“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11 (ESV))
Why is it that if you were to ask people to describe the Christian life, joy would be one of the last things mentioned? We may talk a lot about sin and salvation, the glory and praise of God in worship, discipleship and spiritual growth, mission and evangelism, social justice and helping those in great need: but how often do we talk about joy. As much attention as we give joy in the church today, you’d think it were an afterthought, a pleasant but unexpected consequence of God’s gracious work of salvation. Looking at a lot of Christians today (including pastors), you might even think that joy is optional for the Christian life. We know we will expect hardship and persecution for our faith, and it shows on our faces.
But this isn’t the way things are meant to be. Joy is integral to the Christian life. If you have not known joy, if you have not experienced the incomprehensible joy that arises from a certain and unwavering peace in the Lord, then perhaps you have not really known Him.
Consider just the following:
- There is great joy in the presence of God…
- Psalm 16:11 “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
- The news of Jesus’ coming is the source of great joy for all people…
- Luke 2:10 “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
- Jesus came to bring us joy…
- John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- There is great joy in our salvation in Jesus Christ…
- Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
- There is joy in heaven when a sinner is saved…
- Luke 15:7 (ESV) Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
- There is joy awaiting us as a reward for faithfulness in this life – Matthew 25:21
- Matthew 25:21 (ESV) His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
- When we know and worship the living Christ we are filled with Joy – Luke 24:52
- Luke 24:52 (ESV) And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
- We experience joy even in the midst of suffering…
- James 1:2–4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism even goes so far as to say that joy is part of the very purpose of man. You know the quote, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” We spend a lot of time talking about and working for the glory of God, but never stop to connect the dots in that if we are really glorifying God, we will also find great joy in His presence. Any glorying that does not lead to our experience of joy is vanity, and any joy that is not rooted in the glory of God is frivolous.
We are intended for joy. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.”
Grace and peace… and Joy be with you!