If we carefully examine all things made by God, we are able to realize how much grace God is bestowing on us. Around us there are so many things to be joyful and thankful for—fresh air, water, green pasture, loving people, happiness from a change of weather or season, and so on. So the Bible frequently mentions the virtue of being joyful and thankful, as one of the virtues that Christians must have.
At a palace or a castle where a king lived, both in western and eastern countries, a special flag was planted to signify the presence of the king. Rejoicing always as Christians is like a flag that signifies God’s presence in us. On the contrary, if Christians are in despair or lose joy and gratitude or complain, it signifies that God is not with them.
In the Old Testament times, God manifested His presence by a pillar of cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night, which stayed over the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle. The Bible says that we are the temple of God. So, we should reveal God’s presence among us by living joyful lives.
From a physical point of view, there seem to be many occasions that can provoke complaints, but from a spiritual viewpoint, everything is an object of joy and gratitude. So the Bible tells us to always rejoice in God.
“And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Th 5:14-22
The reason we should be joyful always in God is because God is with us, giving us eternal life and salvation. God so loved us that He did not even spare His life for us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jn 3:16-17
How much did God love the world that He did not spare His one and only Son but sent Him into the world as a sin offering for us? We have received such overwhelming love and blessings from God. This fact alone is enough for us to be joyful every day without any complaint.
When we look deep into nature created by God, we are able to recognize His tremendous care and love for us who are living in the city of refuge. If we realize the great love of God, we can be joyful and thankful to Him in any circumstance. We should always give thanks to God for the fact that we are in God and granted the right to become God’s children and have the hope for heaven, instead of filling our lives with grumbles and complaints without recognizing thousands of blessings granted by God.
“… Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my savior.” Hab 3:16-18
How happy and grateful we are since God is always with us, loves us and protects us, although we have no strength, knowledge or wealth. We are the richest and happiest people in the world because God, the Owner of the universe, is with us and gives us the heavenly treasures, even though we seem weakest and poorest on this earth.
If we are true Christians, we should always let a flag of joy fly as a sign that God is in us. When we forget the fact that God is with us, joy disappears and we are likely to complain. Though there are no grapes on the vines and no cattle in the stalls and the fields produce no food, we, the people of Zion, should always live a life full of joy and gratitude in all circumstances, realizing the love of God who is with us, protecting us day and night.
Once upon a time, there lived a king. One day, the king announced that if anyone made him the most delicious food in the world, he would give that person even half of his kingdom. Then talented cooks as numerous as clouds gathered from all over the country and presented their best food before the king. However, no food satisfied the king.
Then a cook came to the king and said. “My Lord, I will cook the most delicious food for you. But there is one thing that you must do if you want to have this food. Are you willing to do it?”
“I will do whatever it is if I can eat the most delicious food in the world.”
On hearing approval from the king, the cook ordered the guards beside him to imprison the king. What the cook ordered was excessively rude, but the king had to carry it out because he had already promised that he would do anything requested. The king starved for a couple of days in prison.
After that, the cook served the king with the food he cooked. The king praised the chef highly, saying that it was the most delicious food that he had ever eaten, even though it was more like an ordinary meal, compared with the royal dishes he used to eat. From his birth up until then, he had eaten every kind of dainty food without feeling any hunger. Only after he experienced hunger in prison, he was able to know the value of food and feel its real taste.
With the same reason, God often allows us to go through hard times and experience various feelings of life—joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure. The king was unable to realize the value of food and its real taste because he had become used to dainty food. Likewise, if our lives are always joyful, pleasant and happy, we cannot realize how blessed we are and how much we should be grateful to God for all the blessings of life.
The joy for a fine and clear day is doubled after a gloomy and cloudy day. In the same way, we come to get the full value of peaceful joy after hardships or persecutions in our life of faith. God lets us know the joy of eternal rest through the toil and pain that we experience while walking the path of the gospel; He also allows us to know the joy of health through the pain of diseases, and the joy of eternal life through the suffering of death. When we realize this is the will of God, we will feel joyful and grateful in any circumstance.
While we are walking in the desert of faith, we face many obstacles. However, if we open our spiritual eyes and look beyond it, we come to realize that everything is an object of thanksgiving.
God sometimes refines us through difficulties and hardships because He wants us to be born again as the perfect beings who are worthy to inherit the heavenly kingdom. When we consider this providence of God, we can see that all hardships and sufferings we encounter are a gift from God who loves us and wants to give us salvation and blessings.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are God’s children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and coheirs of Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Ro 8:16-18
When we are ridiculed and despised while preaching the gospel, God is more heartbroken than we are. However, God waits for our faith to be refined through trials and shine like pure gold; for the sufferings we undergo on this earth are not worth comparing with the glory that we will receive in the kingdom of heaven we are returning to. Our present sufferings are temporary, but the glory that God will give us in heaven lasts forever and ever (see Da 7:18).
Without forgetting the true love of God who spares no pain in order to lead us to the eternal kingdom of heaven, let us endure the process of being refined, which we go through for the time being. Our present suffering is nothing, compared with the pain and sacrifice that God has suffered for our salvation. When we think about the sacrificial love of God who came down to this earth, leaving the glorious throne behind, and suffered on the cross and even endured the pain of death, we can never thank God enough even if we give thanks forever and ever.
God has suffered and sacrificed endlessly for our salvation. Compared to God’s great love for us, our efforts to please God are too small.
No matter how much we think over how to repay God for His grace, there is nothing special that we, feeble human beings, can do for Him; rather, we are only giving Him trouble and pain on this earth. The best way for us to repay God would be to take off our sinful nature and change into beautiful angels after finding all our lost brothers and sisters as soon as possible.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Col 3:1-10
Although we have previously grumbled and complained, from now on we should pursue and desire things above, putting on the new self in God and sharing true brotherly love, as God wants us to do. As the true Christians who have God within them, we also ought to display God’s glory through our good deeds and beautiful attitude.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Eph 5:1-17
Let us not forget the existence of God who is always with us, works in us and walks with us, understanding why God has told us to be joyful and thankful.
There is no pain, no sorrow and no suffering in our heavenly home we are returning to. Through our temporary sufferings on this earth, God wants us to realize the depths of the glory and blessings of the kingdom of heaven, so that our joy may be complete. We should understand this providence of God and overcome all difficulties and trials. Let us follow God’s command entrusted to us and reap with songs of joy even in trials, waving a flag of “joy” which signifies that God is with us.