Attain God's Joy - bright field of daisies

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 09, 2019

Attain God’s Joy: How does a Christian find joy?

The Source of Joy

Where does joy come from? What is the source for this joy and experience found in a believer’s life?

The word “joy” is used 211 times (NASB) in the Bible. Along with this frequently-used term are a few synonymous words like “rejoice” and “glad.” God designed Christians to celebrate His good hand on their lives with joy. Perhaps the most famous call to be filled with God’s joy is found in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Even in the heavily-packed theological Book of Romans, joy is mentioned as a hallmark of the Christian life. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Whatever overtones might be associated with the kingdom of God, the ecstasy of God’s saving work should overtake all of one’s struggles and pains. Righteousness, peace, and joy stem from the constant infilling of the Holy Spirit.

All Christians should anticipate being regularly encouraged by the joy of the Lord, no matter how long one has believed. Surely you have seen bright new believers with beaming faces, having just come to know the Lord. But, like me, you also have seen a lot of professing Christians who lack that joy, indicating that there are factors that foster that joy as well pits where that joy can be lost.

There are two general musts to fly a giant hot air balloon. Before one ascends and glides over the surface of the earth, 1) the heavyweights tied to heavy ropes must be released. 2) and hot air must be produced to create a lighter air to overcome the effects of gravity. And so, there are some spiritual duties of a believer to maintain one’s joy. Let’s first look at the heavy loads that will keep our hearts from exulting in our God, and then, look at some positive things we can do on our part to rejoice in the Lord always.

Heavy Burdens of the Soul

One must free oneself from dragging-weights of the soul to experience the fullness of God’s joy.
“Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

For example, joy in our lives is conditioned upon obedience. When we compromise our integrity, our soul is troubled. There is no peace with God and joy filling our souls when we trade in our faithfulness.

Our problems are not just the wrongs we have done, but how we improperly handle our past sins. Christians know they shouldn’t have said something or blown up in anger at their spouse. They try to smooth things over by saying, “I’ll try better next time.” A half-apology is no apology. Instead of protecting some element of one’s pride, a confessing believer ought to fully state what he has done wrong, tell what right thing he should have done, and seek the other’s forgiveness (Mat 5:24). When maintaining harmony in our relationships, our joy flows, but without offering forgiveness, it can never be found.

“Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Joy stems from gleaming grace from the gospel, so any wrong understanding of the gospel weighs down one’s Christian life. Legalism, for instance, strips away the glory of God’s grace along with the joy found in the freedom of Christ because they rely on their good works rather than on Jesus’ good work on their behalf. Joy arises from embracing the full grace of God found in Jesus (Rom 5:2).

Likewise, those who primarily use the Lord to get more in this life will never discover God’s joy because they are looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing. They are searching in the world’s junk pile of success that is readied to be burned rather than seeking Christ’s purpose for their lives.

Another weight holding back God’s joy is the pride that issues enjoyment from an argument or discussion of the truth rather than personally experiencing the joy of the teachings of the faith. I have seen so many conversations on election—God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4)—not lead to exultation over God’s willingness to choose them to be His forever. More than often, the power of the truth gets lost in the heated differences of opinion.

Our willingness not to fully follow God’s leading for our lives becomes a dead weight, keeping the joy of the Lord from our souls. If God leads in one direction, but like Jonah, we proceed in the opposite direction, there will be no joy—no matter how much theology one has studied or verses memorized.

I have only highlighted a few of the many weights that hold us back in our relationship with the Lord and interfere with the rediscoveries of the Lord’s joy.

Things that hold back joy in the Lord

Discover God’s Joy

So, using our hot-air balloon analogy, how is the heat created, causing the balloon to fly? What makes joy arise from deep within? Remember, a Christian does not create joy as it is the fruit or product of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to make our lives conducive to the filling of the Spirit. Nor should we look for steps 1-2-3 to instill God’s joy in us but to observe the number of things that need to attain the Spirit’s joy. Here are some thoughts.

So, using our hot-air balloon analogy, how is the heat created, causing the balloon to fly? What makes joy arise from deep within? Remember, a Christian does not create joy as it is the fruit or product of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to make our lives conducive to the filling of the Spirit. Nor should we look for steps 1-2-3 to instill God’s joy in us but to observe the number of things that need to attain the Spirit’s joy. Here are some thoughts.

Joy commonly appears when we regularly meet with the Lord in His Word and our minds are captured with delight at the great love of God. Like standing on the edge of a high cliff, we are overwhelmed with the fantastic ways He exercises His glorious purposes in this dreary world. “The Lord reigns!”

These are just a few ways we cultivate sufficient room in our souls for the Holy Spirit to exude His joy. Together, as we follow Christ, He turns the heat of our balloon up and causes us to arise in the delight of our Lord.

Happiness and Joy

How is joy different from happiness? Happiness describes the general excitement of altogether pleasant situations, present or future. Joy, however, though not contrary to pleasant circumstances, does not depend on them but arises from our contemplation of the Lord and His overall care for our lives.

The situation can be most unpleasant and even life-threatening—like Paul unfairly placed in a prison cell. But the Lord’s presence and promises so strongly affect our minds and dispositions that our heart becomes full of joy, delighting in the Lord’s wonderful ways. “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). The promises of God’s truth burst through any dungeon walls with the flames of God’s truth.

Joy doesn’t come from our surrounding circumstances but is built upon the bedrock of God’s truth, which has already been sealed in the work of God’s love in Christ who died for our sins. Paul, in Romans 8, highlights two panoramas that bring great joy by producing a vibrant hope even for those facing horrific situations (Saving View 8:28-30; Love View 8:37-39).

