How do you define joy? I am a visual person so what helps me define JOY is by what I see. A few Sunday’s ago I was preaching in a church in Lesotho Africa and it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Yet, in this cinder block building with hard chairs, a chilling draft, and without heat people came in their Sunday best with smiles ready to encounter God in worship.
By the end of the service those of us who were shivering at the beginning of the service were plenty warm and removing our jackets as we were caught up in the worship service where heavens fire invaded our hearts. Now, for those of us from the western world this is hard to comprehend. Nothing in this particular external environment would typically bring us joy or pleasure. There was no heat; hard chairs, poor lighting, and the volume of the music broke all decimal rules.
And what about all the internal suffering these people brought into the worship service that morning. Extreme poverty, one of the highest death rates in the world because of HIV/Aids, and daily living under the injustice of a corrupt political system. Not to mention a host of other social issues like rape, a huge orphan population and lack of educational opportunities. Yet, somehow in spite of both external and internal battles these people face there was an overwhelming spirit of joy that flowed out of the hearts of these beautiful worshipers.
When I think about the joy I personally experienced that Sunday, surrounded by Besotho followers of Christ engaging in worship I know the source of their joy has to be rooted in God. How could one find joy based on the lack of external comfort in the building or the hardships and suffering in their lives? Yet, JOY invaded their hearts. JOY from a Father in heaven who is complete joy. This JOY is released through the Holy Spirit upon all His children who make Him their hope in the midst of what many of us would label a hopeless situation.
This joyful worship experience in Africa makes Nehemiah 8:10 come to life, “the joy of the LORD is my strength.” You can translate that, “the joy of the LORD is my everything.” Knowing the Father = Joy and His Joy becomes everything you need.
As I remember dancing before the Father with my brothers and sisters in Africa, I praise Him for how they have taught me that He is the source of TRUE JOY!