As we continue in this series on joy, the next reason the psalmist gives for joy is the people of God: ‘As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight’. These are very strong words, which underline the passion and joy David felt in the people of God. Church is not meant to be something you come to on a Sunday morning and sit there while other people entertain you. We are called to delight in the Body of Christ. There is joy in fellowship with the Body of Christ.
You cannot see Jesus, but you can see His representatives on earth, and in a healthy church lots of laughter and joy will be on display. There should be multitudes of smiles. If you hire a building, the staff there should say: ‘We love it when you guys are in the building because you are so happy’.
None of this of course is to imply that church should be an unreal place where if you are struggling with depression or a hard time you feel you have to plaster on a fake smile. How tragic a picture that is. Sometimes it can be hard to be around happy people if you are feeling low yourself. But, most people do find that at least to some extent their mood can be lifted by being with people who are happier than them, if they allow that to happen. If you are feeling so low that even the laughter and fun around you can know longer lift you at all, if joy is not infectious in the slightest for you, that may be a sign you need to speak with a medical doctor. None of what I am saying in this series is meant to imply that joy is an easy thing, that all people who are depressed need to do is “pull themselves together” and that hanging around with God’s people will automatically make you happy! But, there is no doubt at all that a lonely person is much more likely to be a sad person, and we were never meant to be alone. It is very possible to be alone in a crowd, even in a good church. Some people go week after week and may even complain “nobody spoke to me,” the truth is that if you arrive after the service has started and leave during the last song, you aren’t giving anyone a chance to talk to you! Please don’t wait for people to talk to you, take the initiative and go and talk to them.
As you press in to the Body of Christ, as you spend time with people, as you make friends, as you join Small Groups, as you get into the smaller context, as you stay around for a few minutes afterwards and have tea and coffee and chat to people, you give them an opportunity to manifest the joy of God in your direction, and for you to begin to delight in God’s people in the way the psalmist speaks of.
Church also brings joy through others as you serve alongside them. Whether thats making tea, cleaning toilets, or helping the local poor, when you have a partnership with others that you serve Jesus together with joy is the result. Philippians 1 talks about partnership in the gospel – and holding people in our hearts, as we do that then actually the joy of God will be revealed through His people to you. I would urge you, actually there is a real joy in giving, as you perhaps serve in some way, as you get stuck in to a team, you will get to know people on that team as well. As you give, God gives back to you because God is no man’s debtor, and I would urge you this term, make it your goal, do something to deepen your walk with the Body of people you worship with. Whether it is joining a Small Group for the first time, whether it is getting on to a course, or maybe going to the prayer meeting (I know someone who met his future wife at a prayer meeting!), or whether it is going to a Mums and Toddlers Group, or whatever it is that you choose to do, even if it is just staying ten minutes longer this morning rather than rushing off to get home, do it because there you will find joy. It is not possible to love Jesus while hating His Bride. It is also not possible to love Jesus and pursue Jesus while neglecting His Bride.
So there is joy in fellowship with the Body of Christ. Tomorrow we will look at another means God uses to give us joy.