The promises of God’s truth burst through any impenetrable walls with the flames of God’s truth.

Finding Joy in Tragic Situations

What if my life’s situation forms part of a tragic story? For example, one Christian wife’s husband ran off with another woman and then claimed a large part of her money. Or what if I am facing some disease that slowly steals my health and strength? These situations, and be assured that there are many variations, should similarly lead us to meditate on the promises of God for our present, future, and concern for others.

First, never consider yourselves as abandoned, a castaway of the Lord. If you genuinely belong to Him, rest in His claim and ownership of you. Yes, those around us might consider us valueless or even bothersome, but this is all the more reason to keep God’s Word close to our hearts to renew our minds with His perspective of our lives (Rom 12:2).

Second, put away all bitterness and griping of one’s circumstances. All such responses depict a lack of trust in God’s good ways of dealing with your lives, so joy is restrained. By stepping beyond the shores of bitterness, we open wide the floodgates, welcoming the uplifting joy of the Lord. Yes, we might be spiritually disciplined for wrong in our own lives (1 Pet 3:17), or simply pruned (John 15:1-4), but we still can find delight in both as God is ultimately and wonderfully causing us to flourish in His sight by more closely following His ways.

Third, take the magnificent promises of God and let them lead you into an increasingly deeper trust relationship with God that never ends! You basically trust Him with all your difficulties and fully rely on His ways to lead you into green pastures (Psalm 23)—no matter how long it takes. You probably don’t know how or when He will deliver you, but your joy comes from your trust rather than the change of circumstances and therefore abides even during the times of testing. Even when dying, we can face death with the hope and joy of eternal life. Paul in 1 Timothy 6:12, awaiting his own death for the Lord’s service, says to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”

Thanks, Gratefulness, and Joy

A brother wrote, “I do give thanks, but it does not mean much to me.” Thanks, gratefulness, and joy are interrelated. Thanks can only mean the giving of thanks or the saying, “Thank you, God.” Many people give thanks for their meal but consider it a necessity rather an act of gratefulness. You need to transform your thankfulness into gratefulness to bring forth the ripened sense of belief and honor towards God.

Gratefulness speaks of the inward deep reverence and appreciation for the kind treatment from one towards another. In this case, we clearly speak about God’s kind acts of love, stirring and moving our hearts. By only giving thanks one resembles a one-legged man—not enough to display one’s potential fully. But when combined with gratefulness, a man can leap, run, and jump and so thanks comes alive when it is combined with gratefulness. So where does joy come in?

Shows how thanks, gratefulness, and joy interrelate with each other

Joy is the exuberant wonder released from of a pent-up ball of gratefulness, and so, remains only a small step away from gratefulness. While gratefulness humbly detects God’s undeserved kindness, joy is the inward and outward expression of delight over God’s help. And so, a believer, with the work of God done in his heart should naturally be filled with joy. The lack of joy reveals something missing from a believer’s life—perhaps sin weighing him down or not spending enough concentrated time with the Lord.

Conclusion

Only a little has been shared regarding this huge issue of joy. Joy is not only a signature of our faith but that which makes us strong in our faith, undaunted by life’s changing circumstances. Nehemiah, who regularly faced much opposition, says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

“The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10)

Nehemiah could have concluded, for himself or for others, that by returning to the homeland of Israel to rebuild would have been honored from the Lord by not having to face so much oppression and treachery. Again, if we look at our circumstances, we will fail to find joy, but when peering at God’s promises, an ongoing flood of joy can accompany our lives, enough for whatever situation that we find ourselves.

Move beyond the giving of thanks until you connect God’s undeserved goodness (i.e., grace) to you. Joy exudes as you revel in these richer and nobler thoughts of God’s goodness without questioning His good purposes.

An essential element of abiding joy is to keep in close fellowship with the Lord. “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, 7 For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:6-8).

A key means to refresh your mind with the truth of God’s abounding grace brings forth that inner joy. Identify special thoughts of the Lord and His care for your soul. The Psalmist in Psalm 5 faced extreme difficulties like we do (e.g., loss of our child, loss of our job, etc.), but note the joy that set His heart free! “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You” (Psalm 5:11).

Regularly contemplate in the Lord’s good works in your life. “For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands” (Psalm 92:4). Observe God’s work in creation as well as His redemptive work (i.e., saving work) through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Properly renew your mind with God’s Word by holding special times of abiding in His presence with His Word. Paul unequivocally said, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22). Although you might sense your contrary impulses of the flesh wanting to break loose, turn away from them and deeply delight in the Lord’s Word which brings great profit and joy to one’s soul.

Discussion Questions for “Attain God’s Joy”

  1. What is the difference between happiness and joy?
  2. Why does the author state that joy is the hallmark of the Christian faith? What does it practically mean?
  3. Describe how the picture of the hot air balloon helps illustrate a Christian can attain an abiding joy.
  4. Where does joy (from the Lord) come from?
  5. List two ways a false understanding of the Gospel can steal one’s joy in the Lord.
  6. Think of the times that you meet with the Lord privately in His Word. Do you experience His joy? Over what? When?
  7. How do we know His people who face challenging circumstances can abide in His joy?
  8. How does our bitterness cut out our joy in the Lord?
  9. Do your own Bible search on joy. Search for joy (or “rejoice) and pick out three verses that stand out most to you. Explain why they are so precious to you. Memorize them.
  10. Do you think it is God’s will for you to be filled with joy in the Lord? Why so?

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Joy is an awesome gift from God!

By Paul J. Bucknell on August, 17, 2019


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