Hi, Rob here. How joyful are you feeling as you read this? Is joy part of your everyday experience or is it much more elusive than that? I know for me joy can seem very elusive at times, and yet the Bible testifies to the fact that God is deeply concerned about our joy and wants to gives us more of it. A significant part of believing the good news of Jesus Christ is that we are to be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” as 1 Peter 1:8 puts it. I want more of that in my life! Do you?
How do we receive and remain in this state of joy that Scripture talks about? I think there’s a key in John 15:9-12: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
So the key to joy is remaining in the love of Jesus and obeying his command to love others as he has loved us. That is, there is an inward movement and outward movement. Inwardly we are to remember that we are unconditionally loved by Jesus and his Father. We receive this love through the Holy Spirit and it is the Spirit, Christ in us, who helps us to remain in Jesus’ love. So to cultivate joy, we must pay attention to the Spirit who calls us into the love that exists between the Father and the Son. That was a fairly theological statement but the reality of it is that we are loved by God, and he lives in us to make sure we know it and experience it.
Outwardly we are to let that love flow into loving action. We are to serve one another in love as Galatians 5:13 puts it. This isn’t meant to be a chore. As we remember Jesus’ love for us and how that love took him to the cross on our behalf then serving others with love becomes a natural expression of Christ’s love in our hearts. I know, I know it’s all sounding a bit theoretical and even fanciful. For most of us we do love Jesus deeply and remember his love for us often. We do love our fellow believers and sometimes even our enemies and yet, even then, joy can be elusive. Why?
I remember a word of warning that John Eldredge received once; “the enemy is out to steal your joy.” Now that makes a lot of sense! And I think that one of the main ways he does it is to steal our gratitude; our thankfulness; our ability to receive life as a gift of God. I know for me, that I can (subconsciously)sometimes start to look at life as my due, as what I deserve. This means that when it goes wrong, even in little ways (kids throw tantrums, unexpected bills, sickness comes etc), I can get resentful. When big things like serious illnesses or major marital issues arise then I’m left with bitterness against God as my only option. But, if I receive life as a gift to be thankful for, and I learn to recognise resentment as a tool of the enemy to steal my joy, then I can retain my joy even in the face of difficulty. If I add to this, remembering that I am unconditionally loved and nothing can take that way from me, then I am armed and dangerous against Satan, the joy-stealer!
So, once again I come back to thankfulness and worship as the core practices of my Christian life. I give thanks to God for life, love, his presence, his grace. I worship him because he is truly God and truly love. I open my heart up to him and give permission for the Spirit, Christ in me, to rejoice in the love of God. I recognise that a me-centred life is a temptation of Satan and I pray against him in the name of Jesus and come to the cross again. I hand myself over to Jesus and when he’s the centre then life makes sense, has meaning and yes, it has joy – an inexpressible and glorious joy.
Enjoy this video. David posted this on Facebook the other day. What greater joy than the Muppets!