What makes us joyful? What unleashes a burst of happy feelings? What, if anything, triggers a lasting happiness?
For sports fans, we just had an overdose of endorphins with the Olympics. The exhilaration of Usain Bolt’s triple triple in winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay will be hard to top for a long time.
There was perhaps not a downcast soul in Singapore – well at least for 50:39 seconds – as Joseph Schooling won the nation’s first Olympics gold.
People cheered, cried and hugged anyone in huggable range as Schooling pipped his childhood hero, Michael Phelps, to the touch line in Olympic record time.
Lesson? Personal joy is great but nothing beats the sheer euphoria of shared joy of a shared victory we all long for.
This is the joy Jesus speaks of in Luke 15:7 – “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Our family was blessed to experience this unspeakable joy when my father-in- law believed in Jesus and I baptised him.
He was, up to that point, insistent that he would carry on with the ancestral worship of his extended family and be buried with his forefathers.
But, in what turned out to be his last weeks, he changed his mind. It seemed like the many years of prayers, reading the Bible and sharing Jesus with him – by Mona especially – suddenly broke through.
Salvation is often like a life-saving light in pitch darkness or a flood in a parched land. Why? Because it brings about the most necessary change we desperately need but deny: to be right with God.
The fundamental pre-condition to being right with God is that we cannot be righteous in our own eyes.
That is what the Pharisees and religious elite kept murmuring about. Why was Jesus a holy man always hanging around the wrong company of unholy people – from tax collectors, prostitutes to sinners?
Jesus exposed a most fatal spiritual problem: presumption. They presumed they were the only righteous ones with God because only they knew how to read the Jewish Bible, keep the Law and do God’s work.
As such they could not rejoice in what Jesus was doing for God – offering forgiveness and new life with Him – by coming as a doctor to save the sick.
We cannot partake of the true joy of being healed until we humbly accept we are really sick in the first place.
The joke about Schooling is that everyone is claiming a share in his record breaking victory. The Eurasians claim his Portuguese descent. The Malaysians claim his mother’s lineage. And the Filipinos claim his domestic helper’s care.
The only way to be part of Jesus’ victory is to confess our sins and our desperate need of him as our Saviour. That brings unspeakable joy.