“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”1 Peter 1:8
Joy is one of my absolute favorite topics in the Bible. It is also one of the most frequently mentioned words throughout scripture. From Nehemiah to 1 Peter (just the word itself), we find a remarkable number of references to the topic of joy:
- Nehemiah 8:10: “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”
- Psalm 4:7: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”
- Habakkuk 3:18: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
We also find the command to “rejoice” several times in scripture, which is the outpouring of a joy in a visible, active way. To rejoice means to be filled with joy, to cause joy, and to give joy to (someone).
In Romans 12, Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” In Philippians, “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”
It is a core quality of a Christian to be filled with joy, and to spread that feeling with those around us.
What is Joy?
“Christian joy is 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.”John Piper
I often refer to John Piper’s definitions or use articles on Desiring God to research for my writing. The topic of joy is by far one of Piper’s most common themes, and he has thoroughly broken down this definition of what joy is:
- A Good Feeling: not an idea or a conviction, not a persuasion or a decision, but a feeling.
- In the Soul: not the body
- Produced by the Holy Spirit: as one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is a work of the Spirit
- Sight of Jesus: work of the Spirit results from seeing the glory and beauty of Jesus
- The Spirit opens the eyes of my heart to see the beauty of Christ, and then my heart is drawn towards Him in joy.
- In the Word and the World
- Word: it is most clear in the Bible (which is inspired by the Holy Spirit)
- World: through gifts and people, nature, food, and so much more
“Our experiences of the Spirit’s joy does not define our assurance of the Spirit’s presence.”Dane Ortlund in: Joy Doesn’t Always Look Happy
Joy is an objective reality; it is a basic, non-optional element of what the indwelling Spirit gives to believers. Essentially, if you have the Spirit within you, you will have the ability to rejoice with a joy that is “inexpressible and filled with glory.”
In all honesty, it is remarkable to me that joy is not based on our circumstances. I think that growing up, most of us associate the word “joy” with the word “happy,” because that’s the closest synonym in our dictionaries.
But really, joy is so much more than that. Joy is an unstoppable force of God’s character that makes happy look small in comparison. Joy is an overwhelming feeling within us that our basic emotions can’t crack. It’s the thing that makes people who have lost a loved one still smile, because they know that death has already been conquered, and it is nothing to fear anymore.
Joy is the outworking of our union with Christ, and it flows from the taste of the sweetness of grace. It ”springs from knowing the true value of what God has given us.” (Derek Thomas)
How to “Joy”
Just like knowing who God is is different than knowing God, knowing what joy is doesn’t help so much with knowing how to feel it.
As I mentioned before, joy is one of John Piper’s most discussed topics. As such, he has come up with “Fifteen tactics for joy” that I’d like to share with you here:
- Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.
It is not an assumed characteristic of a Christian’s life, you don’t just receive joy when you receive Christ necessarily, it’s a gift in addition to the salvation we receive.
- Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.
I’m sure you know that joy isn’t easy, it isn’t natural. It’s hard to just “have joy.” It must be fought for, strived after, chased. But it’s worth it.
- Resolve to attack all known sin in your life, by the power of the Holy spirit.
If we’re living in our sin we’ll never be able to fully grasp hold of joy, that sin is holding our hand back just enough to keep us from holding onto joy. We have to completely let go of the world’s hold on our lives.
- Learn the secret of gutsy guilt-how to fight like a justified sinner.
Know that it is only God who can redeem you, and fight for that. Know that it is only God who can cleanse you, who can pull you from that sin, and fight for that.
- Realize that the primary battle is a fight to see- to see God for who He is!
There is nothing like seeing and knowing our God.
- Meditate on the word of God day and night.
Like David singing psalms in the kingdom to Saul, or Daniel defying the king’s orders and praying openly to his King in heaven, let us find joy in speaking with our God! Let’s be hungry for communication with our Father.
- Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.
Often in the Psalms we see David asking that his voice be heard by God. This honest plea to be heard is not unfamiliar. God can hear you, all you have to do is ask!
- Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.
This point, I believe, is one of the most important-at least for me. We need to turn our grumblings into lessons for ourselves, push ourselves forward, motivate ourselves with words from scripture and prayers to our God.
- Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.
We become like the five people we spend the most time with. If the five people we spend time with are God-saturated, we will start to imitate that behavior, to desire to be God-saturated too, and we won’t be able to turn our backs to the words of God.
- Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.
I know this is hard, it’s not an easy thing to be patient in any situation. And it’s scary to feel like God isn’t there. But I promise He is there, He won’t leave, and He’s working in your life to make everything more beautiful than you could ever possibly hope for.
- Get the rest, exercise, and proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.
Our bodies were created by God, they are precious creations that require special care. Don’t abuse that creation, but have dominion (care-taking) over your body.
- Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature – take a walk in the woods.
With precautions, of course, but there is nothing like a walk in the woods to open your eyes to the nature of God.
- Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.
It may seem dry at first, but these people have been saturated with knowledge of the gospel and it is thrilling to hear what they have to say.
- Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (your verbal witness and deeds of mercy).
It isn’t always easy to be kind, but we are walking witnesses of Christ, lights in the darkness of this world and we can change the world simply by imitating Christ; doing the hard and loving thing.
- Get a global vision for the cause of Christ, and pour yourself out for the unreached.
Our little circle of the world is not the only part that’s fighting for the gospel. It’s important to realize the global impact of the gospel and how that’s affecting our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.
“Every moment of our existence is cause enough for joy: the good and the bad together should integrate to form a hallelujah symphony to the praise of almighty God.”Derek Thomas
We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (the second shortest verse in the Bible) to “Rejoice always.”Ellen B
One of my favorite people in the Bible, Paul, writes a lot about joy in suffering in his letters to various churches in the new testament. While in prison, under guard, in trials legally and figuratively, he finds joy. He is able to separate his circumstances from the overwhelming understanding that through all of it, God is still there. God is still God.
While there isn’t one fix-all solution to feeling joy, I think that reading about the people in scripture who have felt joy and expressed joy no matter their circumstances can certainly help inspire anyone to have a more joyful attitude towards their own life.
I know that no matter what I go through, remembering Paul’s example, Job’s arguments, Esther’s faith, David’s psalms, and Christ’s prayers unfailingly help me to turn my attitude around.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5
A Prayer for All Us Mountain Goats
I sincerely pray that each of you can find a way to experience joy in the Lord. I pray specifically that you can find joy when it’s hardest to feel it, that you can rejoice boldly and with certainty that God is there, that God has redeemed you, and that God is working in you to make you whole, complete, lacking in nothing. I pray that we as a body of Christians can shine with joy so brightly that people question us, and recognize that we are glowing with something more powerful than we can understand.
Christian, Writer, Coffee Addict
1 Thessalonians 1:6
1 Peter 1:6-9
1 Thessalonians 5:16
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