I’ve been studying the topic of real joy lately and some of the material suggested that polls repeatedly show America ranks below most other nations when it comes to happiness. For all of our blessings, resources, and opportunities, roughly about 35% of Americans say they are happy. Meanwhile, millions are depressed or anxious, and suicide rates have been on the increase for decades. Also, a different survey displayed that ten of the richest nations in the world also had the highest levels of depressed citizens. A French demographer once said—“that America has developed a strange melancholy in the midst of abundance” and I’d have to agree with that from what I see. I’ve often felt that our country and us as Christ followers individually need to adjust our thinking about what makes up real happiness and joy. I want to be honest here too and I’ll say that a lot of times I don’t see many Christians today that are joyous. Do you? Do you have joy in your heart? I think the world is looking for joy and happiness and we as the Body of Christ need to tap into God’s joy and become carriers of it because of Who we serve, because we’ve been rescued from our sin, and we have eternity with God yet ahead.
We should recount that God Himself experiences joy. Isaiah 62:5 says..”So shall your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 65:19 also says “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people.” We, who are in God’s own image, really only experience joy because God does and God wants all of us to have joy just as He does. Jesus declared it in John 15:11 and John 17:13 and so did the apostle Paul who said—“Rejoice in the Lord.” in Philippians 4:4. Our joy is a command and is to be found in the context of our relationship with Christ. There are many examples in the New Testament of people who found their joy after coming in to contact with Christ like a crippled woman in Luke 13:13, a leper in Luke 17:15, and a paralytic in Acts 3:8. Jesus attended a wedding celebration in Cana and gladly provided more wine for that celebration when the hosts ran out in John 2:1-11.
Joy really is part of the nature of the kingdom of God and Jesus came to introduce the kingdom and its values with joy being one of them. Do you remember that joy is found right behind love in the list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22? God assuredly desires us to be joyful as Paul wrote “rejoice always” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Do you also remember that there was joy in Heaven the day you repented and became saved? Luke 15:10 says so. The Bible states there should be joy on earth, even in times of difficulty. Jesus also said “rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For your reward is great in heaven.” In Luke 6:23, Peter also says we should consider ourselves “blessed when we’re persecuted for following Christ” in 1 Peter 4:14 and in that context blessed means happy. Paul said to “Glory in tribulations” in Romans 5:3, James also wrote to “count it all joy when we have trials in life in James 1:2. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 talks about receiving God’s Word “with joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of persecution.” Probably the best known of this is Paul and Silas in Philippi in Jail, and had just gotten a horrible beating. Acts 16:25 says at midnight they were in jail “praying and singing hymns to God.” When you can have joy after being severely beaten like they were you have real joy in an extreme fashion. I mean how many of us would have joy in a jail cell at Philippi after being beaten like they were? Paul anticipated death in “finishing his race with joy” in Acts 20:24. Can any of us really say things like Paul or the apostles said? Do you experience the fruit of joy in your own life? Do you have joy in every aspect of the life God has given in Christ and the hope of eternity with Him?? G.K Chesterton wrote: ”Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian” and we should agree with that. Really, true and authentic joy is found only in Christ because He is the source of our joy. John 15:11 which is one of my favorite verses is where Jesus told His disciples—“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” So that tells me that Jesus wants us to be full of His joy and I want to see the Body of Christ full of this joy so that the world will see it in us. This is the kind of joy that Peter called it “joy inexpressible” in 1 Peter 1:8. That is the joy of Christ living in us that is available to all of the Body of Christ. Colossians 1:11 says “we are strengthened by God for all patience and long-suffering with joy.” Our joy shouldn’t be dependent on ourselves or what we are going through at a particular time; it is solely dependent on Christ in us. Going back to John 15:11 the word “full” means “complete.” Because of that how do we know we are full of joy then? I think it is when we fully comprehend that our joy in Christ is a complete joy and it is lacking nothing. It is more than sufficient for every situation in this life that we may encounter. An English headmaster was talking to his students one day and used an example of when a monarch is in residence at Buckingham palace that the monarch’s flag is flown from the flagpole at the palace. He said the following about Christian joy—“Joy is the flag that is flown from the castle of your heart when the King is in residence.” For us as Christ followers, our King…Jesus is always in residence so our joy can really always be full in us too! In John 15:11 again Jesus said He wanted His joy to also “remain” in us. This is amazing. Not only can our joy be full, but because our joy is from Jesus and He is always with us then our joy should remain in us too…it should never leave us! But isn’t it easy to have your joy leave in our world today? It’s easy if we’re not careful to have our circumstances to dictate our joy? We’re so used to things that don’t last forever in our lives anyway so we think our joy won’t really last either. On the night before Jesus was crucified the disciples were pretty downcast. But in John 16:22 Jesus told his disciples—“So with you: Now is the time of your grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” These are the words of Jesus, they’re not mine or my opinion. If our joy is in Jesus and not in the pleasures of this world, which are fleeting, then going back to John 15:11 it will always remain with us and that it may be full! Again, I think the Body of Christ needs to have the joy of Christ daily living and on full display before the world that is lost. Why else would an extremely unhappy world want to join the church if we’re not joyous and happy? We should champion Christ’s joy in us. As sons and daughters of the King, we have a lot to be joyful and happy about! I gladly choose Christ’s joy today and to remain in it and be full of it. Will you?
New Covenant Worship Center