Serve Jehovah With Joy of Heart
“All these maledictions will certainly come upon you . . . due to the fact that you did not serve Jehovah your God with rejoicing and joy of heart.”—DEUTERONOMY 28:45-47.
1. What evidence is there that those serving Jehovah are joyful, wherever they serve him?
JEHOVAH’S servants are joyful, whether they are doing his will in heaven or on earth. Angelic “morning stars” cried out joyfully at earth’s founding, and undoubtedly with joy the myriads of heavenly angels ‘carry out God’s word.’ (Job 38:4-7; Psalm 103:20) Jehovah’s only-begotten Son was a joyful “master worker” in heaven and found delight in doing the divine will as the man Jesus Christ on earth. Moreover, “for the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Proverbs 8:30, 31; Hebrews 10:5-10; 12:2.
2. What determined whether the Israelites experienced either blessings or maledictions?
2 The Israelites experienced joy when they pleased God. But what if they disobeyed him? They were warned: “[Maledictions] must continue on you and your offspring as a sign and a portent to time indefinite, due to the fact that you did not serve Jehovah your God with rejoicing and joy of heart for the abundance of everything. And you will have to serve your enemies whom Jehovah will send against you with hunger and thirst and nakedness and the want of everything; and he will certainly put an iron yoke upon your neck until he has annihilated you.” (Deuteronomy 28:45-48) Blessings and maledictions made clear who were and who were not Jehovah’s servants. Such maledictions also certified that there can be no trifling with God’s principles and purposes, nor can there be a despising of them. Because the Israelites refused to heed Jehovah’s warnings of desolation and exile, Jerusalem became “a malediction to all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:6) Let us therefore obey God and enjoy his favor. Joy is one of the many divine blessings experienced by the godly.
How to Serve With “Joy of Heart”
3. What is the figurative heart?
3 The Israelites were to serve Jehovah “with rejoicing and joy of heart.” So must God’s modern-day servants. To rejoice is “to be glad; be filled with joy.” Though the physical heart is mentioned in the Scriptures, it does not literally think or reason. (Exodus 28:30) Its principal function is to pump the blood that nourishes the body cells. In the vast majority of cases, however, the Bible refers to the figurative heart, which is more than the seat of affection, motivation, and intellect. It is said to stand for “the central part in general, the inside, and so for the interior man as manifesting himself in all his various activities, in his desires, affections, emotions, passions, purposes, his thoughts, perceptions, imaginations, his wisdom, knowledge, skill, his beliefs and his reasonings, his memory and his consciousness.” (Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, 1882, page 67) Our figurative heart involves our feelings and emotions, including joy.—John 16:22.
4. What can help us to serve Jehovah God with joy of heart?
4 What can help us to serve Jehovah with joy of heart? A positive and appreciative view of our blessings and God-given privileges is helpful. For instance, we can reflect joyfully on our privilege of rendering “sacred service” to the true God. (Luke 1:74) There is the related privilege of bearing Jehovah’s name as his Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10-12) To this we can add the joyfulness of knowing that by following God’s Word we are pleasing him. And what joy there is in reflecting spiritual light and thus helping many to come out of darkness!—Matthew 5:14-16; compare 1 Peter 2:9.
5. What is the source of godly joy?
5 Yet, serving Jehovah with joy of heart is not just a matter of positive thinking. It is beneficial to be positive in viewpoint. But godly joy is not something we produce through character development. It is a fruit of Jehovah’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) If we do not have such joy, we may need to make adjustments in order to avoid thinking or acting in some unscriptural manner that could grieve God’s spirit. (Ephesians 4:30) As those devoted to Jehovah, however, let us not fear that a lack of heartfelt joy on some occasion is evidence of divine disapproval. We are imperfect and subject to pain, sadness, and even depression at times, but Jehovah understands us. (Psalm 103:10-14) Let us therefore pray for his holy spirit, remembering that its fruit of joy is God-given. Our loving heavenly Father will answer such prayers and will enable us to serve him with joy of heart.—Luke 11:13.
