What is joy? Where does it come from? Why is it mentioned several times in the Bible? How do we get joy? Perhaps you have asked some of these questions and wondered what the answer is as to what joy is or isn’t. I believe that joy comes from the wellspring of a God-centered life, it does not want from others what they cannot give, it means tears are signs of compassion, and happiness is a myth because joy is long-lasting and much more satisfying than mere happiness. Let’s chat about how we can be joyful in the Lord today!
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah, Psalm 47:1-4, (English Standard Version or ESV).
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 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. Luke 15:3-7, (ESV).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24, (ESV).
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2, (ESV).
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:1-4, (ESV).
These are probably the most quoted verses on joy in the Bible, but what do they mean? Let’s take these verses apart and find what they are talking about as it pertains to the concept of joy. And because I am a list maker at heart I think I will list the attributes of joy.
- The expression of joy involves action as we see in the first passage. The people were told to sing songs of joy.
- The joy expressed is part of the act of praising God.
- Joy is expressed not only on earth but also in heaven especially when a sinner repents.
- Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
- We are to be completed by our joy in Christ as an encouragement to us and to others.
- Joy brings about unity in love.
- When going through tough times (trials) we are to count it as joy, to consider it a joy to endure and persevere because there is a reason for the testing of our faith, to make us stronger and stable and steadfast and joyful in Christ Jesus.
I don’t know about you but when I am going through a tough time the last thing I think about it being glad that I am being knocked about in my life. Notice particularly the last passage in James. James is not writing to Christians that are having an easy time, rather James is writing To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion. That is the Jewish Christians that have been routed out of their comfortable homes and into other areas of what is now the Middle East. Their family and friends are dying because of the faith they hold in believing that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and not just a good teacher. The next moment it may be them that are killed. They are not able to find work and may be living in extreme poverty. And yet James writes that they are to consider all their pain and suffering as joyful!! How can they be joyful? How can this compare to the joyful singing noted in the first passage we looked at? How can this joy compare to the repentance of one person as we saw in one of the other passages? How can this be?
I believe that James was extremely encouraging to the readers of his letter and I believe that his words are an encouragement to anyone going through such turmoil today. James is reminding us that the pain of this world is nothing compared to the pain in the next world if we abandon our belief in Jesus Christ. Those who take the easy way out, which at the time of James writing this letter meant they abandoned their faith in Jesus Christ, would have consequences for an eternity. If you were told that you could have a nice home, a good job, and good schools for your children if you stop believing in Jesus Christ wouldn’t you be putting your eternal future at risk? That is the point James is making. Nothing in this world is worth losing your salvation, nothing!
Jesus said while still on earth that His followers would have suffering and would be hated by the world because the world hated Him (John 15:18). The same holds true today just as it did to the first hearers of this letter. The world has not changed its attitude toward Jesus Christ because the world is run by Satan and Satan wants to destroy Jesus and all of Jesus’s followers. Most of us have not experienced such hatred just because we are Christians. Many in the world around us have experienced such hatred and are still experiencing today such hatred. James’s writing is as timely today as it was back when he wrote it. Joy is not happiness, joy does not bubble out of us unless we understand that joy comes from the wellspring of our very soul because we are at peace with God. Happiness is fleeting, for a moment or two we are happy. When I see my granddaughter or my children I am happy. When they leave I may feel sad. But joy is with me always, never leaves me, and is not dependent upon someone else doing something for me. No joy comes from my God-centered life. I am joyful when I am happy but I am also joyful when I am hurting physically or emotionally or when I am with someone else who is hurting physically or emotionally. Why? Because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I belong to Jesus Christ and that Jesus is God’s only Son, and that heaven awaits me regardless of what happens here on earth.
Joy does not stand alone. Remember what we read in the Galatians passage? Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We love because God loved us first and extends His love to us. That brings us joy because we are at peace with God. Such peace with God allows us to be kind to others as well as being filled with everything good which in turn helps us to remain faithful to God. Faithfulness helps us to be gentle and when we are gentle we are in control of all our emotions, attitudes, and actions. That is what is so great about joy; it begins with love, the love that fills our hearts up to an overflowing from the springs of life, from the rivers of peace, from God our Father! Today, this very moment, why not spread your joy around to a world that is hurting and has no clue what real joy is like.