Joy is not a common word today, but it’s a biblical word, occurring well over 200 times in Scripture. Have you ever thought that if more of God’s children were filled with joy more unbelievers might desire to be like them?
So what is joy in the life of a Christian? It’s very difficult to put emotional experiences into words so I’ll begin with three things it isn’t and three things it is.
Firstly it isn’t an act of will power. It can’t be mustered up. It’s real, and it’s a spontaneous response of our hearts for what God has done for us in Jesus. The more we appreciate what Jesus has done for us on the cross the more joyful we will be.
Secondly it isn’t superficial. It’s deep and firm, so it can flourish in the midst of pain, sorrow and suffering. It’s not dependent on circumstances, but on the reality of knowing God.
Thirdly it’s not natural. It’s spiritual. When something is called spiritual in Scripture it means it comes from the Holy Spirit and has the character of the Holy Spirit. Real joy is the kind of joy God has. Jesus knew this joy when the seventy-two disciples He’d sent out on a mission returned to Him and reported all they’d done in His name. ‘Jesus was full of joy through the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 10:21). The phrase actually means ‘Jesus jumped for joy’.
Joy’s been described as ‘the over-brimming sense of God’s presence in our lives’. It’s the opposite of unbelief and negativity. It isn’t an automatic process in our lives, so let’s look at its sources.
It’s the result of knowledge in our heart that God loves us individually and that He’s demonstrated that love by giving the gift of His Son (Romans 5:3-5). Truly knowing the love of God towards us will inevitably fill us with great joy.
Then it’s the result of us knowing that we love God, as we see in our text for today where Peter wrote to those who were suffering for their faith. The fact that they could still be filled with joy in the face of suffering was evidence that their faith was genuine.
It’s also the result of obeying the command of Jesus to love others (John 15:9-12). Jesus has demonstrated His love to us, and we’re to love others in the same sacrificial way that He’s loved us. When we follow the example of Jesus by loving others as we’ve been loved our joy is complete.
Finally it’s the result of the Holy Spirit overflowing in our lives (Acts 13:52). He is the source of joy. A Spirit-filled Christian is a joyful Christian. The work of the Holy Spirit is to point us away from ourselves and towards Jesus. Introspection and joy are not compatible, and it’s thankfulness which makes our hearts glad and fills us with joy.
Prayer: Lord, as I go through today help me to remember that You’re always with me. Thank You for Your amazing love demonstrated at the cross. Thank You also for the flicker of love implanted by the Holy Spirit in my heart for You. Fill me afresh today with the Holy Spirit so I’ll be a witness attracting other people to You. Amen.
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