The concept of joy is most often associated with Christmas. For many, but not all, Christmas is a joyous time. Christmas cards contain messages like: “May this season of love find you with joy in your home and peace in your hearts,” and “May this blessed season fill your heart with joy and light your way with love.” Joy should be part of a Christian’s life all year long.
Joy is the emotion produced by the acquisition or expectation of good—a state of happiness and exultation. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for joy, exultation, rejoicing and being glad, express various shades of meaning—dancing as with joy, spinning around with pleasurable emotion, exulting or leaping with exuberant joy, even glorying or vaunting oneself in something.
One Hebrew word (rinnah, #7440, Strong’s) is associated with a creaking or shrill sound, such as a shout of joy or grief. Two well-known scriptures contain this Hebrew word:
Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Psalm 126:5: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
This is not a quiet joy, but a penetrating, vocal, shrieking joy. It announces a new joy to the world. It ends sadness and begins restoration.
Searching for Joy
The following is a quotation from an article in Nation’s Business, December, 1980:
“…The American dream has been to rise above what one’s parents were; to work hard, even play hard; to achieve excellence, which would in turn lead to material comfort, community respect, position, prestige, compliments, security, status. This has been the American dream both for the people and for the nation.
“In short order, the United States…surpassed every society of history in wealth, material goods and self-esteem…The goal of the world was to come to America to find gold in the streets and freedom in the air.
“Why, then, with all these goals and visible rewards…has the result been a lack of satisfaction? Why are so many…beginning to feel empty and unfulfilled? Why does it seem there must always be more accomplishment, more achievement, more effort? Why do we seem, both collectively and individually, to be in the throes of a fast-spreading phenomenon—BURN-OUT?
“Many…report that life seems to have lost its meaning. Their enthusiasm is gone. They feel uninvolved, even in the midst of family and friends. Their jobs…have become drudgery.”
New creatures in Christ have a joy of which others know little but even they may sometimes find themselves trapped in stress or boredom. They should be able to rise above the petty and mundane, and experience the joy and peace that comes from on high!
Psalm 16:11: “In thy presence is fullness of joy.” Can you find fullness of joy from earthly sources?
In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy. Cultivate the Lord’s acquaintance, draw near to him in prayer, in the study of his Word, in meditation upon his goodness and providential care, the manifestations of his grace in our experiences, and his promises. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).
God Desires Joyous Children
It is the will of God that his children should be happy in him. If anyone lacks this blessing, he is living below his privileges.
It is easier to fill our lives with busyness than to take time to enjoy our heavenly Father’s presence. But he is more interested in what we become than in what we do. We have the privilege of coming quietly to him and waiting before him. If we listen to his voice, we can enjoy his fellowship.
Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” Joy is a gift of God, an important part of his character.
When things go well, we are happy. One minor irritation might erase our happiness. Not so with joy. God’s joy is present regardless of the situation.
Joy is the outward expression (in obedience, activity, worship) of spiritual gladness.
Joy may be expressed in quiet trusting, or deep contentment. It may bubble forth unbidden or be a deliberate choice. We may feel like dancing; often, it is a comfortable confidence that God is in control.
Jesus Loves Happy Brethren
Jesus claimed joy in John 15:8-11: “I [have] spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Joy was in the Upper Room discourse (John 16 and 17). Our way should not be dreary; Jesus desires his disciples’ joy to be complete.
“If we live near the Lord, we will find that obedience to the Lord’s words, together with the privilege of abiding in him and his love, is the greatest joy…the assurance, not only of the life which now is, but also of that which is to come.” (See Reprint 5082)
Those who have made a covenant with the Lord, who have laid down their lives at his feet, are filled with his joy—an increasing joy, daily becoming more nearly complete—yet not complete until in resurrection we shall appreciate fully the joys of our Lord, hearing his invitation, “Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.”
Is Joy Real?
Joys come through faith…by and by we shall receive them actually. Meantime, the world has not submitted itself to the Lord and has no appreciation of the joys of the Lord. It knows us not even as it knew him not. It knows not our joys in the Master’s service even as it never appreciated the joys of our Lord in doing the Father’s will, even at the sacrifice of his life. (See Reprint 3547)
To those who know that God is true, the promise comes: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Conditions sometimes are not easy or pleasant. Joy does not depend upon material prosperity.
