Be Joyful With the Happy God
“Finally, brothers, continue to rejoice, . . . and the God of love and of peace will be with you.”—2 CORINTHIANS 13:11.
1, 2. (a) Why do many lack joy in life? (b) What is joy, and how can we cultivate it?
IN THESE dark days, many people see little cause for rejoicing. When tragedy strikes them or someone they love, they may feel like ancient Job, who said: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Christians are not immune to the stresses and strains of these “critical times hard to deal with,” and it is not surprising that faithful servants of Jehovah sometimes become discouraged.—2 Timothy 3:1.
2 Still, Christians can be joyful, even when under trial. (Acts 5:40, 41) To understand how this is possible, consider first what joy is. Joy has been defined as “the emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good.” * Consequently, if we take the time to count our present blessings while meditating on the joys that await us in God’s new world, we can be joyful.
3. In what sense can it be said that everyone has at least some reasons to rejoice?
3 Everyone has some blessings for which to be grateful. A family head may lose his job. Naturally, he is concerned. He wants to provide for his loved ones. Still, if he is physically strong and in good health, he can be grateful for that. If he finds employment, he will be able to work hard. On the other hand, a Christian woman may have been stricken with a debilitating illness. Yet, she may give thanks for the support of loving friends and family members who help her face her illness with dignity and courage. And all true Christians, regardless of their circumstances, can rejoice in the privilege of knowing Jehovah, “the happy God,” and Jesus Christ, “the happy and only Potentate.” (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15) Yes, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are supremely happy. They have maintained their joy despite the fact that conditions on earth are far different from what Jehovah intended in the beginning. Their example can teach us much about how to maintain our joy.
They Have Never Lost Their Joy
4, 5. (a) How did Jehovah react when the first humans rebelled? (b) In what way did Jehovah keep a positive attitude toward mankind?
4 In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed radiant health and had perfect minds. They had productive work to do and ideal surroundings in which to do it. Best of all, they had the privilege of regularly communicating with Jehovah. It was God’s purpose that they enjoy a happy future. But our first parents were not satisfied with all these good gifts; they stole the forbidden fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” This disobedient act laid the groundwork for all the unhappiness that we, their descendants, are experiencing today.—Genesis 2:15-17; 3:6; Romans 5:12.
5 However, Jehovah did not allow the ungrateful attitude of Adam and Eve to rob him of his joy. He was confident that the hearts of at least some of their offspring would be moved to serve him. He was so confident, in fact, that even before Adam and Eve produced their first child, he announced his purpose to redeem their obedient descendants! (Genesis 1:31; 3:15) In the centuries that followed, the majority of mankind walked in the footsteps of Adam and Eve, but Jehovah did not turn his back on the human family because of such widespread disobedience. Rather, he centered his attention on the men and women who ‘made his heart rejoice,’ those who made a real effort to please him because they loved him.—Proverbs 27:11; Hebrews 6:10.
6, 7. What factors helped Jesus to remain joyful?
6 What about Jesus—how did he maintain his joy? As a mighty spirit creature in heaven, Jesus had every opportunity to observe the activities of men and women on earth. Their imperfections were obvious, yet Jesus loved them. (Proverbs 8:31) Later, when he came to earth and actually “resided among” humans, his view of mankind did not change. (John 1:14) What enabled the perfect Son of God to maintain such a positive view of the sinful human family?
7 First of all, Jesus was reasonable in his expectations both of himself and of others. He knew that he was not going to convert the world. (Matthew 10:32-39) So he rejoiced when even one sincere person responded favorably to the Kingdom message. Although the conduct and attitude of his disciples sometimes left much to be desired, Jesus knew that at heart they really wanted to do God’s will, and he loved them on that account. (Luke 9:46; 22:24, 28-32, 60-62) Significantly, in prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus summarized the positive course that his disciples had taken up to that point: “They have observed your word.”—John 17:6.
