Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Truth About Joy

Should Christians feel a sense of joy when others are suffering in the world? When there is poverty, sickness, and children dying at the hands of ISIS? When our newsfeeds are a constant reminder of all that is wrong with the world?

Who are we to feel joyful when bad things are happening to others all around us? Is it insensitive and selfish to have joy in our hearts when other Christians are being persecuted?

Yeswe are urged to remember those in prison as if we ourselves are in prison (Heb 13:3), for if one part of the Body hurts, the whole Body is affected (1 Cor 12:26). Yes—we are urged to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. But let us not forget that we are also encouraged to rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15)!

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not a product of the flesh. It is not merely a mindset or an emotion. The joy we receive from the Spirit, like peace, passes understanding and transcends our earthly circumstances. Such joy doesn't just come when something good happens and go away when something bad happens. It is from a constant, unchanging, and divine source that doesn't depend on the world or conform to its patterns.

Joy can co-mingle with grief, for it isn't merely a happy-go-lucky attitude. We can be perplexed by tragedies, earthly circumstances, suffering, and disappointments. We can have empathy and compassion for others. But when we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed. We do not despair when we have joy (2 Cor 4:8). Jesus wept (John 11:35). But even so, He was full of a constant joy through the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).

Joy is a gift from God. It cannot be sustained in our own strength; it's not attainable through positive thinking, fleshly pleasures, or meditation, for example, which produce only a cheap and fleeting substitute. Joy is a natural outworking of our faith, which comes from God's grace, not from our works, so no one can boast. When the disciples were rejoicing that they had cast out demons, Jesus affirmed them, but also He exhorted them, "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20). If our joy is in our salvation, it will not be increased by our achievements or reduced by our failures.

Joy rejoices in hope. And it sustains our patient endurance of trials. Paul urges us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.” (Rom 12:12). For joy preserves us while we wait for our blessed hopethe coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Joy glorifies God. Joy revels worshipfully in who God is and what He has done for us. Joy comes from praying to, and praising, God. Joy is most deeply experienced through dying to self and living in Christ for God's glory.

Joy is Christ-centered. Joy looks upward to the Lord, not around us at the world. Joy doesn't come from living in denial (for this is foolishness), but from embracing an eternal perspective. It comes from fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Joy draws others to a faith in Christ. When we rise above earthly trials, rejoice always, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:16-18), this is a powerful testimony to the hope we have in Christ. When we radiate joy as His witnesses, we are shining the light of Christ into a dark world.

Joy is knowing the truth; despair is believing the lie. For joy is found in the blessed assurance of our salvation—it is a foretaste of glory divine! As heirs of salvation, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood, how can we not have joy?

1 comment:

Grainne McDonald said...

A very necessary reminder - how kind the Lord is to grant us this supernatural joy!