Do you want joy?
There is one way to find joy that is guaranteed and will work every time.
The main word translated joy in the New Testament is derived from rejoicing. It can be translated as joy, delight or gladness.
True joy comes from a close relationship with God
One of the consequences of being intimate with God is that of delight and joy 1(Psalm 16:11) 11 You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.. It is a mistake for Christians to primarily seek joy in worldly things and situations. Some of the most unhappy people I have ever encountered have had, according to the world’s view, the most necessary for happiness. The more we delight ourselves in God the more joyous our lives become 2(Psalm 37:4) 4 Also delight yourself in Yahweh, and he will give you the desires of your heart..
Joy develops little by little over time
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit 3(Galatians 5:22) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, and it develops as any fruit of the Spirit does in a Christians life through a process over a period of time. This developmental process the Bible calls sanctification. Because joy is the work of God in a Christian’s life it is often not dependant on circumstances. Some of the most joyous Christians I have known have gone through the most difficult of circumstances.
Joy in this life is not constant
True Christianity is a life-giving and liberating way of living 4(John 10:10) 10 The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.. This does not mean that Christians who are following God are permanently happy or walking around with a big smile on their faces. There is much in life that is painful and challenging. People who honestly are walking with God will be very real about the troubles of life. They know how to weep with those who weep as well as rejoicing with those who rejoice 5(Romans 12:15) 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.. Jesus promised that we would have troubles in this world 6(John 16:33) 33 I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.”. Troubles are not troubles unless they are troubling to us.
Having an expectation of continuous joy is not Biblical
There has been a lot of wrong teaching that has left Christians with a false understanding about joy. When they are not feeling joyful people can end up feeling condemned or guilty because of this.
This is the day that the Lord has made
One scripture that is often misquoted is (Psalm 118:24) “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” This has been popularised by a song and it has fed the expectation that Christians should not be unhappy. It is very important to always consider the context of any scripture. The context of this rejoicing and being glad is because the Psalmist was delivered out of extreme distress (Psalm 118:5) “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place”. The rejoicing followed being distressed. The day that the Lord had made was the day of deliverance. If we look at godly people throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments we see them often being troubled, experiencing sorrow but then rejoicing in the deliverances of God.
True joy is not dependent upon circumstances
In one sense joy can be experienced even in the deepest sorrow and distress. Many persecuted Christians could hardly be described as happy in their circumstances yet they know the consolation and joy of God with them. It is unreal to ignore the very real sorrows we face and the emotional impact they have upon us. Consider what the Bible says about these things 7(2 Timothy 2:3)3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus..
Joyful or Happy?
Another false idea that has surfaced is that somehow joy and happiness are different. This has been an attempt to reconcile the false idea that we are joyful all the time with the fact that often Christians feel unhappy. For hundreds of years respected Christian teachers taught clearly that joy and happiness were the same. It was only when the idea that not being joyful was somehow wrong that people created a false division of the two words. Again, and again the Bible uses joy and happiness together 8(Esther 8:16 NIV) 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor..
How can we have a close relationship with God?
We do this by:
- Truly becoming a Christian. This involves believing what Jesus has said and trusting our lives to Him. It also means we confess that He is Lord of all 9(Romans 10:9) 9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved..
- Turning from wrongdoing and loving what is right. God draws near to us as we draw near to Him. This is done by turning away from wrongdoing 10(James 4:8) 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Jesus loved what was right and hated what was wrong and God anointed Him with the oil of gladness 11(Hebrews 1:9) 9 You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.”.
As we love what is right and hate what is wrong in practice so we will know ever increasing joy culminating in unbroken joy forever upon the New Earth that God will create.
Next time we will look at the reasons we are not more joyous in our lives and consider what we can do about this.
- Are you basically a happy or sad person?
- Should you feel guilty about feeling sad?
- Do you believe you should be joyful all the time? If so, how is this working for you in reality?