I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy. John 15:11
Last Sunday at church, almost everyone who stood up during our worship service touched on the topic of joy. It got me thinking, what exactly was the joy that Jesus Christ experienced? In Hebrews 12:2, we read that “He suffered death on the cross, but He accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that was set before Him”. The joy that Christ experienced was found in absolute submission and self-sacrifice to the Father. His delight was to do the will of God in all things.
In what do we find delight? Jesus Christ desired that our joy would be the fullest possible joy. He wanted us to experience the same joy that He did, but we often attempt to create our own version of joy – believing (without admitting it) that God couldn’t possibly know better than us what will make us happy.
Living a joyful life does not depend on our circumstances, good health or any other outside factor. It is dependent only on putting our faith in God, and in experiencing the fellowship and unity with God that Christ himself enjoyed. The moment we take our eyes off of the Lord, and give too much thought to our circumstances, a subtle comparativeness creeps in and our joy becomes hindered. Before we even realize what is happening, we become caught up in all our cares.
Making sure that our relationship with God is solid is the most important thing that we can do. We want to separate the problems that we have in our “real” lives from our “spiritual” lives often, but the truth is that they are so amalgamated that we can’t isolate one from the other. Once you find your joy in the Lord, out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalms 73:21-26
The fiery trials in our lives are circumstances that God allows in our lives, and are incredible tools in His capable hands to help us become more Christ-like. Follow the heart change of the Psalmist in the passage above. In the beginning he was bitter, but his conscience was convicting him for it. When we become absorbed with ourselves, our circumstances blind us to all spiritual reality. We see the physical instead of the spiritual aspects. We lash out like spoiled children. We even accuse God of letting us down. However, God is the only one who can fix our problem. In this passage, we see that God took his right hand and directed the writer.
This is the process of turning our focus away from our own fleshly reactions. As we turn away from the emotions that are blinding us, we turn to God instead. The result is that our spiritual eyes are opened. We are then able to see our circumstance from God’s perspective instead of our own. We realize we have allowed our flesh to control us. We repent as God gives us His joy. We find true fulfillment. It is at this point we finally understand what it means that the ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength’.
When our joy is in anything or anyone other than the Lord it can be taken away because everything in our lives except God is temporal. When our joy is in the Lord, it cannot be taken away or stolen because He is eternal and what He promises to do, He does. The Lord wants our joy to be full. What is keeping us from having this full joy?
Real joy drives our hearts in worship towards the Lord. Our worshipping hearts keep us focused on the Lord for our fulfillment. As we delight in Him He matures us in grace through the help of the Holy Spirit. This is so much more than simply being religious. This is walking through every moment of everyday living for His glory.
That is real joy.