Often when people accept Christ, they initially think that their lives will drastically change and everything will be easy. While we know firsthand as Christians that life does not suddenly become a walk in the park, there is a way in which our lives are altered when we accept Christ. When we walk in the love of the Lord, He begins to enrich our lives with the Fruit of the Spirit-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). While last week we talked about a fruit of the Spirit that requires will-power and decision (love), this week we'll be studying a fruit that is instead spontaneous and innate, joy.
Firstly and most importantly, there is a large disparity between the societal perspective of joy and the Christian perspective of joy. While joy today is often associated with fleeting objects such as money, drugs, alcohol, power, or sex, the joy that God intends us to seek is firm and eternal.
So what is Christian joy?
1) Christian joy is a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart.
When we place our lives in God and anticipate our final salvation, being joyful isn't a decision, but an explosion. In 1 Peter 1:6-8, Peter assures us that although trials will come, joy will prevail because of the reveal of Jesus Christ. This joy is not controllable or forced. While you can decide to do things that may bring you joy-- go on a trip, hang out with friends, play a video game-- you cannot actually control whether joy occurs or not. Christian joy is the same way. God provides the joy in our spiritual journey through His mercy and salvation, and our joy is complete in Him and not in our own decisions.
2) Christian joy is deep and firm, rather than shallow and fleeting.
Although happiness and joy nowadays are often associated with material things, God's intended joy flourishes even when we "run into problems and trials" (Romans 5:3). While this may not seem plausible, Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:10 describes Christians as poor but always giving spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
Why should we have joy?
1) The Bible commands us to.
The Bible is abundant in verses that command us to rejoice, or to literally "have joy." Matthew 5:12 says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always!” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” 1 Peter 4:13 says, “Rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings.”
2) Joy is a by-product of cleansing a sinful heart.
The only thing standing in the way of our ability to rejoice for God is a sinful heart-- a heart that delights more in the things of the world than in God. Instead, when we place God first and let Him consume our lives, rather than material things, we see firsthand His ability to cleanse and satisfy our hearts.
3) Having Christian joy shows God's power in our lives.
When we demonstrate joy, we are actively showing where our priorities are. When we prioritize God above all else, anticipation and joy over our salvation make everything else in life seem less significant. By constantly having joy, we are able to prove to the world that He is the One who brings true happiness. While worldly things can bring happiness for short periods of time, Christian joy is lasting and fulfilling and demonstrates the power of God in our lives. Negative and angry Christians don't accurately reflect the truth of the God's Word. When we place God as our number one priority, we give ourselves something to constantly rejoice over (Psalm 16:11).
How do we have constant joy?
1) Recognize that we are sinners.
We alone cannot bring ourselves constant joy. If we relied on our own understanding and judgment to have joy, we would certainly fail. Instead, we should acknowledge our sinful and helpless natures.
2) Call to God.
While our pursuit for God is often fleeting, He is always chasing after us. When we humble ourselves at His feet and call out to Him for guidance, our relationships with Him lay the foundation for fruit in our lives. Strengthening our relationships with Him, as well as feeling His presence in our lives give more and more opportunities for Him to produce fruit, like joy, in our lives.
3) Look at the evidence.
While no one has seen God, He provides us overwhelming proof and wisdom about His existence in the Word. For example, Romans 8:35-39 says,
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The last thing we have when we wake up in the morning or when we have work to do is joy. But when we constantly reflect on and anticipate the work of God, He is able to pour joy in our lives that satisfies more than anything else we could find. Be joyful & sleep easy, fam.
SUMMING IT ALL UP:
What is joy?
- Christian joy is a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart.
- Christian joy is deep and firm, rather than shallow and fleeting.
Why should we have joy?
- The Bible commands us to.
- Joy is a by-product of cleansing a sinful heart.
- Having Christian joy shows where our priorities are.
How do we have constant joy?
- Recognize that we are sinners.
- Call to God.
- Look at the evidence.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
1 Peter 1:6-8
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
2 Corinthians 6:10
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
1 Thessalonians 5:16
Always be joyful.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
1 Peter 4:13
Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.