SIMPLE TRUTH: Where did joy go?

Published 10:17 am Monday, June 3, 2013

By Charles Christmas

Using the subject of today’s column, I could elaborate on different kinds of joy God desires for his children to experience, and how some or all of these have eluded us. That would be too lengthy, and best explored in a series, which is not even on my back burner for now.

At least three decades ago, a dear Methodist friend of mine, the pastor of Trinity Church in Homewood, addressed an assembly I attended. His subject was “Where Did Joy Go?” The question still haunts me, disturbs me and convicts me; and I am glad it does. I want to be transformed without delay as a result.

The friend’s question, “Where did joy go,” related to the three well-known parables in Luke 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. One of 100 sheep was lost, one of 10 coins was lost and one of two sons was lost. A different cause and result related to each example of lostness. Great concern was felt in each example of lostness, and an untiring effort was given in the successful search and rescue effort.

Great joy was experienced as a result of successful recovery. The shepherd experienced great joy when his lost sheep was restored and added again to the other ninety-nine. The housekeeper experienced joy when her one lost coin was found and added to the other nine. The father experienced joy when his son, bent on rebellion, came to the point of no return, only to experience a father’s mercy, grace and his “cross” kind of love.

The joy of each had to be shared immediately with those whom they knew. Jesus related this earthly celebration joy over the lost being found to the greater joy that takes place on earth and in heaven when a person who is lost to God is found. Jesus underscored the joy in heaven over only one sinner (any person) who turns around and surrenders to our gracious, merciful and almighty God and our loving, crucified and risen Savior, God’s son.

A missing joy in individual believers and local churches today relates to not having a personal involvement in someone’s experience of being rescued from the power and penalty of sin and being set free into an abundant life in Jesus Christ.

There was a price to be paid for this joy. It involved value, concern, priority, endurance and extreme effort relating to the lost in the three parables. It also requires obedience and some God-given boldness to share your very own personal rescue story of how it happened to you. Be sure to have John 3:16 or other simple truths from God’s word in your mind. We need to have a private list of persons God reminds us to be concerned about. Ask him to give or help us make opportunities to share this story with God-given courage. We are on our way to finding joy.

Referring to those who had turned to the Lord Jesus after he had shared his personal story and the good news of the cross, the Apostle Paul wrote to them, “You are my joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) The Bible says in Psalm 126:6 that the person who pays the price for sharing his personal rescue story and the good news of the cross will experience the joy of fruitful soul winning.

Here is an example: During our 10-year residence in Sylacauga, my darling Louise became concerned about the principal of B. B. Comer High School and was given the courage to call for an appointment at his office. She briefly shared her concern for him, the good news of Jesus and the cross, and encouraged him. The following Sunday he declared publically his new faith in Christ at the Mignon Methodist Church. A few weeks later, when my wife was a patient at the hospital in Sylacauga, she received a floral bouquet from the principal, who included three words on the accompanying card: Because you cared.

Here is another example: Barbara was an eleven-year-old with whom Louise was used of God in her “rescue” experience. Barbara then shared her rescue story and the good news of Jesus and the cross with Eddie and some other 11 and 12-year-olds. Today, many years later, Eddie is a church staff minister of gospel. There was, and is, a lot of joy in all this.

So, where did this kind of joy go? How can we find it? You are not dumb. You know! The answer is simple, right?

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.