Why Christians Underestimate Joy (and Chewbacca)

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Just a few short days ago, Chewbacca went viral as Candice Payne, clad in his toy mask, exploded on the Internet. In a matter of just 48 hours, her live Facebook video skyrocketed to nearly 150 million views, as people belly laughed it across the world. Just two days in, she had already appeared with numerous internationally acclaimed networks and personalities. What is it that this lady—a fellow worship leader—demonstrated, alone in her car after a trip to Kohl’s, that we all loved so much? And what is it that we worship leaders can glean from Candice bursting into our lives?

We Hunger for joy.

150 million views of a gleeful woman in a mask is a good indicator that people are hungry; people watched and shared Candice’s video because her evident joy sparked something in them. If this is true, then I would suggest that the people who file into our sanctuaries on weekend days and nights are similarly hungry. They long to know joy, but they are looking to others—perhaps to us—to provide it. So here are 7 things to consider about joy:

  • Joy is natural

Paul lists joy among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. We know that in gardens and greenhouses, fruit grows naturally…given the proper growing conditions. Good seed, soil, water, sunlight, and oftentimes pruning, will produce plants and fruit over time. Fruit also grows naturally over time in the Christ follower, given the proper conditions. The seed of life is planted in soil, bathed in prayer, washed in the water of God’s Word, nurtured in patient counsel, and walked out in the Spirit. (And Paul emphasizes a significant amount of pruning of ungodly desires of the flesh). Worship leader, you and I have been selected to participate in cultivating joy in people who abide in the Vine. So, praise God for this privilege, depend on Him to help you nourish your congregation, and then anticipate joy-growth!

  • Joy is supernatural

Dallas Willard defined joy as “not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of wellbeing. It claims our entire body and soul, both the physical and the non-physical side of the human self.” In a culture plagued by depression, pain, hopelessness and death, joy is supernatural. Peter describes it as “inexpressible, and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8) True joy is ubiquitous, and consistent through all of life’s circumstances. It’s the stuff of overcomers; it’s part of what makes faith unshakable. It is what caused song to rise in the darkness of a prison cell (Acts 16:25), what overflowed even amidst sorrow (2 Cor. 6:10) and great affliction (2 Cor 7:4), and it is what was set before Jesus as He endured the cross (Heb 12:2). So worship leader, don’t expect that joy will always resemble happiness. Ask God to help you to discern—and call out—bedrock joy.

  • Joy is commanded

Scripture is replete with commands and encouragements to rejoice. Throughout the Psalms, hearers are exhorted to rejoice in the Lord, with reminders why they should: for their salvation, for God’s provision, because they’ve been vindicated, and because of His care. Paul also urged the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord at all times because of His faithfulness. As a people, we need reminders why to rejoice in Him. Worship leader, you’ve been given a platform to set the Lord on display and to invite your congregation to feast in Him. Tell them, show them, remind them just Who it is that is their true Joy.

  • Joy can’t be manipulated

Often, worship planners are content to follow a liturgy of tempo. We start with a few fast songs, move to a medium tempo song near the offering, then pray and sing one or two slow songs before the message. We particularly like the fast songs up front because it gets people out of their seats – it wakes them up, gets them moving, and it helps get the preaching pastor’s mojo running! We want everyone to feel something, and we count on the speed and dynamic of our music to make them feel it. We launch in, loud and fast, and prompt people to jump to their feet and…what? Rejoice? If we think the tempo of our music is synonymous with joy, I would suggest we have greatly underestimated joy itself. If our people need our tunes in order to feel something, perhaps we aren’t helping them to look to the right Place. If we have determined that our musical offerings are the key ingredient to causing a congregation to rejoice, then we are merely manipulating emotions, and not cultivating joy. Worship leader, as you plan and arrange your music, let the tempo and groove serve the lyrical truth, and not be the driving force.

  • Joy must be fought for

John Piper contends that joy is something to be pursued and fought for. He suggests that things war against our joyful disposition, such as personality, sin and the tremendous sadness in our broken world. As one with a creative personality, I am well aware of my propensity to be melancholy, and so I must diligently pursue joy by reminding myself of what is true. Like Jeremiah, I must feast on God’s Word until it becomes a joy and delight to my heart. (Jer 15:16). Jesus desired that His people be filled completely with His own joy, so Worship leader, pray diligently to that end. Align yourself with Jesus’ heart, and fight on your knees for the joy of God’s people. Ask, as David did, for your own joy to be restored (Ps 51:12), and regularly lift your congregation up to the Lord with the same request.

  • Joy is a weapon

Joy undergirds praise, and praise is a weapon in our battle with the unseen forces in this world. Joyful praise lifts our eyes heavenward, and bolsters us with faith. Joyful praise confused Jehoshaphat’s enemy so they destroyed themselves (2 Chron 20); joyful praise toppled the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6); and joyful praise was promised instead of mourning and a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61). In a world where the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), wielding the joy of the Lord strengthens us for battle. Joy is found in acknowledging our need, but then choosing to rehearse the realities of God’s character. So Worship leader, be attentive to the lyrics of your songs, prayers and readings. Don’t just choose selections about us and our desires and our needs. Instead, place words on the lips of your people that describe God and call out His attributes. In so doing, you arm them for warfare. “Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

  • The joy of the Lord is our strength 

…So Nehemiah told the repentant Israelites in Nehemiah 8, after the Word of the Law had been made known to them. And he sent the repentant out to feast with joy, and to share their feast with those who had nothing prepared. The Feasts and Festivals throughout history were (and are) continual reminders to celebrate what God has done. They celebrate redemption, sanctification, provision and covenant, judgment and atonement, and their expectation of the coming Messiah. How much more do we, the Church, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and indwelt with the Spirit of the Living God have to rejoice as we participate in the coming of God’s Kingdom? Worship leaders, have we forgotten our feasting? It is His abiding joy that strengthens our bones, sets our faces like flint, and helps us to rejoice—with Christ!—in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). Drink deeply from the fountain of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). Rehearse the truth of this amazing privilege again and again in your prayer closet and on your platforms. Be strengthened.

Thank you, Candice Payne, for sharing your joy in a simple mask. As you lead your own people to worship Him, may your Source always sustain you. We hunger for the same wellspring of joy that emanated from you that day. Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! (Phil 4:4).

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