How to Work God's Joy-machine
Charles Naylor, 1920
It was a bright, sunny morning as Brother Littlejoy walked down the street toward the railway-station. But somehow the brightness of the morning was not reflected in Brother Littlejoy's face. He seemed gloomy; his gaze rested upon the ground. As he entered the waiting-room, he saw a man with a smiling countenance, and he said to himself, "Why, there is Brother Joyful."
Brother Joyful, seeing Brother Littlejoy, hastened to him and shook hands with him warmly and said, "Good morning, Brother Littlejoy. What a fine morning this is! It seems that all nature is rejoicing in the spring sunshine. But, Brother Littlejoy, why do you look so gloomy this morning — when everything else seems so bright?"
"Oh," said Brother Littlejoy, "I have so many troubles and worries and perplexities, so many trials and difficulties — that it seems I have little joy in my life. I never can understand how you are always so joyful. You always have a smile for everybody and never seem to have any of the worries and troubles that other people have. You seem to be, as Paul said, 'always rejoicing.' How I wish I were as you are! It certainly must be a happy life."
"Oh," replied Brother Joyful, "I think I have my full share of the troubles of life. You know everyone must expect trials and afflictions. We all have plenty of them — but that is not the cause of your trouble. It is not the number of trials and perplexities people have which keep them from being joyful; for some of the most joyful people whom I know have many cares, sorrows, and troubles. There is just one thing wrong in your case, Brother Littlejoy — you have not learned how to work God's joy-machine."
"God's joy-machine!" exclaimed Brother Littlejoy, "why, I did not even know that he had one. What do you mean by God's 'joy-machine'?"
Brother Joyful laughed, and his eyes twinkled as he said, "Come over here, and let me give you an object-lesson."
So they walked over to the side of the room where two machines were standing side by side.
"You see this weighing-machine," said Brother Joyful; "I will just step upon it and get weighed."
He stepped upon the platform of the machine — but the indicator remained at zero.
"Why, it seems it does not work this morning!"
"Of course not," answered Brother Littlejoy, "you have to drop a penny in the slot before it will act."
Then Brother Joyful took a penny from his pocket and dropped it into the slot. The indicator immediately flew around on the dial.
"One hundred and seventy-two pounds," said Brother Joyful. "That is just what I weighed two weeks ago. Now let us try this one, and have some music."
So saying, he took a disk from the rack and adjusted it in the machine and pressed the lever — but nothing moved; no music came forth.
"Why," said Brother Littlejoy, "it will not play until you drop a nickel into the slot."
"Oh," said Brother Joyful, "that's the way!"
He dropped a nickel into the slot, and the machine began sounding forth its melody.
Sitting down on a seat nearby, they listened until the music ceased, when Brother Joyful said: "You see I might have stood there on the platform of that weighing-machine all day and wished to have known my weight ever so much — but I would not have found it out until I had dropped a penny into the slot. We might have stood there by the music-box all day and wished to hear it play; we might have asked it ever so earnestly to play for us; but until the nickel was dropped into the slot, there could be no music. Now, God has a joy-machine, and it works on the plan of these machines. You can see its picture almost anywhere in the Bible. But there is a real place where you can get the joy — real joy and there is plenty of it. This music-box will play a tune for each nickel dropped into it, and so God's joy-machine will yield you a heartful of joyfulness every time you can get it to work, and it always works whenever you proceed right. Some people merely stand around and look at the box. They see others getting joy out of it and often try to get joy — but somehow it does not work for them. The trouble is, they do not put in the coin — in other words, they do not do what is necessary to get the machine to work. The joy is there, plenty of it, enough for everybody; there is no reason why people should be without it."
"Well," sighed Brother Littlejoy, "I would give almost anything if I knew how to get joy like you — but I suppose it is not for me."
"Right there is where you are mistaken," said Brother Joyful. "Take another lesson from those machines yonder. They are set out in plain sight, and everybody who wishes, may, by dropping coins into the slots, get what the machines have to give. The more coins dropped, the better the owners are pleased. They do not want the people's weights, they do not want the music; these are provided for the public; and whoever will may have his full satisfaction on certain conditions.
Now, God's joy for his children is just the same — the more they have of it, the better pleased he is. The more joyful they are — the more joyful he is. You are mistaken in thinking that you are denied joy. You are not denied it any more than you are denied music from the music-box. If you know how to operate the box and are willing to pay the price — then you may have plenty of music. It is equally true that if you are willing to pay the price, you can work God's joy-machine all you please."
"Well," said Brother Littlejoy, "I do wish I knew how. And what do you mean by the price of joy?"
"It is something many people have not learned yet," answered Brother Joyful; "but I will tell you the secret. I will tell you how I get God's joy-machine to operate. A specified coin is required to operate these machines — but there are many different things that will work God's machine. Sometimes one thing will do it, sometimes another, and sometimes it takes several things together. The first thing I try is obedience. Whole-hearted obedience to the Lord, never fails to bring me a good supply of joy — but that is a price many people are not willing to pay. They would like to have the joy — but when it comes to obeying God and throwing their whole soul into that obedience, they draw back. Often they obey reluctantly, with more or less unwillingness in their hearts, or they want to do it just a little differently from God's way. That kind of obedience never makes the joy-machine work. There are others who are willing to obey God, provided he will do so-and-so to suit them. Such people wait a long time for their joy. So long as the heart is closed up against God's commands, you can count on God keeping a lock on the joy-machine.
