For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
God “Will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” Job 8:21.
I heard a good joke recently. A pastor was approached by a little boy who said, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money.” “Well, thank you,” the pastor replied, “But why?” “Because my daddy says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had!”
Here’s another one. Our friend Muriel Byers was having supper with us when the conversation turned to a discussion about turkeys. Muriel mentioned how she didn’t like eating the Pope’s nose. “Oh, I’ve never heard it called that,” I said. “In England we refer to it as the Parson’s nose. Maybe it all depends on whether you have a Catholic or Anglican heritage.” To which Muriel, looking straight at my proboscis (which I admit has generous proportions), replied with a twinkle in her eye, “Maybe we should call it the Pastor’s nose!”
Hopefully you laughed. After all, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10. Holiness and happiness go hand in glove. And he who laughs – lasts.
Now that may not be the kind of message you’re used to hearing. C.S. Lewis said, “There is a great deal of false reverence about. There is too much solemnity and intensity in dealing with sacred matters, too much speaking in holy tones.”
Billy Graham says, “One of the desperate needs among Christian young people is exuberance and vitality in their loyalty to Christ. People go to a football game today and shout their heads off, or go to a circus and cheer act after act. They become enthusiastic about everything conceivable, but when it comes to spiritual matters they think we are supposed to become sober and quiet, and wear black, and never have a good time or enjoy a religious event.” Lloyd John Ogilvie, shared these sentiments when he said, “Joy is the missing ingredient in contemporary Christianity. The problem is our powerless piousness and grim religiosity.”
Lewis and Graham identify the need for holiness and happiness to embrace. They recognise that the church should be filled with joy. And they remind Christians that God created us to be “the joy of all generations” Isaiah 60:15.
However, if the joy of the Lord is going to be our strength in the third millennium then Christians must deal with the problems which have beset the church of the second millennium. We must call a stop to the super sanctimonious smog that’s been spread over church life. We must lovingly deal with the unnecessary gravity with which church leadership often protects its dignity. We must call a stop to the endless protocol, minutiae, and irrelevancies that tie church proceedings in knots. We must address the unnatural posturing which so easily passes into overbearing arrogance and conceit. And we must realise that when Christians try to act more holy than Jesus Himself, the church is in trouble.
Need I say more? Jesus was a man full of joy (cf. Luke 10:21). Let’s imitate Him by living and worshipping in such a way that the church will be known as a place of clear, bubbling, unpolluted joy in the Lord. That’s what I long to see in the third millennium. A church bathed in the exhilarating perfume of Jesus’ joy. A church where God’s people, like the disciples mentioned in Acts 13:52, are “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17.