Can you remember a time when something happened that instantly stole your joy?
If joy was a scale, what number are you today? 1-10?
One being not even on your radar and 10—your cup runneth over with joy.
Answer this question. “I’d be full of joy all the time if only ____.”
Friends, do you know your joy matters to God? Do you know the Bible has a lot to say about joy? For those of you who are in Christ, do you know that Jesus was inspired and motivated by your future joy?
Joy reflects Who you know and what you abide in.
But first, let’s make sure we’re clear on what the “joy” is that we’re talking about here. Or perhaps let’s start with what it isn’t…
• Just a feeling
• Some thing just in our minds
• Based on circumstances
• Up to us to conjure up
• The absence of hardship or challenge
• A way of living
• A perspective that brings about peace
• Connected to things outside our control
• Connected to a Person
Perhaps the biggest difference in how followers of Jesus live out and define “joy” compared with the rest of the world is related to this last point… “connected to a Person.” Yes, joy is connected to a Person—Jesus Christ. Joy begins, endures and ends with Him. Joy is satisfaction in the Lord because of His great love for us. Psalm 90:14 states, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” Isaiah 12:6, “Shout to joy aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel.”
As we look to the life of Christ and the writing of the disciples we see that joy rooted in love was the motivator for Jesus dying on the cross as the payment for our sins that we may have and experience new life in Him. As Jesus spends His final hours with the disciples He tells them, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full or [complete]” (John 15:11). The writer of Hebrews notes that “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus was able to experience joy because of the joy that was and is to come.
Now you may be thinking, it was easier for the disciples to experience joy because they could see Jesus in person. But remember that although they experienced life with Him, they also denied Him, abandoned Him and watched Him die. They were not abiding in Him as He’d told them earlier in John 15. Our brother Peter writes to those like us, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9). Joy is a supernatural work whether we’ve seen Jesus physically or not.
So, good news! As followers of Christ, our joy is directly tied to Him! Not our circumstances, not our spouse or significant other. Not even our job, school or health. Joy starts with Jesus as our salvation comes from Him. Joy is all about Jesus as you continue in Him during this life. Are you living joyfully in response to Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection?
Joy is what He intends for you.
But there is the real life daily struggle for joy.
For me, I know I do not always live joyfully in Him. Or sometimes I can feel the spiritual tug of war that is going on in my life at those very moments when during or after a challenging morning with our four kids or with something else I text my husband and say, “Satan is trying to steal my joy today.” And we will say, “not today Satan, not today.”
What is it that seeks to steal my joy? Frustration? Not getting my way or desired outcome? Getting my heart or eyes fixed on the wrong thing instead of Christ Himself. That’s what it is for me sometimes. How does Satan seek to steal your joy? Here are some examples you might be able to relate to:
• Personal competence: “If only I were better at…”
• Material things: “We’d be so much happier if only we had a bigger house.”
• Health: “It’s easy for her to be in shape, she has more time to exercise than I do.”
Those are pretty specific but consider also a general outlook of discontentment. Do you tend to see only the negatives in life? Are you never happy with what you have? Where you live? Where you work? Do you constantly need just a little bit more?
How about feelings of anxiety or frustration? These things may seem like subtleties but these are the ways Satan seeks to steal our joy by making us think that God is holding out on us.
Are you ever overwhelmed by your own thoughts or emotions? Is it often not well with your soul? Are you more focused on your fears rather than the God who is Lord over all, including whatever trial you are facing right now?
These are all examples of where we must fight for our joy. Because joy is not natural.
I don’t mean joy in the big trials of life like a major sickness or loss. I’m talking about every day life joy that is challenged by a rough start to the morning with getting all four of your kids ready and out the door for school that almost always contains a conflict or injury among them in the process. I’m talking about the person who parks next to you in the parking lot who makes it impossible for you to put your car seat back in the van so you and your baby can go home. Any of this sound familiar?
Remember, joy flows out of our relationship with Christ, it’s not a result of our ideal circumstances or our own successful efforts. It is directly connected to what we believe and understand about Him based on His Word, the Bible.
Back to John 15, Jesus tells the disciples that the only way to bear much fruit is to abide in Him. Now the fruit is a metaphor for spiritual growth and kingdom living. As we bear fruit, we glorify the Father. Jesus and the Father are One. As we abide in Christ, we bring glory to the Father. This abiding in Christ cultivates joy. Christ seeks that our joy is abundant, that it is so full we don’t go elsewhere seeking empty joy substitutes.
How do I live joyfully in Christ? By abiding in Him and remembering that nothing I desire compares with Him.
What does it look like to abide in Christ? Having God’s Word in me. Remaining in Christ’s love. Keeping God’s commandments. Remember, Jesus isn’t holding out on you. Jesus has told you this so that you may have joy and that it may be full—lacking nothing. Joy and the love of God are linked together—lasting joy cannot be found apart from the sacrificial love of God. As Martin Luther writes, “Nothing helps more powerfully against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts than occupying oneself with God’s Word, having conversations about it, and contemplating it, [and then applying it to one’s life]. Learn and believe what God’s Word says about Himself and His love and grace to you. Ask God to help you grow in your knowledge and belief of Him and for the understanding as to what this means for you as His child.
So ask yourself:
• When in my day am I most prone to abandon my joy and focus on discontent?
• Where in my life have I forgotten about God’s joy?
• Is my relationship with Jesus at the level where I can trust Him with my joy?
• Do I think that God is holding out on me?
• How am I practicing abiding in Christ?
Remember, your joy matters to God so abide in Him that you may experience His inexpressible joy!