Our Master’s joy was beyond the reach of men or circumstances. The world could not give it nor remove it. Jesus joyed in God. All nature spoke to him of his Father, who provided its bounty and beauty. Jesus joyed in the Old Testament. It spoke to him of his Father and revealed his character.
God’s Word was the rejoicing of the Master’s heart. By that Word he repelled the tempter at the commencement of his ministry. By it he caused the hearts of the disciples to burn within them at the close of that ministry.
To Jesus, God was above all that one could ask or think. In the joy of God’s love, he sketched the picture of the prodigal son and the love of an earthly father, saying in effect, “If ye then, being evil, are like that, how much more is God?” Our Lord experienced constantly the joy of boundless hope in One so good.
As Jesus continued in communion with his Father, he found God not merely One to be enjoyed, but also One to be served. This opportunity of loving devotion was to Jesus another constant source of delight.
The will of God was the focal point of the Master’s life. His natural love for home, his mother, and his family was intense; yet, before all these he placed those who did the will of God. “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Matt. 12:50).
From this delight in doing God’s service, there arose another source of joy, that of a constant sense of divine approval of his life. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” was the testimony given to John the Baptist at Jordan. This testimony was repeated upon the Mount of Transfiguration and attested by numerous evidences of the Father’s favor during our Lord’s ministry.
Greatest of all, our Master had the joy associated with supreme self-sacrifice. Although rejected, that wonderful love in Jesus’ heart inspired him to exult with holy joy, knowing that through the valley of suffering, he could bring the world back to God.
All of the evil that was inflicted upon the Master, only made him feel the more, how desperate was man’s need of him. He saw of the “travail of his soul” and was satisfied (Isa. 53:11).
“For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the majesty on high.” (Heb. 12:2) Our Master’s deep-seated joy enabled him to say: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1,27).
Joy from Brethren
In the early Church, as today, the brethren were a source of joy to each other.
Philippians 4:1: “My brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown…my beloved.”
Philemon 1:4-7: “We have great joy and consolation, in thy love.”
The apostle addressed the Philippian church with sweet-scented affection.
Paul’s love of the Thessalonian brethren was evident, too. In I Thessalonians 2:19,20, he wrote: “You are our glory and joy.”
Paul rejoiced as he watched God work in them. He sent Timothy to them. What joy Timothy’s report brought to Paul’s heart! They were standing firm in the faith in spite of persecution. Like Paul, we have great joy in our brethren. II Timothy 1:3,4: “I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” (NIV)
Paul had a precious relationship with Timothy. The young man’s faith brought Paul joy.
Relationships built upon Jesus are filled with joy. Christian friendship is most joyous. “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” Being a Joy to Others
How are we sources of joy to our brethren?
Paul and Barnabas “caused great joy unto the brethren” (Acts 15:3). When the messengers from the conference of Jerusalem (Acts 15) returned to Antioch of Syria, the brethren “rejoiced for the exhortation” (Acts 15:31). This Antioch church, where the disciples first gained the name “Christians,” was evidently the most progressive of the churches of that day—because it had the spirit of joy: in the Lord, in the Truth, among the brethren. One of the outgrowths of that joy was the sponsoring of missionaries to go out and spread the glad tidings.
Missionary zeal has its origin in joy. A sad group might never summon the enthusiasm to make converts to the gospel. If it did, its ecclesia life would repel the newcomers! Remember, it is the happiness and the spontaneity of the Christian good news that attracts men and women from a world that, in Paul’s day as in ours, has little happiness.
Delight and Rejoicing
God’s Word brings comfort and joy into our lives. We say with the Psalmist: “I will delight myself in thy statutes” (119:16). “I delight in thy law” (119:69,70).
Jeremiah wrote: “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (15:15,16).
Mary discovered this special joy as she sat at Jesus’ feet.
The joy he promised his disciples can be ours as we search out his promises and rely on them.
The Holy Spirit Gives Us Joy
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Joy for the new creature in Christ is inseparable from love and impossible without it. The Greek words for “grace” and “joy” grew from the same Greek root. The joy that is the fruit of the Spirit springs from a life that is gracious and kind, generous to impart itself to others.
The discouragements, disappointments and disillusionments of our day are sometimes so great that we need a power in our lives able to withstand their assaults. That power is our possession of the holy Spirit of joy.
In Nehemiah’s time, it was the spirit of joy, that joy in the Lord, which enabled his people to go forward to the building of a temple and the creation of a nation. God grant that we realize, as did Nehemiah, that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10).