Have you ever met a Christian who just doesn’t seem very happy?
I mean, they always seem to walk around with a perpetual scowl on their faces.
As you stand in the pew behind them at church, you observe them singing “there is joy, joy, joy in serving Jesus”…but if that’s what their joy looks like, you would hate to see what they would look like if their dog died.
It seems kind of strange that someone who has had an unimaginable debt paid off by God’s Son, has been welcomed into the family of God, and has Heaven to look forward to one day…isn’t very happy.
As Christian teachers, we need to especially be sensitive to the fact that dozens – perhaps hundreds of pairs of young and easily influenced eyes are watching us from “the pew behind”. And whether they realize it or not, those students are making their own evaluations of Christianity based on what they are seeing. If they observe Christians who are never happy, who are always grumbling over finances, administration, difficult students…why would they want to have that?
If that’s the “joy in serving Jesus”, they are pretty sure they would get more joy working on Wall Street or being a professional football player…or even flipping burgers, for that matter. All those people certainly look happier than the Christians that they know.
According to the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, joy should be one of the hallmarks of a Christian’s life. A lack of joy is a glaring “check engine light” that something in our spiritual walk is not right. It is important to note that the Fruit of the Spirit is a work of the Holy Spirit in my life and not something that I can cultivate on my own. My job is cultivate the soil for the Spirit to work by spending time with God in His Word, prayer, and the fellowship of other believers.
- Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances because it depends on the presence of God.
The joy mentioned in Galatians 5 is so much more than a feeling or an emotion. This joy doesn’t depend on circumstances – we can have this type of joy after a super rough day in the classroom or a terrible parent-teacher conference. No, I am not saying that we need to keep a fake smile plastered to our face in the midst of everything going wrong…our kids know the difference between genuine joy and “faking-it”. However, joy does mean that even on the worst days, I remember that I am a child of the King. God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for me…and He is not going to leave me alone to figure the rest of this life out (Phil. 1:6).
That joy can look different depending on the days. Some days, by God’s grace, it will be a genuine smile despite the difficulties you’re facing. Other days it may look like being transparent with your students in your disappointments, but then using the opportunity to point all of your hearts back to the promises of Scripture (of course, always use discernment when sharing personal stuff!).
I love this passage from Habakkuk where the prophet says…
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s, he makes me tread on high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Habakkuk is basically saying that even if the worst happens (no food, no form of livelihood…NOTHING), He can rejoice because he has Christ. And isn’t Christ enough?
As teachers, can we say the same thing?
Maybe you are in a tough time right now – you were let go from your position, you have a difficult summer job, you are moving to a new school, or there are problems with loved ones close to you.
Remember, in all of this – YOU HAVE CHRIST and He alone is the true source of joy! When we believe that a certain relationship, job, opportunity, hobby, etc. will bring us joy, we are being deceived. That longed for opportunity may bring happiness temporarily…but that’s it. Once we get that, we’ll want something else. It’s the good old “if-you-only-get-me-this-for-Christmas-I-won’t-ask-for-anything-more” syndrome. Have you ever heard that with your kids (or been guilty of saying it yourself?)? Your child may have genuinely been convinced that this toy was all that they would ever want in life…but it doesn’t take long (24 hours? A few days?) before they are wanting something more. That’s because God created us to only find true joy and satisfaction in Him.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11, emphasis added)
So if you are struggling in the joy department, listen to the warning signs and check your heart – where is it that you are searching for joy apart from Christ?
2. Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances because it depends on the promises of God
Of course, God’s presence is one of His promises and we could pretty must just park it right there and call it a day. But wait, there’s more!! Scripture is filled with some of His very specific and precious promises to us. When you’re struggling with joy, write these verses down on index cards and post them around your home and workplace. Memorize them. Every time Satan tries to steal your joy, throw him a few of these!
I can’t be joyful because…
- I am uncertain about the future (Rom. 8:28-29, Matthew 6:25-34, Joshua 1:9)
- I am in a series of difficult circumstances right now (II Cor. 12:9, Hebrews 4:14-16)
- I am facing something impossible (Jer. 32:27, Job 37:5, II Cor. 9:8, Eph. 3:20)
- I have messed up too badly for God to use me (I John 1:9, Ps. 32:5, Ps. 86:5, Is. 1:18)
Armed with the presence and promises of God, what can steal our joy from us?
So, do you show to your students that there is indeed joy in serving Jesus?