“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
There used to be a song that had these words, “If you have a frown, turn it upside down.” Today, especially with the credit crunch and so many bad things happening, we do not feel like smiling, laughing or being joyful. Yet the idea of joyfulness is found throughout the Bible, and it is one of the required tools for Christian living. “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) … “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). So where has the joy gone?
The source of joy
In our text Jesus makes it clear that true joy can only be found in Him, therefore it is His joy, not ours or the world’s, that can change our lives for all eternity. He does not offer joy in half measures, but gives us unspeakable joy in its fullness. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Earthly happiness has the habit of fading like a mist, but Christian joy is continuous. “The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment, but the joy of those who abide in Christ’s love is a continual feast” (Matthew Henry). Jesus said that it can “remain” in us, which means that it will survive the very worst of circumstances that come our way. This is true because it finds its foundation in a Person rather than events. “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22) … “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [experience trials]” (James 1:2) … “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). It is Christ’s joy in us that gives us the victory over every situation. “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
The secret of joy
What if I do not feel that “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart”? Is it that Christ has not given me complete and perfect joy, or is it because of something that hinders me from experiencing it?
The secret of joy begins with surrendering our lives to the Lord. “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12) … “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation” (Psalm 35:9). This submission is not just asking Christ to save us, but also allowing Him, through the Holy Spirit, to guide us each step of the way. “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). This joy is one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Maybe if we returned to our “first love” we would again realise the joy of salvation (Revelation 2:4) and once again be spiritually refreshed, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).
The secret of joy includes studying God’s word for ourselves. “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). Remember that our opening text reads, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” This is certainly one of the reasons why Christians become bored and lifeless.
The secret of joy is known by those who spend time with God in prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24) … “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).
Where has the joy gone? Actually it has never left. The fact is, it is we, rather than God, that is at fault here. It is we who have allowed the joy Jesus has given us to ebb away through not obeying Him as we ought. The joy He gives is real and everlasting. It will exist even in the midst of fear, sorrow and torment. We cannot find it anywhere but in Christ.