By Ken Stalls, BCM/D President and Pastor of South End Baptist Church, Frederick, Md.
Thanksgiving has been on my mind lately. One thing that I am so thankful for is the joy that our Lord gives us. I hope you do know already that joy is a gift from God and not something that we just decide we would have. The ebb and flow of life doesn’t affect it and neither do the extreme tragedies that we endure.
One reason that we Christians should be joyful is that our God is joyful. One reason that many Christians are not filled with joy is because of their view of God. They do not view God as the epitome of joy. Tragically, they see God in the opposite state; they see God as sour, vengeful and even mean. That is not our God. God not only commands us let our joy be full or complete, but I believe He also wants us to share that joy with everyone else, especially those who are not yet believers. Non-believers should see something very different in us and true joy from God is a super beginning.
I recently read in the daily devotional for men, Stand Firm, that the small country of Bhutan has a measurement for tracking happiness of its citizens. It is called the “Gross National Happiness” measure. It is an attempt by the government to measure the collective health and well-being of the people. It considers seven indicators (economics, environment, physical health, mental health, the workplace, social and political well-being). I thought this was a fantastic idea for us here in our own country. One factor that you should not overlook is the location of Bhutan. It is couched by India and China with the impoverished nation of Bangladesh very nearby. In other words, they are surrounded by what this world would call a tremendous amount of poverty, pain and suffering. And yet, they have chosen to measure the happiness of their people.
Now before you hop on your phones, or start to email, twitter, tweet or whatever to tell me that happiness and joy are different, RELAX! I already know that and know it very well. However, there are some parallels that we must not overlook. Joy produces a sense of well-being that gives us the purest form of happiness on earth. Secondly, joy is designed by God to be shared. So is happiness. Both happiness and joy, if kept only to ourselves, is prone to degenerate into misery. They both must be shared.
As you live out your life as a believer, and God shares His joy with you, we also are instructed to share that joy as we live out its fullness in our own lives. Jesus said it perfectly in John 15:11, “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Is your joy complete? Are you sharing God’s joy with those around you? If you do not know, try asking a friend, neighbor or family member how “joyful” they think you are. I hope you are not disappointed by the response.
Allow the joy of God to overflow your life. Seek the joy of God, regardless of your circumstances. Your life will be far better than most experience. The lives of those around you should improve as well.
Speaking of thanks, I never want to be remiss in thanking you for the privilege of serving as president of our dear convention for these past two years. It has been a true highlight of God’s ministry through this poor servant. Thank you so very much for this opportunity. May this month find you exploding with the joy and subsequent happiness of our Savior!