What is Joy?
Joy is often described as a feeling of great happiness. But the Joy that we talk about here, described in Galatians 5 as the fruit of the spirit is ‘Spiritual Joy’. It goes beyond happiness. Happiness is external, dependent on things that happen to and around us. Spiritual Joy is more than that, it is the joy of faith, of hope, of love, it is joy in Christ, in righteousness and in things eternal. It comes from within, it is a condition of the heart, a state of one’s mind, not dictated by circumstances, incidents or life events.
What causes us to be Joyful?
Since spiritual Joy is not dependent on external things happening to us but is from within, what causes us to be Joyful?
Luke 2:10 says “The angel said to them, do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great Joy for all the people.”
The good news that causes us great Joy is a person: Jesus, who came as man to offer an alternative to us all who were devoid of real hope. He died on a cross in order to redeem humanity, announced himself as coming “to bring good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free’ (Luke 4:18).
There is Joy that comes from our salvation as Isaiah 61:10-11 says “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Our salvation allows us to be in relationship with the Father, to be in communion with Him, it allows us to have that sure hope of life eternal with Him and have His presence with us now – what wonderful reasons to be filled with Joy.
Joy in His presence
Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with Joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 21:6b says “you have made him glad with the Joy of your presence.”
We read in Acts 13:52 about the disciples being ‘continually being filled with Joy through the Holy Spirit.’
These verses remind us that with His presence comes an assurance of being filled with His Joy. However weary a soul, time in His presence will never fail to replenish, uplift, unburden and fill one’s heart with the Joy of the Lord.
In Philippians 4:4, Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice!
Paul did not speak about rejoicing always while living a life disconnected from trials, he understood and experienced joy through all circumstances and he asks us to do the same.
How are we to rejoice always?
The crux is to reflect on what we hinge our rejoicing in. What is Paul asking us to rejoice in? He asks us to ‘Rejoice in the Lord’.
I share a quote I read which says it all “We were created to find Joy in our creator but we look for it in fallen created things”.
We read in James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance .Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It is a challenge to feel Joyful when we are going through a tough time, when all we see and hear is more of the wrong than the good that is happening around us. What are we to do at those times, Paul writes in Romans 15:13a “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Paul writes this as a prayer, a wonderful reminder for us that when we struggle to feel Joy, speak to God about it, ask Him to realign your focus towards Him, so that the weight of your trial will not sink you but will only make your roots grow deeper in Him.
Psalm 94:19 reminds us of the Joy that comes with comfort from the Lord, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
Habakkuk gives us one of the strongest affirmations of faith. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”
He shares his learned lesson of faith, to trust in God’s providence regardless of circumstances. He declares that even when faced with trials of loss and suffering, he will choose to be joyful in the Lord. Habakkuk had his heart and mind set on God and God alone, which enabled him to have such a perspective.
In Hebrews 12:2 we read “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Jesus gave us the best example of fixing our eyes on that which is eternal rather than that which is temporary. In this fallen world, we are bound to experience tears, pain and grief, but we do not lose hope because scripture reassures us that the prospect of the righteous is Joy (Proverbs 10:28).
How can we have this spiritual joy?
In John 15:10-11, Jesus says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Sin dampens spiritual joy. This verse above emphasises that true discipleship cannot be separated from walking in obedience to God. And to have and experience spiritual Joy, our walk has to be reflective of that true discipleship.
Spiritual Joy is not a reverberation of a life of ease, it is the exhilaration that comes from being right with God, walking in obedience to Him with a hope that is outside of us and our circumstances.