8. Name some ways in which we can imitate Jehovah and Jesus when it comes to maintaining our joy.
8 Without doubt, all of us would benefit from reflecting on the example set by Jehovah God and Christ Jesus in this respect. Can we more fully imitate Jehovah perhaps by not becoming overly concerned when things do not work out just as we had hoped? Can we follow more closely in Jesus’ footsteps by maintaining a positive viewpoint toward our present circumstances, as well as by being reasonable in what we expect of ourselves and others? Let us see how some of these principles might be applied in a practical way in an area that is dear to the hearts of zealous Christians everywhere—the field ministry.
Maintain a Positive View of the Ministry
9. How was Jeremiah’s joy rekindled, and how can his example help us?
9 Jehovah wants us to be joyful in his service. Our joy should not be contingent on the results that we obtain. (Luke 10:17, 20) The prophet Jeremiah preached for years in unproductive territory. When he focused on the negative reaction of the people, he lost his joy. (Jeremiah 20:8) But when he meditated on the beauty of the message itself, his joy was rekindled. Jeremiah said to Jehovah: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 15:16) Yes, Jeremiah rejoiced in his privilege of preaching God’s word. We can too.
10. How can we preserve our joy in the ministry even if our territory is not at present productive?
10 Even if the majority refuse to respond to the good news, we have every reason to be joyful as we engage in the field ministry. Remember that Jehovah was clearly confident that some humans would be moved to serve him. Like Jehovah, we should never give up hope that at least some will eventually see the issue and accept the Kingdom message. We must not forget that people’s circumstances change. When faced with some unexpected loss or crisis, even the most self-satisfied individual may begin thinking seriously about the meaning of life. Will you be there to help when such a person becomes ‘conscious of his spiritual need’? (Matthew 5:3) Why, someone in your territory may be ready to listen to the good news the very next time you call!
11, 12. What took place in one town, and what can we learn from it?
11 The makeup of our territory can also change. Consider an example. In a small town, there lived a close-knit group of young married couples with children. When Jehovah’s Witnesses called, they met with the same response at every door, “We are not interested!” If someone did show interest in the Kingdom message, the neighbors lost no time in discouraging further contact with the Witnesses. Needless to say, it was a challenge to preach there. Nevertheless, the Witnesses did not give up; they kept right on preaching. With what result?
12 In time, many of the children in that town grew up, got married, and settled down there. Realizing that their way of life had not resulted in genuine happiness, some of these young adults began searching for the truth. They found it when they responded favorably to the good news proclaimed by the Witnesses. So it was that after many years, the little congregation began to grow. Imagine the joy of the Kingdom publishers who did not give up! May persistence in sharing the glorious Kingdom message bring joy to us too!
Fellow Believers Will Support You
13. To whom can we turn when we are discouraged?
13 When pressures mount or when life deals you a crushing blow, where can you turn for comfort? Millions of Jehovah’s dedicated servants turn first to Jehovah in prayer, then to their Christian brothers and sisters. While on earth, Jesus himself valued the support of his disciples. On the night before his death, he spoke of them as “the ones that have stuck with me in my trials.” (Luke 22:28) Of course, those disciples were imperfect, but their loyalty was a comfort to the Son of God. We too can draw strength from fellow worshipers.
14, 15. What helped one couple to cope with the death of their son, and what do you learn from their experience?
14 A Christian couple named Michel and Diane learned how valuable the support of their brothers and sisters can be. Their 20-year-old son, Jonathan, a Christian full of life and promise, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors valiantly tried to save him, but Jonathan’s physical condition worsened until late one afternoon, he fell asleep in death. Michel and Diane were devastated. They realized that the Service Meeting, scheduled for that evening, was almost over. Still, desperately needing comfort, they asked the elder who was with them to accompany them to the Kingdom Hall. They arrived just as the congregation was being informed of Jonathan’s death. After the meeting, the tearful parents were surrounded by their brothers and sisters, who hugged them and offered words of comfort. Recalls Diane: “We felt empty when we arrived at the hall, but what comfort we received from the brothers—how they uplifted us! Although they could not take away our pain, they helped us to bear up under the pressure!”—Romans 1:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 12:21-26.
