Our world seems to have a distressing shortage of joy, and an excess of fear, worry, discouragement and depression.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have deep and enduring joy! To be full of joy. Well, we can!
People often confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is derived from the root “to happen.” In other words, happiness is something that is dependent on what happens to us.
Happiness is based on external realities. Therefore, happiness is never something that is constant, because circumstances always change.
We can’t be in a state of happiness all the time - God never intended this. As stated in Ecclesiastes 3:4 there is
“a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”.
Unlike happiness, we don’t experience joy because of the perfection of the circumstances around us, but because of the presence of Christ within us. It is not based on external realities, but on an internal and eternal reality! Happiness depends on happenings, while joy depends on God and His son Jesus! Since circumstances constantly change, but God never changes, we can be joyful always!
True joy comes from an intimate relationship with Christ. Jesus said:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5).
The apostle Paul in Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the spirit which may be created in a follower of Christ. Fruits such as love, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control and JOY!
John continues in chapter 15 and outlines how we may achieve this joy:
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full”
A joyful life is possible because of our never changing love relationship with the Lord. It is a life that is Christ centred.
Jesus tells us that He loves us, even as the Father loves Him - in an everlasting way. Yet, if we are to experience joy as a result of this truth, we must “remain in His love.” How do we do this? Jesus tells us in verse 10. By being obedient.
This sounds a chore, but as we learn more of God’s love we realise that as 1 John 5:3 tells us
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commands are not burdensome.”
They don’t weigh us down. Keeping His commands gives us a joyful and happy life with the knowledge that we abide in His love.
The more we obey God, the more we are assured of His love for us and His joy in us. His desire is not to burden us, but to bless us!
God’s joy is in His people who find joy in a growing awareness of His love for them.
Joy in Christ is made up of a variety of emotions: happiness, gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and positive attitudes.
Joy looks outward, resisting self-pity and self-absorption. It’s focussing on loving others and loving God and being grateful for what God has done for us.
Joy appears so many times in the Bible. It’s a key theme outlining its importance to God and His wishes for His believers.
You may remember a classic children’s novel entitled ‘Pollyanna’ which refers to this theme. One of my favourite stories. Pollyanna is in conversation with the local minister as follows:
“The Rejoicing Texts. Well, that's what father used to call 'em," she laughed. "Of course the Bible didn't name 'em that. But it's all those that begin 'Be glad in the Lord,' or 'Rejoice greatly,' or 'Shout for joy,' and all that, you know--such a lot of 'em. Once, when father felt specially bad, he counted 'em. There were eight hundred of 'em."
"Yes--that told you to rejoice and be glad, you know; that's why father named 'em the 'rejoicing texts.' "
"Oh!" There was an odd look on the minister's face. His eyes had fallen to the words on the top paper in his hands …And so your father--liked those 'rejoicing texts,' " he murmured.
"Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. "He said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it’.
Joy is not optional. God actually commands us to be joyful. He places great importance on it. In Deuteronomy 28:47, He reprimands His people for not serving Him with joy:
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance off all things”
Paul states in Philippians 4:4:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice”
Joy doesn’t extinguish sorrow. This is the difference between Godly joy and happiness. Those who have joy frequently experience godly sorrow at the same time. For example, we can feel sorrow at the death of a loved one, but comfort and joy that our loss is only temporary, that they will be resurrected to be in God’s kingdom. Or sadness of our shortcomings before God, but joy associated with God’s forgiveness and grace.
The Christian knows that all suffering is limited to this short life, and the time will soon come when “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4). They “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).
James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance”—perseverance in remaining faithful to God (James 1:2, NIV).
Jesus experienced great sorrow. In fact, Isaiah stated that he would be ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’.
But even though he was rejected by many, mocked and crucified, he maintained immense joy in his God and his faith.
“But now I come to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’ John 17:13
The disciples were “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
True joy that is based on faith commences with Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20). By having an intimate relationship with God and His son as Psalms 43:4 calls “God my exceeding joy.”
“In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:11).
It is God’s will for us to feel joyful. If we feel burdened down by sorrow and fear, turn to God and develop a relationship with Him and you will be just as the first disciples who were: “filled with joy”.