Joy is a gift from the Holy Spirit, but it’s also a choice. We can decide how we’ll respond, whether we’ll live in joy or frustration before difficulties hit. Because while joy is a gift from Christ, it’s also a work of the Holy Spirit within. The more we find ourselves in Him, living in the reality of who we are—His beloved servants—and who He is—our sovereign God, the greater the Holy Spirit’s influence within, and the greater His influence, the stronger our joy.
Months before my daughter’s wedding, a wise friend encouraged me to choose, before the day began, to fully enjoy every moment. The blunders, dancing, and precious moments spoken. To choose, no matter what did or didn’t occur, to hold tight to joy. To maintain an attitude of grateful surrender to my King, the joy-giver.
We knew soon the ceremony, with all its glamor and chaos, laughter and tears, would be over. The vows will have been spoken. Those first dances—between my princess and her prince and my girl and her daddy—will be but memories and captured photographs. Memories I could tarnish or miss in my desire for control, or that I could cherish for my lifetime.
I wonder, what might my life look like if I made this decision daily, took the heartfelt position of a slave, no matter the situation. If I didn’t allow the problems of today to distract me from the glory of eternity.
When our daughter was young and I felt perpetually insecure, I carried 2 Timothy 2:4 in my pocket. It says: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (NIV). Or to phrase it differently, no one called to serve an eternal king becomes entangled in the daily drama. They remain focused on their higher calling.
If you were to pick up any of my copious Bibles stacked on my shelves, you’d likely find one phrase underlined again and again: “a servant of Christ.” That was perhaps Paul’s favorite way to introduce himself. This allowed him to live without expectation yet full appreciation for all God had given Him, had done, and was yet to do. As a result nothing he experienced, not slander, or beatings, or betrayal, could hinder his joy.
More than anything else, more than being a church leader or pastor or traveling evangelist or even husband, he was a slave of Christ. The actual Greek word he used is hard to translate in English, but it often referred to someone who belonged to another, voluntarily or involuntarily, and, therefore, maintained subservient status. One without rights or expectation, who lived in complete dependence.
That is our surest route to joy, for as Christ Himself stated, those who hold tight to their lives lose it. Those who live completely in Him experience a filled to overflowing life, and that life is characterized by joy.