God does not come across as a funny guy, nor do His apostles and prophets. In fact, Jesus is a man of sorrow acquainted with grief.

Although I don’t think this means humor is out, I do think we should let these facts temper our comedic impulses.

Laughter doesn’t get much air time in the Bible. We are truly amusing ourselves to death. It might be time to sober up a bit.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Other People’s Sin

Although we judge ourselves rather lightly, we are pretty good at judging others. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, while not giving anyone else a break.

Although we don’t think our sin is that bad, we know for a fact the sins other people do are really, really bad.

But I wonder, in all our moral superiority, if we cry over the sins of others?

Not crying because other people’s sin hurt me. I mean actually feeling pain that others are sinning.

Crying because others are lost, crying because they are living in sin, is a very consistent example of tears in the New Testament.

*Jesus cries over Jerusalem, the city that rejected the prophets is now rejecting their Messiah. It was the will of God that they be gathered to the Messiah, yet their will was different. Jesus cries over their hard rebellion.

*In Luke 23:28 Jesus tells some women who are crying for Him to stop. Rather they should cry for themselves and their children, they are the ones in trouble heading for God’s judgment.

*Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 and weeps while telling them there will be false teachers who will come out of them to mess up the Church.

*In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul says he wrote the first letter to Corinth, that corrected them for all their sinful ways, with tears. He’s glad he made them feel sorrow (guilt) for their sin because that led them to fix them. Paul is happy they felt guilt, let me just repeat that in light of yesterday’s post. Godly sorrow leads to repentance which leads to eternal life.

*In Philippians 3 Paul weeps when he thinks of false teachers who are enemies of the cross.

Paul seems particularly moved to tears when he thinks about the sin and false teaching going on in the church. Just as Jesus Christ had zeal for His Father’s House, the Temple, Paul has zeal for Jesus Christ’s house, the church.

Everyone and their mother has a problem with some church. I just wonder if we’re offended, or if we actually cry over the false teaching and sin running rampant. It’s fun to mock Joel Osteen and our other false teacher of the moment fads, but have we cried over it?

Do we have any zeal for the House of Jesus Christ? Does it bother you that sin is killing people all around you?

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Personal Sin

Fallen people sin. We are all fallen people. We all sin. The one who says they don’t sin is lying and the truth is not in him.

When a person with the truth in him pays attention, he sees his own sin. This can’t help but bum you out.

Now, I know, I know, “But Jeff, there’s now no condemnation! Sin shouldn’t bug you!”

That’s stupid. Of course it should bug me, I just violated God’s will. The fact that I won’t be condemned to hell for it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t bother me.

“But Jeff, but Jeff! It’s all grace! Only those under Law need feel guilt over sin.”

I beg to differ. I don’t even beg really, I just differ. If your sin does not bother you, I find it hard to believe you have the Holy Spirit, or that you are a new creation in Christ.

The flesh lusts against the Spirit. We mortify, kill off, the deeds of the flesh. I fail to see how this battle, this wrestling, does not come with feelings of remorse, guilt, and regret.

We should look to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ in all this. There is an answer to the guilt, remorse, and regret, but I do believe you are in a very bad place if your sin never gets you down.

Here are a number of New Testament examples of people being bummed out by their sin.

*Luke 7 has a woman who is a known sinner crying tears on the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair. The Pharisee standing by had no remorse over his sin and cried none at all, thus making him the recipient of a lecture from Jesus.

*After Jesus betrayal and Peter’s thrice denial, Peter is reminded of Jesus’ words about him and immediately busts out crying knowing he had just denied Christ.

*There are a number of times when Jesus talks about a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth by people who failed in life. If you aren’t weeping over your sin on earth, you’ll be weeping over them for eternity.

*Hebrews 12:16,17 relates people doing sin and then feeling like the weeping Esau after selling his birthright. He can’t get it back no matter what he does. Sin can back you into irreversible corners you will regret.

Sin is a bummer. We’re not supposed to do it. When we do, we’re supposed to feel bad. Any doctrine that says otherwise is of the devil, the only one who is happy about your sin.

Again, there is a looking to Christ for forgiveness and future victory, but I fail to see how this eliminates the necessity to weep over our sin, especially when it has real world, painful consequences.

If it’s been a while since your sins have caused you tears, you’re in a very bad place.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Life Stinks

There are some who maintain that everything that happens on earth is God’s will. Not like His will will but His will. Some have gone so far as to say that things like the Holocaust and child rape are done by God’s divine decree.

I find this to be the height of blasphemy.

Yet the teaching somehow prevails despite my opinion.

Jesus Christ told His followers to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” which clearly shows that God’s will is not being done here.

