How often do you think about joy?
When we reflect on God’s plan and His will for our lives, we typically turn to future plans and the like. But do we ever consider joy? The Bible claims joy as an essential element to our Christian life. Numerous times God instructs us to be joyful, to rejoice, to take heart. “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4)
You might wonder how the Bible can command us to be joyful. Isn’t joy just something you feel when good things happen? Apparently not. A quick glance through the Scripture reveals that God’s people are repeatedly instructed to have joy.
Joy isn’t something that just happens. It is a fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) we are to cultivate in our hearts, something that should manifest in our lives. And since we are commanded to have it, obviously it is a choice placed before us. We can decide whether or not to have joy.
What is joy, then? Joy is an inner satisfaction, a pure contentment in our souls, knowing who our God is and the delight we have in Him. It is not a fleeting emotion that comes and goes depending on our current circumstances. Joy is a decision, a choice, when we realize that all our fulfillment is found in Christ. As we live each day striving to honor Him with our lives, we can be joyful through any situation because we take delight in glorifying our Lord. What we need to grasp is that the Holy Spirit is living within us! Why shouldn’t we be able to rejoice? He is more than enough. This knowledge should fill us with an overwhelming, overflowing flood of joy!
Joy is a part of God’s plan for us, a defining trait for His children. Digging deep into His will and His desires for us, we realize how important joy is to Him. He wants us – commands us, even – to be people of joy. Joy is what sets us apart from the world, and that’s why the world often seems to be fighting to take over our joy. If our joy is damaged, we lose our contentment in the Lord and our love for Him may falter. If we look for satisfaction elsewhere, our eyes are taken away from the Lord. Our joy must not be vulnerable, easily swayed by external circumstances. We must choose to have our joy rooted deeply in God and our satisfaction in Him.
What about when our life isn’t so joyful? Bad things do happen, a result of sin entering this world. But the difference between how an unbeliever and a follower of Christ react to trying circumstances is joy. Even through the darkest of times, we can still choose joy. We can rejoice! We don’t have to be discouraged because we have joy in our never-failing Lord. We can choose to keep our joy through times of grief because Jesus has overcome the world. And when the lost around us see our joy – because the joy of the Lord is unmistakable – they will know from Whom it comes. John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” When we choose joy, we are declaring to the world who our God is, glorifying Him through our delight.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Throughout this new year, I would encourage you all to choose joy. Embrace it to the full and don’t let anything take it away. Dig deep and root your joy firmly in the Lord. If glorifying your eternal God is your joy, then that joy will never run out. 2016 may bring trials – maybe it already has – but you don’t have to face those trials unarmed. You have the joy of your Lord, and it is indeed your strength.