“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:1–2). Sometimes I just get so amazed. People will say, “I don’t think you should be talking about the pursuit of joy. I think you should be talking about serving Jesus and obeying Jesus.”
I say, “What Bible do you read?” “Serve the Lord with gladness!” Serve the Lord with gladness! This is not rocket science. This is clear! Serve the Lord with gladness! There is a kind of service he doesn’t like: murmuring service, bored service, and glum service. Serve the Lord with gladness. This is biblical! Are we a biblical people, or do we just get our truths from our emotions or non-emotions?
Psalm 32:11, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. It’s not, “If you don’t want to delight in me, that’s okay. Go ahead with your house or whatever.” It’s not an option. It’s a command.
“Joy is not an option. It’s a command.”
Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Paul was writing from prison. I want to make sure you hear me say that Paul, when he writes like that — “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” — this man knew more suffering than all of you combined, probably.
I’ll read you one of the lists of his suffering. 2 Corinthians 6:4–5: “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings . . . ” If you were beaten for Jesus, I would like to know who you are. Come up and tell me, “I was beaten for Jesus,” and I will bow down and give thanks for you and your faith.
Continuing in 2 Corinthians 6, “ . . . calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; . . . through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed” — and here’s the key phrase for me — “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
Isn’t that amazing? If that weren’t in the Bible, I couldn’t come to this conference. After that list — and that’s the short list, the long one’s in chapter 11; that’s the short list of his pain — he said, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
I say to the guys over and over again at Desiring God, and I say to the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, among the several ways that we can describe the ethos of this ministry and this church, let this be near the top: sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
I want you to be able to taste that. I want suffering people to come into this conference and come into our church and come into the door at Desiring God, and feel like these are not chipper people who have never tasted the dark night of the soul, never tasted the loss of a loved one, never tasted the love of a wayward child. “These people are so naïve about reality they just jabber about joy.” I don’t want that. The opposite of joy is not suffering. It’s despair in suffering.
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