Adam and Eve brought in sin, and with sin came death. Death entered and creation is groaning and travailing, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God.

This earth is filled with pain and misery. This is not God’s will for humanity; this is the result of humanity’s sin. God does not enjoy watching people suffer. Suffering is the result of our choices. Choices God warns us not to make.

We live in a world where even if you make all the right choices, sin and corruption have taken root so much you will still suffer. Ask Jesus Christ.

In fact, the New Testament says if you do Christianity right, you will suffer persecution. Sinners hate light. If you reflect light you will be hated. You’ll also have to fix your septic tank and unclog drains and pay out the nose for health insurance, etc.

Life stinks, especially while fixing your septic tank. It’s why we are to have a desire to depart.

The New Testament shows people weeping over the sad stuff of life. These are things the Bible thinks are fine to cry about.

*Acts 20:19 tells us that Paul cried many tears while being persecuted and beat up on.

*A few verses later the elders of Ephesus cry upon Paul’s departure knowing they will probably never see him again, as he was going to Jerusalem to be arrested.

*In 2 Timothy 1 Paul remembers Timothy’s tears over him, probably also knowing he wouldn’t see Paul, his mentor and father figure, ever again.

*Hebrews 5:7, not an easy verse to interpret, says that priests cry while making intercession.

Life is filled with bad stuff. It hurts. We groan. We cry. This is not our home. It’s OK to feel hurt and cry. Yes, we need to look to the future and the author and finisher of our faith, but a little bit of crying never hurt anyone.

Biblical Reasons to Cry: Death

Crying can be a good thing and it can also be self-pity, wha-wha poor me, I’m not getting my way, wounded pride.

Since it can be a bad thing, perhaps if we look to the Bible (imagine that) to get a sense of what people in there cried about, we can see what it is we should cry about. I limited my look to the New Testament, just because.

The first thing the Bible makes clear is that we should cry about death.

–The shortest verse in the New Testament simply says, “Jesus wept” and it was at a funeral.

–A young girl dies and, as Jesus approaches, many people are crying because it’s sad to see kids die. But Jesus tells them to stop as He raises her back to life.

–Mary cried at the tomb when she found it empty not knowing what happened with the body of Jesus.

–Women gather when Dorcas dies, sharing all the stuff she sewed for them, and they weep after losing such a great saint.

These are some of the examples of crying about death.

Many believers use “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” to convince themselves that crying over the dead is wrong. It isn’t.

The context shows that Paul is not saying to stifle tears at funerals, he’s talking about resurrection. The context shows that the sorrow relates to what will happen to the dead, will they be with God or not? Don’t worry about the dead, God has them under His care too. Being dead cannot separate them from the love of God.

The verse doesn’t mean we aren’t sad when others die. It means we aren’t sad that the dead are out there somewhere floating around aimlessly with no future.

Some Christians have been quite rude with this, telling mourning people to “get over it.” “Move on.” Etc. Not good.

The Old Testament seems to show that a good month should be taken to mourn, and many Jews believe there should be a year of mourning for the death of one close to you, like a parent.

There is plenty of crying in the Bible over loved ones dying. It’s a good thing. Don’t buy the argument that believers should be all smiles at funerals. Weep. Weep with those who weep. It’s good for you.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Blessed Are You Who Weep Now

Just as laughter is the physical manifestation of happiness, tears manifest sadness.

Many of the tears we have shed in life are pure selfishness.

When you were born you cried all the time. You cried when you were hungry, when you were tired, when you were “over tired,” and whenever you wanted something different.

As you grew up you began to hurt yourself. You cried when you were in pain and continued to cry over your selfish desires not being met.

Eventually you reached (hopefully) an age where sympathy comes in. Perhaps, maybe a couple times you cried because someone else was, or because someone else was sad, or maybe a movie made you cry.

Crying is sometimes nothing more than self-pity because we didn’t get our way.

Tears are mentioned in the Bible quite a bit. The Bible is a book about reality and reality is sad. This world is not what it was supposed to be. Sin brings in nasty effects and those effects are sad.

Jesus Christ, the man of sorrow acquainted with grief, once said, “blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.”

We’re supposed to be weeping now. Our laughter comes in eternity.

A. W. Tozer said it best,

The soldier does not seek to be happy in the field; he seeks rather to get the fighting over with, to win the war and get back to his loved ones. There he may enjoy himself to the full; but while the war is on, his most pressing job is to be a good soldier, to acquit himself like a man, regardless of how he feels.

The world we live in now is a battlefield. It’s a grueling race to be run. You don’t laugh through that.

But, when it’s over, watch out! That is when our true joy will be experienced in its fullness and laughter will mark our eternity.