Several years ago, Kim and I went with our family to an amusement park. While we waited for our turn to ride on a scary ride (it wasn’t scary but it had air-conditioning so who cares), we saw a frazzled mom with her two whiny, tired kids. Perhaps it was the heat, or the unbearable waiting, or the sugary treats that had long ago worn off, but they had reached the level of cantankerous grumbling that pushes sane moms over the edge. She grabbed them by the arms and with steam coming out of her ears she screeched, “I paid a lot of money for these tickets! You are going to have a good time whether you like it or not!” Sounds like some Christians.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 100 that we are to “serve the Lord with gladness.” It is easy to forget that serving the Lord and living the Christian life is supposed to be filled with joy. There are too many people that seem to think God told us to serve the Lord with madness, weirdness, or sadness. I don’t know about you, but I want more gladness and less sadness. Here are a few things to consider.
1. The Christian life is a happy life at its very essence.
You can’t justify wrong behavior just because you think, “God wants me to be happy.” Christians, however, have much to be happy about. As a pastor, I have observed many who think that sinful behavior leads to happiness, but is does not. The happiest people I know are Christians who have committed themselves completely to God. The gospel means “Good News.” Never forget that Jesus came to give us good news.
2. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your attitude.
Joy is contagious. It is not based on your circumstances but on your relationship with Christ. One of the signs of being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit is that you have joy. Joy prevails despite bad news when you know that Christ is with you. He has already won! You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad, grumpy, unthankful, angry, or bitter. Your choice.
3. Delight leads to gladness.
I love what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Contentment. Satisfaction. Fulfillment. These all come from delighting in the Lord and serving him with gladness.
4. Smile and watch what happens.
Cheerfulness is a good thing despite how some Christians act. It is OK to smile and be nice. You do not need to be a rock thrower. You don’t have to be mean and angry. Serve the Lord with cheerfulness! It may shock some people, but God came up with the idea of pleasure. It is OK to enjoy life. Think of all the pleasures God created for us to enjoy so that we would worship him more. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting are not meant just for survival but for our pleasure. Enjoy the wonder of beauty and serve the Lord with gladness!