"Sometimes, and very often too, we have to drop some trust into the slot. If you are doubting God and questioning whether he means what he says or whether he will keep his promises — then the machine will not work. When I want a feast of joy, I make sure that I am obeying God, and that I believe him — that I trust myself and my all completely into his hands, and that I feel perfectly safe in doing so; that I believe his watchful eye is over me and his everlasting arms are beneath me, and that he will work out everything for my good and keep me in whatever circumstances I am placed. That is what makes the joy-machine work. Often it brings 'joy unspeakable and full of glory.'
"Of course, there is something else that goes with obedience and trust, and which is really a part of them. It is submission. Unless our hearts say, 'May Your will be done!' — the joy-bells will not ring much. If we get any joy, it will be only a sort of human enthusiasm. The heart must say this. It is not enough for the mouth to say it; the heart must neither say it reluctantly nor hesitatingly, for the joy will not come until the heart submits unreservedly.
"Praise is another thing that makes the machine work; that is, the kind of praise that comes from the depths of the heart — the kind that comes spontaneously from a deep appreciation of God's goodness and mercy. Only those who obey God have this kind. We may shout God's praise loud enough to be heard two blocks away; but if we are not obeying him — then he knows that it is a pretense, and it will not work the machine. One may be ever so enthusiastic, and seem to be very happy — but if he is not obeying God, then nothing will come out of God's joy-machine. Praise amounts to much, when there is obedience behind it — but is nothing but noise when there is no sincere obedience and submission.
"Sometimes it is patience which makes the machine work. Sometimes when opposition or accusation come or when railing, abuse, scorn, or similar things must be borne — the joy-machine does not work immediately. We have to put a good supply of patience into the slot, and perhaps suffer a while; but when the proper time comes, they will make the machine work all right.
"A smile or a cheery word or a bit of song, a kindly greeting, or almost any kindly act put into the slot — may fill up our cup with joy when we are not expecting it.
"Sometimes nothing but enduring a hard trial will start the joy flowing. One may not be very joyful during the trial; for the joy generally comes at the end of the trial.
"Some people think that it would be pleasant if they could put their trials into the slot and make the joy-machine work — but it does not work that way. It is the endurance that makes it work, and the endurance will not make it work until it is dropped into the slot; that is, until we have endured through to the end of the trial.
"Then, I find things in my pocket-book, too, that I can drop into the slot to make the machine work. Money in the pocket-book will not make God's joy-machine work — any more than it will make yonder machine play music. When people look into their pocket-books and see only money, the only joy it can make is a sort of selfish, human joy.
"I know of people who can see something besides money in their pocket-books. Why, just the other day Brother Sympathy looked into his pocket-book and saw a sack of flour there for the Widow Grimes. And last fall one day he looked into it and saw a whole ton of coal for old Mrs. Benson and an overcoat for Tom Jones, and a little later he found a pair of shoes for Johnnie Peters. Of course, he took them all out and delivered them to their owners. I suppose you wonder why his face shone so in meeting. It was because these things, and many more like them, kept God's joy-machine going.
"Now, Brother Littlejoy, I have told you a few of the things that will make the machine work when put into the slot, and I am sure that if you will use them, your joy-cup will not be empty much of the time."
"Well, Brother Joyful," said Brother Littlejoy, "you have surely taught me a lesson. If that is the way to get joy and if I can have it as well as anybody — then I think I shall try to get my share in the future. But how am I to get rid of all my troubles and worries and heavy burdens?"
"Why," answered Brother Joyful, "you are working the wrong machine."
"What do you mean?" asked Brother Littlejoy.
"Why, Satan has a slot-machine also, and many people are working it overtime. Some good people are working it — but they do not know they are using Satan's machine."
"Please explain yourself," said Brother Littlejoy; "I do not know what you mean."
"It is this way," replied Brother Joyful; "Satan has a great machine, or I might say several different ones, and there are many different things that can be dropped into the slots to make them work. But none of the things that work God's machine will work Satan's. Now, you have, you say, despondency and gloom and such things. These come from Satan's machine. This is the way it works. If you drop some unbelief into the slot — you get darkness and fear. If you drop some doubts into the slot — you get gloom and despondency. If you drop some disobedience into the slot — you get condemnation. If you drop some fear into the slot — you get weakness. If you drop some murmuring into the slot — you get discouragement. Oh, there are many things you can get out of Satan's machine; and he is very glad to have you get them. Drop in some cross words, some fretfulness, some self-will, a little pride, a little suspicion of the brethren, a little envy, or anything of that sort — and you will get a large return from Satan.
"Now, as I said, Brother Littlejoy, you have been working the wrong machine, and if you will just think a while, you may be able to tell what you have been putting into the slot to get these things that you would like to be rid of. Perhaps it is a little disobedience or self-will or unbelief. Make a good prayerful search and find out; then stop dropping things into the devil's slot-machine! Turn your attention to learning how to operate God's joy machine, and I am sure you will soon see a gratifying change."
As Brother Littlejoy walked out of the door, he said to himself, "I think Brother Joyful is right; I will begin working the other machine!"