Join the Marines and be happy. That’s an order.

Some people who read my blogs have said that one phrase that recurs is “I don’t watch much tv, however…”. Well, I don’t watch much tv, however, a while back I watched a bit of a documentary on new recruits in the Marines – Royal Marines, that is. Most of it was what you would expect. A demanding training regimen. Recruits having second thoughts. Overbearing NCOs.

And then the surprise. A recruit was asked to repeat the four values that made up the commando spirit or mindset. Courage. Obvious. Cowards do not volunteer for the Marines – unless it is an extreme way of trying to conquer their cowardice.

Determination. Of course. You do not become a fully fledged Marine without a lot of grit.

Unselfishness. Well, there is a revelation. To be a Marine you have to, in biblical language, die to self. Makes sense really. If you’re on the field of battle looking out for number one, you’re a liability.

But it was the next one that really ambushed me: cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Marines are expected to be cheerful! At sometime in the history of this elite regiment, someone decided that cheerfulness was a key component in shaping the commando spirit.

I would suggest that cheerfulness is a key component of the Christian spirit or Christian mindset. If, like me, you have read the NIV or King James Version of the scriptures for most of your life, you will be familiar with 1 Thessalonians 5.16:

“Rejoice evermore” (King James Version) or “Rejoice always” (NIV).

However, The Message translates this verse:  “Be cheerful no matter what”. The implication is that you can choose to be cheerful. Or you can choose to be uncheerful. Fortunately, we are not left to our own best efforts to be cheerful. The Holy Spirit, according to Galatians 5.22 enables us to choose cheerfulness. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.

Cheerfulness is not just a stand alone quality. The context of 1 Thessalonians 5 links it with prayer and thankfulness. Cheerfulness without prayerfulness will soon evaporate. Thankfulness completes cheerfulness:

 “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)

It’s the way God wants you to live. It’s the Christian spirit.

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