My definition of joy is this: The childlike wonder and excitement of working with God instead of working for God. This attitude and philosophy is in keeping with what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom . . . ”
It impossible under a religious mindset to have true joy because religion only becomes joyful with perfection, while family celebrates and becomes joyful with progress. Performance-based living blocks the cheerful heart, as do negative mindsets (such as slave, servant, and orphan mindsets), but as we embrace the heart of a son or daughter to our Father, we also embrace walking in greater joy.
Wherever you find real hope, you will find “all joy” too. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Increasing hope and joy is the fruit of having good beliefs. Many affirm good doctrines but are plagued by bad beliefs (believing lies about God, themselves, others and circumstances).
Let’s look at four components concerning my definition of joy:
- Childlike wonder – Little children see the world with fresh eyes. My grandchildren re-energize my excitement for life through their excitement for things I have grown too familiar with. I believe wonder is like a muscle we can strengthen in our lives. Bill Johnson, senior leader at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, has built a culture where we passionately celebrate testimonies people share of what God has done. We applaud. We stand. We shout because he is WONDERful. We can develop this in other areas as well.
- Adventure – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Here is the Backlund expanded version of this verse: “Enjoy yourself in the Lord. Relish in His goodness. Revel in the adventure of walking with Him. Savor every moment with Him. Delight in His unconditional love. Get over condemnation, unworthiness, introspection and false humility; and become like a little child in a candy shop with Him.”
- Working With God – God partners with our ideas, our thoughts, our hopes, our prophetic acts, our words, and our actions. “Steve, give Me something to work with” was a clear word He spoke to me years ago. For example, Jesus did not create wine out of thin air in John 2. He said, “Give me those pots. Put some water in them.” He needed something to partner with. When we understand this, and when we understand His heart to have fun with us, then we develop a whole new mindset of doing life and ministry with Him.
- Not Working For God – How do we know if we are working for God, instead of working with God? Some of the signs are perfectionism, chronic fear of punishment, being overly obedience-focused, not getting hope every time we read the Bible, and letting apparent failure in an area of our lives create an identity for us.
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ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.