When Joy Is Missing
6. If joy is missing in our service to God, what should we do?
6 If joy is missing in our service, we might eventually slow down in serving Jehovah or even prove unfaithful to him. Hence, it would be wise humbly and prayerfully to consider our motives and make necessary adjustments. To have God-given joy, we must serve Jehovah out of love and with our whole heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37) We must not serve with a competitive attitude, for Paul wrote: “If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25, 26) We will not have true joy if we are serving because we want to excel over others or are seeking praise.
7. How can we rekindle our joy of heart?
7 There is joy in fulfilling our dedication to Jehovah. When we were newly dedicated to God, we zealously embarked on the Christian way of life. We studied the Scriptures and regularly participated in meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) It gave us joy to share in the ministry. Yet, what if our joy has diminished? Bible study, meeting attendance, participation in the ministry—indeed, full involvement in every aspect of Christianity—should give our lives spiritual stability and rekindle both the love we had at first and our former joy of heart. (Revelation 2:4) Then we will not be like some who are rather joyless and are often in need of spiritual assistance. Elders are glad to help, but we must individually fulfill our dedication to God. Nobody else can do this for us. Let us therefore make it our aim to follow the normal Christian routine in order to fulfill our dedication to Jehovah and have true joy.
8. Why is a clear conscience important if we want to be joyful?
8 If we are to have the joy that is a fruit of God’s spirit, we need a clear conscience. As long as King David of Israel tried to conceal his sin, he was miserable. In fact, his life’s moisture seemed to evaporate, and he may have become physically sick. What relief he had when repentance and confession took place! (Psalm 32:1-5) We cannot be joyful if we are hiding some serious sin. That might well cause us to live a troubled life. Surely, that is not the way to experience joy. But confession and repentance bring relief and the restoration of a joyful spirit.—Proverbs 28:13.
Waiting With Joy
9, 10. (a) What promise did Abraham receive, but how may his faith and joy have been tested? (b) How can we benefit from the examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
9 It is one thing to have joy when we first learn about the divine purpose but quite another to remain joyful when years are passing. This can be illustrated in the case of faithful Abraham. After he attempted to offer up his son Isaac at God’s command, an angel delivered this message: “‘By myself I do swear,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘that by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.’” (Genesis 22:15-18) Undoubtedly, Abraham was overjoyed at this promise.
10 Abraham may have expected that Isaac would be the “seed” through whom the promised blessings would come. But the passing of years with nothing wonderful being accomplished through Isaac may have tested the faith and joy of Abraham and his family. God’s confirmation of the promise to Isaac and later to his son Jacob assured them that the coming of the Seed was still future, and this helped them to maintain their faith and joy. However, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises to them, but they were not joyless servants of Jehovah. (Hebrews 11:13) We too can keep on serving Jehovah with faith and joy while awaiting the fulfillment of his promises.
Joy Despite Persecution
11. Why can we be joyful despite persecution?
11 As Jehovah’s servants, we can serve Jehovah with joy of heart, even though we suffer persecution. Jesus pronounced happy those persecuted for his sake, and the apostle Peter said: “Go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory. If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.” (1 Peter 4:13, 14; Matthew 5:11, 12) If you are enduring persecution and suffering for the sake of righteousness, you have Jehovah’s spirit and approval, and that certainly promotes joy.
12. (a) Why can we meet tests of faith with joy? (b) What basic lesson can be learned from the case of a certain Levite in exile?
12 We can meet tests of faith with joy because God is our Refuge. This is made evident in Psalms 42 and 43. For some reason, a certain Levite was in exile. So much did he miss worship at God’s sanctuary that he felt like a thirsty hind, or female deer, that longs for water in a dry and barren region. He “thirsted,” or yearned, for Jehovah and for the privilege of worshiping God at His sanctuary. (Psalm 42:1, 2) This exile’s experience should move us to show gratitude for the association we enjoy with Jehovah’s people. If such a situation as confinement due to persecution temporarily prevented us from being with them, let us reflect on past joys together in sacred service and pray for endurance while we “wait for God” to restore us to regular activity with his worshipers.—Psalm 42:4, 5, 11; 43:3-5.
