Over the last month or so, I have been gradually reading through the book of Psalms in The Message Bible translation. It's a wonderful collection of songs and poetry, expressing the full range of human emotion: disappointment, frustration, anger and hope, as well as praise, worship and joy.
One of the most well known Psalms is Psalm 100 - which is a call to worship. It begins by declaring, "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!" The next line is "Serve (or worship) the Lord with gladness (or joy)."
Every day, as we go about our life, we are serving someone - at home, through volunteering, or at our workplace. Those of us who are people of faith are challenged to do everything we do ... as unto God (see Paul's instructions in Colossians 3:23). However, serving, in and of itself, is not the only thing that God is interested in. How we serve is very important. The way we go about doing our work matters. Here, the Psalmist tells us to “serve … with gladness (or with joy).”
There will be a lot of people going out to work or serve this week ... but how will they serve? How will you serve and add value to the people around you? Let's make a choice to serve others with JOY.
What does JOY look like to you? Being joyful is not about being someone you are not (e.g. introverts trying to be extroverts!). However, it is about the attitude we bring to the task we are engaged in at any given moment and the atmosphere we create through our presence.
In the Bible, we are told that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), that joy is an infallible sign of God’s presence (Psalm 16:11), that joy is the essence of life (Ecclesiastes 3:22; 5:19), that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), that joy is an attribute of God's kingdom rule (Romans 14:17), and that joy can inspire people who are looking at our lives (1 Kings 10:1-13).
Joy is also a key to effectiveness in work. In his best-selling book Managing to Have Fun, Matt Weinstein shows why a company that 'plays' builds a business that works. Many people think that work is not supposed to be fun. That’s why they call it work. Work and Play are supposed to be opposites, like Love and War. “Make love, not war.” “Quit playing around and get back to work”, is an often heard saying. Traditional wisdom says that if you see someone having fun on the job then that person is slacking off. This time, traditional wisdom is dead wrong.
Other people say, “I never mix business with pleasure”. However, if you want a successful team at work you should always mix business with pleasure. Be always on the lookout for finding new ways to bring pleasure and joy into your business for yourself, your employees and your customers.
For too many companies, building a team means creating a high-powered, smoothly functioning organisation that has plenty of muscle, but not much heart. It is the absence of the human side of a business or organisation that depletes employee morale, and contributes to job dissatisfaction and burnout. By adding an element of fun and celebration to a team-building program, you can take an important step towards humanising your workplace, and creating a sense of heart and soul.
Some managers, however, weaned on a “never mix business with pleasure” attitude, have a difficult time buying into the value of humor. “You can’t be serious?” is the incredulous response to the suggestion to lighten up. And they’re absolutely right. You can’t be serious, at least not if you’re interested in improving staff morale or motivating employees to new heights. And if you want to spark creativity, strengthen teamwork, facilitate open communication, minimize stress levels, reduce employee turnover and absenteeism rates, improve trust between management and employees, offer dynamic customer service and improve productivity, then you can’t be serious. You can’t be serious, because humor can help any organization achieve all those goals.
Adding humour is about celebrating work, not trivializing it. And it’s about mixing humour in an appropriate manner to improve workplace productivity. Learn to take yourself lightly, while still taking your job seriously. When you laugh at yourself, you demonstrate your humanity and openness and encourage others to do likewise. As an added bonus, you take away anyone’s ability to laugh at you. Remember, as a leader, people look to you to set the tone for the office. You have the power to decide whether you’re going to be a roadblock on the inspiration highway or a catalyst for creativity and positive energy.
I've found it beneficial to think about the things that come to steal away my joy. What are your joy-robbers? Maybe it's worry, or frustration, or busyness, or negativity (focusing on what is going wrong) or uncertainty (which often occurs during times of transition). We can learn to be on guard against these things that steal our joy.
It also helps to remember that happiness tends to be based on what 'happens' to us. It is circumstantial and is influenced by things outside of ourselves. Joy, in contrast, comes from the inside and is often a choice - and can occur regardless of our circumstances. Of course, that's easier said than done!
Habakkuk was a farmer living in pre-Christian times. It hadn't been a very productive year on his farm. Yet look what he chose to do:
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains." Habakkuk 3:17-19. NLT
The apostle Paul was in prison (for no fault of his own), yet he wrote this:
"Rejoice in the Lord and again I say, rejoice!" Philippians 4:4.
Jesus' brother, James, wrote this in the first century:
"Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything." James 1:2-4. NLT
There's some challenging attitudes about life and choices to be joyful ... no matter what.
So how can we be more joyful ... beginning today?
Here are three simple things I have found helpful:
1. Choose an attitude of gratitude. Focus on the good things in your life that you can be thankful for. An old hymn puts it this way: "Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done." How easy it is to count our problems or our challenges, rather than our blessings. Gratitude fuels joy.
2. Smile! A smile welcomes people and warms the atmosphere in a room or space. Plus, we usually look better with a smile on our face. [Read more on the importance of a smile]
3. Maintain a sense of wonder. GK Chesterton once said, "The world will never lack for wonders, only for wonder." Like a child, never lose the wonder or the specialness of what is actually precious in your life - like your very breath.
I pray that you will be filled with joy today as you live your life and serve others with the amazing gifts God has given to you.