“Joy” is a word often heard during this holiday season.
Google “Christmas joy” and you will get 624,000,000 hits. You will learn that there is a movie, a novel, and a project all entitled “Christmas joy.”
Hallmark bills its many holiday movies as spreading “the joy of Christmas.” You will receive Christmas cards with a cheerful message of “joy.” Then, of course, there is the popular 18th-century song by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World.”
Joy, however, should not to be relegated to one season, one month, or one day of the year.
God’s people ought to be joyful people. Year-round. In fact, the spirit of joy is one of the great qualities that define disciples of Christ. Joy is among the nine traits identified as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22).
“There is no virtue in the Christian life which is not made radiant with joy,” wrote William Barclay. “There is no circumstance and no occasion which is not illuminated with joy. A joyless life is not a Christian life, for joy is the one constant in the recipe of Christian living.”
When Jesus was born the angel exclaimed, “I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be to all people” (Lk. 2:10).
In John 15:11 Jesus said, “these things I have spoken that My joy may remain in you.”
Following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Mary and Mary Magdalene ran “with great joy” to tell the disciples.
After the ascension, the disciples went back to Jerusalem with “great joy” (Lk.24:52).
When Jesus was preached in Samaria and people obeyed the gospel, there was “great joy in that city” (Ac. 8:8)
It’s little wonder that 18 times in the little book of Philippians Paul speaks of joy or rejoicing, a disposition predicated on the“joy of faith” (1:25).
There is a common thread in the Christian’s joy. Jesus! Jesus brings joy. The religion of Jesus is a joyful religion. Salvation gives birth to Joy. Receiving God’s grace produces joy. In fact, there is a connection between grace and joy.
The Greek word for joy is “chara.” It means gladness, calm, delight, or joy. Closely related is the word for grace–“charis.” Charis is “that which bestows on occasion pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard.”
When grace and truth came in the person of Jesus, so did joy. True joy. Real joy. Genuine joy. Not superficial feelings of happiness. While we may use the words interchangeably, there is a difference between joy and happiness.
Happiness is based on circumstances, but joy is rooted in substance. Happiness may be about things. Joy is about Jesus.
Happiness is external, but joy is internal. Physical and material things may make us happy, but joy comes from the heart. The soul. The inner person.
Happiness is based on chance, but joy on choice. The word “happy” comes from an old English word “hap” which means luck, chance or accident. Joy is a decision. A determination of the will.
Christians are too often guilty of allowing “joy killers” to rob life of its radiance. Worry. Unresolved guilt. Selfishness. Resentment. Fear. These sap our spiritual strength. Drain our spirits. Diminish our joy. Instead, replace these negative emotions with faith. Forgiveness. Unselfishness. Acceptance. And courage.
Even during this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s possible for us to find joy. Feel joy. And extend joy to others. In fact, the Bible admonishes us to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas. 1:2). How? And why? Because problems produce patience. Build our endurance. Mold our character. And provide an eternal perspective on life. No wonder, C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
Jesus came to give us an abundant life. A meaningful life. A purpose-driven life. A joyful life. Even when we must endure pain, problems, or persecution. So, regardless of what happens, we can echo the words of the apostle Peter:
“…Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet 4:13-14).
“Joy” opined Carlos Santana, “is the cure to the sickness of the soul.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman