This month I have concentrated on Advent, the time when we look forward to the coming of Christ as a baby, destined to save us all. I have looked at hope and peace, and now come to joy. These are all things he brings, and which should characterize the Christian life.
We often confuse joy with happiness, and think that we need to be happy in order to experience joy. That is not the way the Bible defines it.
When we believe God is in control of everything, we can be confident that he is always at work to draw us closer to him in all situations. That will drive us to praise him and bring us true joy.
Paul told the Philippians that they should always rejoice, and God would give them peace in their anxieties.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:4-7)
Showing joy in your life, no matter your circumstances, is a witness to the world of the power of God. If we don’t choose joy, we are proclaiming that what Jesus has done for us is not enough. That’s why it’s important to choose joy every day.
How do we do that? Jesus is our example. He was joyful in all he did, even in going to the cross.
Jesus … who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
This is where joy comes from. If we understand that Jesus forgave all our past, present and future sin by dying on the cross for us, paying the penalty that we deserved, and then rising from the dead, how could we not rejoice? He has provided joy for us.
When we gave our lives to Jesus, he made us new creatures (2 Cor.5:17), so we seek to live our lives for him and not for ourselves. We find joy by spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, and trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God will direct us on what it means to have a new identity and to be joyful in the process.
I know it thrills me to read the Bible and be reminded of what Jesus did for me and of how God loves me. As we learn we realise more and more just how sinful we are and how holy God is. What Jesus did for us becomes more and more important. I know, when I hear the gospel preached, I get so excited I want to get saved all over again!
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for ever more. (Psalms 16:11)
Our joy spills over into our relationships with family, friends, work colleagues, and even strangers. God has put these people in our lives for a purpose. As we express the joy we have in Christ, through our lives in words and actions, we can spread that joy into their lives.
We can love others well: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor.13:7)
We can be joyful as we train our children: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
We can honour our parents with joy: Honour your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
We can refresh the saints: For I have received much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Pilemon 1:7)
We can make an impact on those who do not know God: Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fullfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)
Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). That doesn’t mean we are all to be missionaries to foreign lands. But by living with joy, and telling those around you the reason for the joy, you can be a missionary right at home.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
How will people ask you, if they don’t see the hope, the joy? And when they ask, what will you say?