“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11)
We can see in our text that joy can “remain” or abide in us, not by half measures but in full. It is Christ’s own joy, which must be eternal, that can make our joy complete. It is His abiding presence in us that makes the Christian life happy and joyful.
This joy is not of this world, it cannot be worked up, and it does not come through events. The world’s joy is mere happiness [happen-ness] that ebbs and flows like the tide. The joy our God gives us is eternal and cannot be removed by anything or anyone. “Your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). So the Christian life can be joyful or truly happy if we abide in the Lord.
Many believers only know the Christian life as a heavy burden. They put great effort in trying to be good, but inside they are sad, miserable and dying. The Christian life to them is lifeless and harsh, but they dare not walk away from it for fear of losing eternal life. So they get into a rut that gets deeper and darker with every step. They will read books about “The Dark Night of the Soul” which only confirms to them that life is meant to be dreary and unhappy for the Christian, when all the while Scripture teaches the exact opposite. The wearisome life they lead saps any power they might have.
This is not to suggest that the Christian sails through life on a carpet of rose petals. It is true that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12), but that does not mean we cannot have joy. The Lord Himself had that inner joy that was not diminished by suffering. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Such joy is the victory of the soul, for despite the problems that surround us, we can still go through them with joy in our hearts. “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19), because “the joy of the LORD is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). We can therefore “count it all joy” when difficulties come our way (James 1:2).
It has to be Christ’s own joy in us or else it would not abide a single hour in us. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). This joy is a portion of the fruit which comes by abiding in the Vine, and it is evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “The fruit of the Spirit is … joy” (Galatians 5:22). Therefore it is the Vine’s nature and work flowing through us when we have inner joy in the face of a storm. It should have an impact on our character and demeanour every day.
It cannot be anything short of Christ’s joy in us or it will never find completeness in our soul. Jesus prayed that we might know such joy as this. “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). If we substitute it with common happiness then we will find a sharp tongue or an evil glance will quickly remove it. The joy we speak of is the joy that Heaven rejoices in. “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). It is the same joy experienced by the angels when a sinner comes to Christ. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10), and will be manifested by God when His people stand before Him, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude :24). It is in fact Heavenly joy that fills our souls, and such joy is contagious.
This joy increases until it is full. It is “exceeding joy” that we need rather than moments of delight or merriment (1 Peter 4:13). This joy is only made possible through fellowship with Christ. It has to be joy to the highest possible degree. “That your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4, 2 John :12). The Lord is more than willing to constantly pour this joy into our spirits if we would but believe and abide in Him. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). We can be in spirit of rejoicing every day of our lives. We can have this joy and know that there is no possibility of anyone stealing it from us. We will not stop rejoicing until our joy is full. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).