“Serve Jehovah With Rejoicing”
13. How does Psalm 100:1, 2 show that joy must be a feature of our service to God?
13 Joy must be a feature of our service to God. This was shown in a melody of thanksgiving in which the psalmist sang: “Shout in triumph to Jehovah, all you people of the earth. Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. Come in before him with a joyful cry.” (Psalm 100:1, 2) Jehovah is “the happy God” and wants his servants to find joy in carrying out their dedication to him. (1 Timothy 1:11) People of all nations should exult in Jehovah, and our expressions of praise should be strong, like the ‘triumphant shout’ of a victorious army. Since service to God is refreshing, it should be accompanied by rejoicing. Hence, the psalmist urged people to come into God’s presence “with a joyful cry.”
14, 15. How does Psalm 100:3-5 apply to Jehovah’s joyful people today?
14 The psalmist added: “Know [recognize, acknowledge] that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” (Psalm 100:3) Since Jehovah is our Creator, he owns us as a shepherd does his sheep. So well does God care for us that we gratefully laud him. (Psalm 23) Concerning Jehovah, the psalmist also sang: “Come into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courtyards with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For Jehovah is good; his loving-kindness is to time indefinite, and his faithfulness to generation after generation.”—Psalm 100:4, 5.
15 Today, joyful people of all nations are entering the courtyards of Jehovah’s sanctuary to offer thanksgiving and praise. We joyfully bless God’s name by always speaking well of Jehovah, and his grand qualities move us to praise him. He is good through and through, and his loving-kindness or compassionate regard for his servants can always be relied on, for it continues to time indefinite. To “generation after generation,” Jehovah is faithful in showing love toward those doing his will. (Romans 8:38, 39) Surely, then, we have good reason to “serve Jehovah with rejoicing.”
Rejoice in Your Hope
16. In what hopes and prospects can Christians rejoice?
16 Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the hope.” (Romans 12:12) Anointed followers of Jesus Christ rejoice in the glorious hope of immortal heavenly life that God opened up to them through his Son. (Romans 8:16, 17; Philippians 3:20, 21) Christians with the hope of eternal life in Paradise on earth also have grounds for rejoicing. (Luke 23:43) All of Jehovah’s faithful servants have reason to rejoice in the Kingdom hope, for they will either be part of that celestial government or live in its earthly domain. What a joyous blessing!—Matthew 6:9, 10; Romans 8:18-21.
17, 18. (a) What was foretold at Isaiah 25:6-8? (b) How is this prophecy of Isaiah being fulfilled now, and what about its fulfillment in the future?
17 Isaiah also foretold a joyful future for obedient mankind. He wrote: “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples, in this mountain, a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow, of wine kept on the dregs, filtered. And in this mountain he will certainly swallow up the face of the envelopment that is enveloping over all the peoples, and the woven work that is interwoven upon all the nations. He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces. And the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Jehovah himself has spoken it.”—Isaiah 25:6-8.
18 The spiritual feast we share in today as Jehovah’s worshipers is a joyful banquet indeed. In fact, our joy overflows as we serve God zealously in anticipation of the banquet of literal good things he has promised for the new world. (2 Peter 3:13) On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, Jehovah will remove “the woven work” enveloping mankind because of Adam’s sin. What a joy it will be to see sin and death removed! What a delight to welcome back resurrected loved ones, to note that tears have vanished, and to live on a paradise earth, where Jehovah’s people will not be reproached but will have given God an answer to the great taunter, Satan the Devil!—Proverbs 27:11.
19. How should we react to the prospects Jehovah has set before us as his Witnesses?
19 Does it not fill you with joy and gratitude to know what Jehovah will do for his servants? Indeed, such grand prospects contribute to our joy! Moreover, our blessed hope makes us look to our happy, loving, generous God with sentiments like these: “Look! This is our God. We have hoped in him, and he will save us. This is Jehovah. We have hoped in him. Let us be joyful and rejoice in the salvation by him.” (Isaiah 25:9) With our splendid hope firmly fixed in mind, let us bend every effort to serve Jehovah with joy of heart.
How Would You Reply?
□ How can we serve Jehovah with “joy of heart”?
□ What can we do if joy is missing in our service to God?
□ Why can Jehovah’s people have joy despite persecution?
□ What reasons do we have to rejoice in our hope?
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Sharing in all features of Christian life will increase our joy