15 Adversity caused Michel and Diane to draw closer to their brothers. It also caused them to draw closer to each other. Says Michel: “I have learned to cherish my dear wife even more. In moments of discouragement, we talk to each other about Bible truth and how Jehovah is sustaining us.” Diane adds: “The Kingdom hope means even more to us now.”
16. Why is it important to take the initiative in letting our brothers know of our needs?
16 Yes, our Christian brothers and sisters can serve as “a strengthening aid” to us during life’s difficult moments and thus help us to preserve our joy. (Colossians 4:11) Of course, they cannot read our minds. When we need support, therefore, it is good to let them know. Then we can express genuine appreciation for whatever comfort our brothers are able to provide, viewing it as coming from Jehovah.—Proverbs 12:25; 17:17.
Look at Your Congregation
17. What challenges does one single mother face, and how do we view people like her?
17 The closer you look at fellow believers, the more you will learn to appreciate them and find joy in their association. Look at your congregation. What do you see? Is there a single parent struggling to raise her children in the way of the truth? Have you given much thought to the fine example she sets? Try to imagine some of the problems that she faces. A single mother named Jeanine mentions some of these: loneliness, unwanted advances from men at work, a severely restricted budget. But the greatest hurdle of all, she says, involves caring for her children’s emotional needs, since each child is unique. Jeanine brings up another problem: “It can be a real challenge to reject the tendency to make your son the head of the household so as to make up for the absence of a husband. I have a daughter, and it is hard to remember not to overburden her by making her my confidante.” Like thousands of God-fearing single parents, Jeanine works full-time and cares for her household. She also studies the Bible with her children, trains them in the ministry, and brings them to congregation meetings. (Ephesians 6:4) How happy Jehovah must be as he daily observes this family’s efforts to maintain integrity! Does it not bring joy to our hearts to have such ones in our midst? Yes, indeed.
18, 19. Illustrate how we can deepen our appreciation for members of the congregation.
18 Look again at your congregation. You may see faithful widows or widowers who are “never missing” from the meetings. (Luke 2:37) Do they get lonely at times? Of course. They sorely miss their mates! But they keep busy in Jehovah’s service and take a personal interest in others. Their stable, positive attitude adds to the joy of the congregation! A Christian who has served in the full-time ministry for more than 30 years remarked: “One of my greatest joys is seeing older brothers and sisters who have come through many trials still serving Jehovah faithfully!” Yes, older Christians among us are a great encouragement to younger ones.
19 What of the new ones who have only recently begun to associate with the congregation? Are we not stimulated when they express their faith at the meetings? Think of the progress they have made since they began studying the Bible. Jehovah must be very pleased with them. Are we? Do we express our approval, commending them for their efforts?
20. Why can it be said that each congregation member plays an important role in the congregation?
20 Are you married, single, or a single parent? Are you a fatherless (or motherless) boy or girl, a widow or a widower? Are you one who has been associated with the congregation for many years or one who only recently started to associate? Be assured that your faithful example is encouraging to all of us. And when you join in singing a Kingdom song, when you make a comment or handle a student assignment in the Theocratic Ministry School, your contribution adds to our joy. Better still, it brings joy to Jehovah’s heart.
21. What do we have many reasons to do, but what questions arise?
21 Yes, even in these troublesome times, we can be joyful in worshiping our happy God. We have many reasons to respond to Paul’s encouragement: “Continue to rejoice, . . . and the God of love and of peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) What, though, if we are confronted by a natural disaster, persecution, or severe economic hardship? Is it possible to maintain our joy even in such situations? Draw your own conclusions as you consider the following article.
^ par. 2 See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 119, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Can You Answer?
• How is joy described?
• How can maintaining a positive attitude help us remain joyful?
• What can help us have a positive view of our congregation’s territory?
• In what ways do you appreciate the brothers and sisters in your congregation?
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People in our territory can change
[Picture on page 12]
What challenges do those in your congregation face?