“Serve the Lord with gladness.” (Ps. 100a) God cares whether or not there is joy in our hearts when we obey Him. He feels so strongly about this that in Deuteronomy He tells Israel they will be enslaved because “you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.” (Deut. 28:47) In Ps. 32:11 he commands us “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Philippians 4:4 sounds the same note: “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, rejoice.” Obviously, these verses aren’t referring to a superficial happiness that depends on the weather, stock market, or our team winning the Superbowl. Nor does the joy God commands cancel out other emotions like grief, surprise, or fear. We all experience various emotions, sometimes simultaneously. However, at the root of our lives God expects there to be a profound joy that is beyond the reach of our circumstances. I want to suggest three reasons why this is so. Joy helps others see the superiority of following Christ. When the Queen of Sheba saw the wisdom and prosperity of Solomon she exclaimed, “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” (1Kings 10:8, ESV) The joy of Solomon’s servants reflected the quality of his rule. Harsh, demanding, miserly masters generally produce fearful, selfish, miserly subjects. What does my life say about the kind of Master I follow? Joy energizes our serving. My two sons, both married now, rarely felt motivated to take out the trash as they were growing up. Whenever we discussed why, they often cited laziness as the root issue. Laziness was definitely a factor, but I was never convinced it was the root. Devon and Jordan both played basketball, and neither one ever had a problem finding strength to spend hours refining their basketball skills. In fact, they actually looked forward to practices that left them dripping in sweat. We always find energy and discipline for the things we derive joy from. Bottom line – if we’re happy serving God, it will be easier. Joy is what we were made for. God promises that the redeemed that “everlasting joy shall be upon their heads” (Is. 51:11), and that heaven will be a place where all tears will be wiped away. (Rev. 21:4) We will enjoy pleasures at God’s right hand forever, because in His presence there is fullness of joy. (Ps. 16:11) Since I was created for eternal joy in God, it only makes sense that joy would characterize my life now. But can this be true? Can I know joy even in a world filled with pain, tragedy, grief, poverty, and a thousand other hindrances to joy? Can I “serve the Lord with gladness” today, even if I’m in the midst of suffering, sin, and sorrow? Yes, but only if I anchor my joy not in the passing pleasures of this world, but in the ultimate reality of Jesus Christ. A million enemies seek to pull me away from my only true source of joy, but chief among them is my sin. In a book I just added to my recommended books list, John Piper writes: “My indwelling sin stands in the way of my full satisfaction in God. It opposes and perverts my pursuit of God. It opposes by making other things look more desirable than God. And it perverts by making me think I am pursuing joy in God when, in fact, I am in love with his gifts.” (When I Don’t Desire God, p. 14) Which do I love more – God’s gifts or God Himself? My answer to that question will determine whether or not I will serve the Lord with gladness. God may withdraw His gifts. He will never withdraw His love from those He has redeemed in Jesus Christ. And for that reason, we can experience a joy that is deep, passionate, and eternal. May it be evident in our lives each day we have the joy of knowing and following the Savior of the world.