“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
When I first heard someone say that joy was ⅓ of the Kingdom, I thought to myself, “I don’t think so. It cannot not be that important.” Since then, I have become convinced it actually is.
I believe righteousness, peace, and joy each are ⅓ of the Kingdom. If we get those right, we will get the Kingdom right.
As we focus on righteousness, we will:
Understand the gospel of grace and will reign in life (Romans 5:17)
Get our identity established because we will know we are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Recognize that our belief we are righteous is the main key to manifesting righteous behavior (John 8:31-32)
As we aim our attention on peace, we will:
Increase our trust in God and overcome worry (Philippians 4:6-7)
Prioritize healthy and loving relationships (Romans 12:18)
Have confidence in our relationship with God (Romans 5:1)
With that said, this blog is about the “joy third” of the kingdom. As I emphasize this, I want to highlight three verses in the Bible. They are three of many, but these have especially spoken to me recently.
The Culture of Gladness Verse – “Your God, has anointed You (Jesus) with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:9). The context of this verse is about Jesus loving righteousness and hating wickedness (being in the right relationship with God under the Old Covenant law), and this was the reason He was anointed with the oil of gladness above all others. Because of our faith in Christ’s perfect obedience for us, we too are anointed with oil of gladness. This contributed to my belief joy is ⅓ of the Kingdom because:
Great leaders (including parents) create a culture of gladness around them. To do this, we must defeat unworthiness, controlling others, fear of punishment, manipulation, and a whole host of other non-Kingdom advancing mindsets.
Gladness includes laughter. I have a difficult time trusting the perspective of any leader who does not value laughter. Laughter is not the only component of the culture of gladness (and I recognize we don’t laugh all the time), but it is an important one. To laugh, we have to let go of something, and those somethings are important for a healthy kingdom increase.
Serving the Lord With Gladness Verse – “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalms 100:1-2). I believe when we have consistently let go of gladness in our commitments, responsibilities, or assignments, then we have most likely hit the lid of our influence and kingdom increase. When we pursue serving the Lord with gladness, we will:
Realize there is no convenient time to be radically joyful. There is seemingly always a reason why now is not a good time to be joyful. I used to unconsciously believe there would come a day when everything would be lined up for my joy (no personal weaknesses, no financial needs, no relational challenges, no uncertainties for the future, and no negative news in the media). That was a delusion.
Understand faithfulness is not just showing up, but how we think when we show up. We show up full of faith, and I believe gladness is one of the fruits of faith. We cannot wait for a better time to bring ourselves fully and enthusiastically to the places and people we are called to. We all have things in our current assignments we do not like. As we push against this resistance with gladness, we will build our joy muscle.;
Recognize regular gladness is one of the signs we have passed the tests at the level we are in, and we are ready for promotion and more of the kingdom.
Being a Cheerful Decider Verse – “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This verse empowers us to develop a good decision making process and then attach faith to those decisions (purposes in our hearts). As I have meditated on this verse, I reached these conclusions which further strengthen my belief that joy is ⅓ of the kingdom.
Cheerfulness is one of the main evidences we have attached faith to our decisions.
Any responsibility, commitment, or assignment that I do not have cheerfulness in is most likely an indicator I have not attached faith to doing it. This could be ministry assignments, meetings I attend, my marriage, bills I pay, or mowing the grass.
Declarations are a powerful way to attach faith to what I am doing or will do. When I speak out loud, “This is going to be a great meeting,” energy, power, and cheerfulness start to bubble up in me.
Is joy ⅓ of the kingdom? Do great influencers prioritize the creation of a culture of gladness? I believe so. When we pursue joy:
We will be compelled to overcome the real enemies of the kingdom (victim mindsets, pessimism, fear, unworthiness, insignificance, etc.)
We will need to deal with the doubt and double mindedness fueling our lack of attaching faith to our assignments, responsibilities, and commitments.
We will be led to create an environment that people will want to be a part of and will thrive in.
Let’s go for it and create a greater culture of gladness in us and around us. We (and others) won’t be sorry.
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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.