Joy: Feelings of great happiness or pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind.
Funny, even the Encarta Dictionary hints that joy is so much more than just “happiness” or “pleasure.” True joy is deeper, elevated above the normal pleasures of life. The purest kind of joy is found, quite simply, in Christ (I.E. “the spiritual kind”)! This is the joy that is found as the second fruit of the Spirit.
You (God) will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Christians should be the most joyful people on earth. We live in the presence of God, and in Him is the fullness of joy! True Christians can’t help but sing joyfully or make a joyful noise to the Lord! No wonder David, the man after God’s own heart, mentioned joy so much in his Psalms.
Jesus, right before he was betrayed, told of this joy we have in Him. At the time, His disciples were deeply confused and worried, for Jesus had just revealed to them that He must “go to Him who sent Me.” Jesus comforted them with these words:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament; but your grief will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” (John 16: 20-24)
Jesus loves us more than we could ever imagine and wants our joy to be complete in Him; that much is pretty clear even from this passage. Isn’t it awesome being a Christian?
Do you ever have a problem feeling joyful? Me too. Sometimes things seem just too stressful or (to use teenager lingo) “messed up” to have this abundant joy in God. Jesus must have known that worry would often claim mortal combat with this joy we are meant to live in, for He devotes a good chunk of His Sermon on the Mount on the subject of worry. You can read the whole passage in Mathew 6:25-34, but the passage can be summarized in these verses:
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mathew 6:31-34)
We can trust our God! We need never worry about anything, for He knows what we need and will provide for us. Even when it’s hard, we can always have joy in God!
Another way to cultivate this joy in our lives is simply to abide in Jesus’s love:
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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 so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:9-11)
As I detailed in my previous post of this series, it all goes back to keeping God’s commandments. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be a main theme of this study on the fruits of the Spirit. If you keep God’s commandments, you will abide in Christ’s love; if you abide in Christ’s love, your joy will be made full!
I ditto Paul’s prayer to the Romans for all of us:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)