My daughter recently took some pictures of her kids at Disney World. The youngest, 3 years old, has what I would call a look of “pure joy” as she meets some Disney characters at breakfast. The joy of a child.
What is “joy”? An online dictionary says it’s, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.” Sounds about right. There are some good words including emotion, delight, happiness, pleasure. I can buy that.
According to an article I read, in the UK, older people are happier than younger. That simply means that we older people have accepted the inevitable…”life ain’t gonna last forever so get on with what’s left of it.” That’s okay for old people but what about everyone else? What about those who feel that as Christians, it’s important for us to be joyful no matter the circumstances. After all, don’t we believe that our eternity is assured? If so, why aren’t we joyful all the time?
John Piper, a Baptist pastor, and writer defines Christian joy as, “… a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.” I like that. It’s a feeling, deep down, produced by something bigger than us and infinitely more influential. And it’s about how Jesus affects our emotions through his word, the Bible. It’s how we can see him through the impact he has in the world as a result of his life, death, and resurrection.
Every Monday morning I meet with a group of guys for breakfast. Our common bond is a desire to seek God and to build relationships that men who love the Lord can have together. We’ve been studying the book of Philippians. It’s commonly referred to as the “Joy” book. The apostle Paul wrote it during one of the times he was in prison and being persecuted for preaching about Jesus. For two years he was chained to a Roman guard. In spite of this, he uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” sixteen times in this short book. How can that be? Why can’t I be as joyful as Paul was?
Jesus half brother, James, writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3
So one of our key guys is in jail, and joyful, and Jesus little brother wants me to be joyful when things get tough. Why would I be? Trials, difficulties, junk happening to me and those I care about? Doesn’t sound like anything to be joyful about. What is “steadfastness” and why do I need it? I Googled it and it means endurance or patience. In other words, having a bunch of “stuff” happen to me should make me joyful and more likely to endure other bad things. James is saying if it happened to Jesus, we should be joyful when it happens to us. That helps us relate to his suffering when he died for our sin. Knowing we have been treated like Jesus brings us joy, happiness, and makes us more grateful for what he did.
Why am I not joyful all the time? What steals my joy. Here are a few things. Do any apply to you and your lack of joy?
Putting things off
Beating yourself up
Letting circumstances control you
Regrets about the past
Worrying about your salvation
Sin that you can’t or won’t overcome
The “what if something bad happens” syndrome.
We all experience these. Some more than others. Joy depends on our ability to trust God to handle these “stealers”. The future for a Christ follower is in heaven. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Phil. 3:20 All this other stuff is short term.
How’s your joy?