What is Biblical joy?
(Part 1 of 3)
Gifts are on everyone’s mind this time of year. We have our kids make us a list of things they want. We scan the internet for the perfect gift for our significant other or our best friend. Most of us will spend some amount of time and energy on the Christmas tradition of gift giving this month. It can be fun, and sometimes a little bit stressful, but isn’t it totally worth it when you see your loved one open your gift? That moment when their eyes light up and a smile uncontrollably bursts across their face? You just know that they recognize and appreciate what a good gift you just gave to them. At salvation God gives us some very good gifts, and one of those gifts is joy. The last few weeks I have been meditating on and studying this amazing gift. I want to share with you what I have learned in three blog posts.
In this blog post we will look at what Biblical joy is.
Joy is an attitude.
I love how the word “joy” starts popping up all over the place this time of the year. What do you think of when you see that word on an ornament at Cracker Barrel, or stitched on a pillow at Hobby Lobby?
If you had to come up with a definition for joy on the spot, what would it be?
I like the Bible projects definition of joy: “The attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances but because of the hope in God’s love and promise.” It’s true that joy can stir up wonderful feelings in our hearts, but joy is not just a good feeling, it’s much more than that. Biblical joy is a deeper joy that the Bible says in John 14 the world does not know. It’s a unique kind of gift that only believers sealed with the Holy Spirit can experience. This deeper kind of joy helps us to rejoice in the Lord in the good times and it comforts us in our times of suffering. It has nothing to do with what is going on around us but everything to do with what the Spirit does inside of us. That’s why joy is an attitude more than a feeling.
Joy is a gift.
We can’t produce godly joy within ourselves. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. In John chapter 13 Jesus breaks it to His disciple that He will be leaving them soon. His disciples were confused and troubled by this so in chapter 14 Jesus encouraged them that He would leave a helper. He told them that He would leave the Holy Spirit and in that way Jesus would be able to come and dwell with them after He was gone. In Galatians chapter 5, Paul reveals to us a little bit more about the role of that helper. He tells us that the Spirit will produce and grow in us fruits of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Joy is a gift from God that the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts. That is why joy is not something that we can produce within ourselves but rather it is a gift from God.
Joy is also a command.
We are commanded repeatedly in the Bible to have joy and to rejoice in the Lord. Not just in the good times when it is easy but we are to rejoice always.
- Philippians 4:4 tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always;”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says we should “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ”
- James 1:2 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,”
For every believer, joy is not an option, it is a command; however, I know that some people’s hearts break when they read that. How on earth can I be commanded to have joy in this season of my life?
You might be going through such a hard time that the last thing on your mind is rejoicing, and the command to do so feels like a burden more than a blessing. Why would we be commanded to rejoice in the middle of our suffering? The answer is in Philippians 4:4 which we just read. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The always in that verse represents our circumstances but the command is not to rejoice in them, it is to rejoice in the Lord. God isn’t commanding us to be happy all of the time no matter what. He is commanding us to focus on His love and promises no matter what is happening all around us. God loves us dearly, and He knows that if we do that, we will be blessed with the strength and comfort we need to endure our trials. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross and all of it’s shame for the joy set before Him. He was able to endure the ultimate suffering because His focus was on the Father and on the day that He would be seated at His right hand.
When we understand that joy is an attitude more than a feeling and that it is a gift from God that the Holy Spirit produces in our hearts, it is much easier to understand God’s command to rejoice always. When we are high on a mountain top, we can rejoice, not in our own strength, but in the blessings of the Lord. When we are low in the valley, we can have a deeper kind of joy knowing that Christ is walking right along side of us. When we are just living life and experiencing everyday pressures and stresses, we can rejoice, because our joy is in the Lord, and not in what is going on all around us. Joy is such an amazing and comforting gift from God, and if you are saved, no matter what is going on right now, you have access to this amazing gift.
Next blog post on joy: How can I experience the fullness of joy that God intends for me to have?