The Practice of Joy
“Spiritual Discipline” – for many this term carries with it associations of legalism or attempting to earn God’s favor. We also think that a spiritual discipline is something that should be hard for us to do or requires a great sacrifice for us and is not something to be enjoyed. But as noted last week, Richard Foster writes in his book Celebration of Discipline that “joy is the keynote of all the disciplines.” Joy is at the heart of God’s plan for us. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11) and Nehemiah said, “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
You see, as a follower of Christ, joy is important to our lives and we are invited to rejoice in every moment of our lives because each of those moments is a gift. But, I often wonder if I am joy-impaired. Have you ever thought that? I am a reserved person and seldom express myself in joyous ways. However, just because I don’t jump up and down or laugh out loud, does not mean that I am joy-impaired. This also doesn’t mean that I can’t practice the discipline of joy in my life, because celebrating God’s joy means reflecting on the wonderful God who has given me so many magnificent gifts. Gifts like a wonderful wife and amazing children and coffee.
When we celebrate the gifts in our life, we exercise our ability to see the goodness of God in the simplest gifts He provides. We take delight today in something we wouldn’t have even noticed yesterday and this celebration leads to increased joy in our lives. For many of us, increased joy is a really good thing.
So, how do you begin the practice of joy as a discipline? The first step is to realize that joy is a learned skill and you must take responsibility for it. Your friends, your parents, your spouse, your children, none of these things are responsible for your joy. You are! So fight for joy in your life. Don’t wait for conditions to change in your life to start experiencing joy.
The psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Notice he doesn’t write yesterday or tomorrow, but “this day”. This day with all the struggles you endure. This day with all the pressures you face. This day with all its sadness. This day that is filled with anxiety. This day that you are burdened with temptations. This day... today is the day you are to be filled with joy and celebrate all that God has done for you. Let the celebration begin.