Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
For the first Sunday of this New Year (2016), we looked at the first fruit of the Spirit love. For this Sunday, we take time to examine the second fruit Joy.
1 Peter 18-9 (Holman) You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And
though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with
inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal
of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
For many, this is the favorite Bible verse about joy. The King James Version translates the key phrase as ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The Hebrew root word for joy means to shine, to be bright. A believers duty is not only to love God and others, but also to shine. Woebegone Christians hurt Jesus cause. Even when gloom completely surrounds a believers life, unbelievers should be able to see in the midst of the murkiness a glow emanating from us.
Joy, along with love, is to be an omnipresent virtue in our lives. The Bible tells us to rejoice in persecution (Matthew 511-12), when dishonored (Acts 541), in afflictions and poverty (II Corinthians 74 82), in material loss (Hebrews 1034), in fiery trials (I Peter 16-7), in suffering (I Peter 413). To put it more succinctly, Paul commanded us to Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 44).
Believers are to view even circumstances that normally make people sad as occasions to show joy. Thus it is no surprise when we say Rejoice in the Lord always is one of Scriptures most difficult commands to obey. Our success in obeying can be helped if we know precisely what joy is, and where it comes from.
Our loving Master showed us the way. For our own mental health, He wants us to have the same joy He had. Jesus said, I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (John 1511). Studying Christs joy helps us better understand the true joy He lovingly wants us to have.
One, our joy must be God Himself. Jesus joy was built on close communion with the Father. Jesus always sensed His Fathers nearness, and knew the Father loved Him. We too must not waver one second from believing in the Fathers love for us. Your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord (Nehemiah 810).
We share Jesus joy if our fellowship with God is deep and uninterrupted. True joy entails constant delight in God (Matthew Henry). David said, I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy (Psalm 434). In any situation, believers can rise to the level of rejoicing if we will seek our pleasure in God. Other delights grow stale if long used. Unbelief holds no lasting fulfillment. The thrills of pleasure grow bland. Cashs happy jingle fades. Jay Gould, a millionaire, said when dying, I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.
Fortunately, our joy in God can go on forever without turning stale. In Your presence is abundant joy in Your right hand are eternal pleasures (Psalm 1611b).
Two, our joy must be independent of all circumstances. Jesus knew from the first He was headed to the cross, yet His joy was not spoiled by the knowledge.
He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and yet had joy. However difficult the road, His trust was unshakable, His resolve always stayed firm.
Life is difficult for believers. Troubles aplenty attack us. If we hitch our happy-wagon to circumstances, we will ride a lurching emotional roller coaster.
Early believers, seeing past difficult life events, found a dependable source of joy. You sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession (Heb. 1034). Losing material goods, a hard circumstance at best, did not shake these early believers joy. They knew they had better riches elsewhere.
Circumstances do not have to spoil our rejoicing. When God is our joy, troubles cannot up-end us, and nothing life hurls at us can jerk our joy from us.
When joyful in God, we can rejoice even in our grief. Paul was grieving yet always rejoicing (II Corinthians 610). Anyone with this outlook is unshakable.In the 16th century a martyr, before being burned, wrote these words. Who will believe that in a dark hole I have found cheerfulness, in a place of bitterness and death I have found rest, where others weep I have found laughter, where others fear I have found strength, in a state of misery I have had great pleasure, in a lonely corner I have had great company All these things Jesus, my Savior, has granted me. He is with me He comforts me He fills me with joy (Bib. Ill. XVIII, p. 404).
Joy is an inner assurance all is well with God, whatever happens. Beware the worlds counterfeits for joy. Do not confuse true joy and earthly pleasure.
Gods joy is not giddiness, mirth, or happiness. The world gives surface pleasures, but beneath them is an aching unrest and sadness. Laughter is often merely a diversion to remove attention from deep-seated misery and sorrow.
Joy is a deep-seated confidence God controls all areas of life. Joy believes He works all things together for our good (Romans 828).
All can be chaos on the surface, but we can still have joy within. Hurricanes drastically affect the surface of an ocean, but a submarine finds the water a hundred feet down as calm as a brook. Even so, joy lives in the midst of the storm, but refuses to let the storm live in the midst of it.
Joy is independent of happenings. J. Sidlow Baxter said, Happiness depends on what happens to us. If our happenings happen to happen happily, we have happiness. If our happenings happen to happen unhappily, we have unhappiness. Joy is not influenced by what happens to us. It does not fluctuate like undulating waves, but remains steadfast.
Three, our joy thrives in unselfishness. Jesus found joy in giving Himself sacrificially for others. Joy can never be selfish. It springs solely from knowing we are servants of a God who wants us to love and serve Him and others.
The acrostic is true. To have J-O-Y, put Jesus first, others second, yourself last. Our society urges us to reverse this, to watch out for self first, to impress others next and be socially acceptable, to think of Jesus last. Treating Jesus and others as mere afterthoughts is a prescription yielding little joy.Four, our joy resides in holiness. Holiness matters most. Jesus was sinless. David was thrilled with God, but lost this joy when he sinned. With a broken heart, he pleaded with God, Restore the joy of Your salvation to me (Psalm 5112).
At times it looks as if holy living brings only hardship, while sin brings only happiness. But a day always comes when these roles are reversed. Sins flippant happiness vanishes, and holiness apparent difficulty turns to joy.
The worlds roses are covered with thorns. The wine of transgression soon sours into the vinegar of remorse. The sparks of sinful fun kindle flames of misery.
Our joy can be full only if we choose to dwell at the center of Gods will. Another acrostic, shared by Van Segars, is helpful. To have J-O-Y, pretend the O is a zero, let nothing come between Jesus and you.
Five, our joy is to be complete. Jesus is kind to us. He wants us to be totally filled with His joy. Hear again what He said, I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (John 1511).
If we shake a bottle half full of water, liquid rushes from end to end in a violent swirl. At the slightest motion, turmoil agitates the liquid because the bottle is only half full. If we fill the bottle and then shake it, all is quiet within. Turn it upside down again and again. All stays still. Calm reigns because the bottle is full.
Similarly, if we are full of Christs joy, our minds are steadfast, unshakable. If we often find us easily disturbed, it warns us our filling with joy is incomplete.
Being filled with His joy is not an inalienable right automatically given to us, but a trait we must seek. Jesus said He had spoken these things in order that our joy would be complete. There is a vital connection between His message and His joy. As we saturate ourselves with Him, His message, His sensed presence, His Word, the Bible, we find ourselves being more saturated with His joy.
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