Joy is a charter member of the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17) and a high value in the sight of our God and Father. In Psalm 16:11, we read that the very presence of God is defined by a fullness of joy that accompanies the eternal pleasures that are at His right hand.
It is the joy of the Lord that strengthens us (Nehemiah 8:10), and it is His joy that causes us to run around like calves released from a stall (Malachi 4:2). Jesus told His disciples that this joy would be so infectious that at times they would even leap for the sheer excitement it brings (Luke 6:23).
I think it is important to differentiate between the joy of the Lord and our own human happiness. Happiness can be connected with our circumstances where the joy of the Lord is not self generated. And since it does not originate from us, we can’t lose it no matter what happens in our lives. As a matter of fact, James writes that we can even count it pure joy in the midst of the trials and challenges that life throws our way (James 1:2).
Living a joy-filled life does not mean that we will be insulated from pain, suffering and loss. However in the midst of our hardships, we can be comforted knowing that nothing in all creation will ever separate us from our Father’s love (Romans 8:35-39). Inevitably there will be times in our lives where weeping may endure for the night but praise God for the promise that joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30:5)
And joy is meant to be a major marker of the Holy Spirit’s fruitfulness (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives. I believe that when we are continually being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), joy will be one of the outward expressions of our inward infilling. Or at least it should be, shouldn’t it?
After all, Jesus told his disciples to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom wherever they went (Luke 9:6) and it was intended to have tangible benefits for all who were sick and oppressed. So why is it that the message of the Kingdom does not always sound like it is good news?
If we are communicating a ‘turn or burn’ gospel to a lost world, it might be time re-examine what the good news really is. If we proclaim a gospel that heaps more burdens on people’s shoulders than they already have, perhaps what we are sharing is not in harmony with the light burden and easy yoke that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 11:28-30?
The Apostle Paul wrote that our Heavenly Father loved us so much that He actually planned our adoption into His family before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-5). The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:1(a)… See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (NIV) (NOTE: This is the only place that I know of where there are actually two exclamations marks (!) used in one Bible verse.)
If the message that God is for us and has given us the same inheritance reserved for His only begotten Son (Romans 8:15-17) does not cause us to leap for joy, I don’t know what will. After all, what is better news than the fact that the God of heaven loves us with all His heart and is for us?
There is no question to me that joy is a big part of the good news package! It is freely given to all who will have the simplicity of heart to just receive it. We don’t have to earn it, deserve it, or fight to keep it. Joy is simply part of every believer’s birthright. It belongs to the weak, the poor and the foolish of this world because that is who the Father chose to confound those who operate in a counterfeit strength (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Unfortunately those who struggle with an orphan belief system, might not see the Kingdom of God as a very happy place. If we look through the lens of broken religious eyeglasses, we might see God as a tad angry and not very happy at all. Instead of a seeing God as a loving Dad who enjoys throwing parties for His wayward kids (Luke 15:11-24), an orphan mindset may side with the elder brother in the prodigal son story (Luke 15:25-32) who was filled with anger, jealousy and resentment.
I’m so thankful that the father in the prodigal son story was as compassionate to the older brother as he was to the disobedient younger sibling. The tragedy in the story was that the older, legalistic brother who saw himself as a slave, felt like he couldn’t even have a goat to celebrate with his friends when in truth, he was the heir to his father’s full estate!
Sadly we don’t know how the story ended. Did the older brother join the party or did he stay sulking in the field all by himself? I hope that he responded to his father’s invitation to come back home and celebrate the return of his kid brother. I guess just like him, we all have a choice to join the party of our Father’s making or wallow in our own self pity.
Jesus told us that He came to bring us home to His Father (John 14:1-3) so that His Father could be our Father too (John 20:17). There is no question that in our Father's presence is fullness of joy so we might as well start getting comfortable with joy this side of heaven.
In Luke 15:7, Jesus told the pharisees that heaven throws a party every time a sinner comes home. Considering that there are tens of thousands of people coming to Christ throughout the world every day, I can only assume that heaven is one party after another. Maybe that is why C.S. Lewis wrote that ‘Joy is the serious business of heaven’? Get used to it. The joy of the Lord is here to stay... forever!
My prayer today is that any misconceptions that we have about the goodness and kindness of our Heavenly Father would be consumed by the power of His love. I pray that any barriers that we would have in our lives that would prevent us from experiencing the tangible sense of God’s joy would be overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit that resides within us (Romans 15:13).
May we also become more aware that our own unique lives are a source of great joy to our Father. May we realize that He is so filled with joy over our lives (Zephaniah 3:17) that He has imparted that same joy to us as well!
We read in Hebrews 12:2 that is was for the joy set before Jesus that caused Him to endure the cross and despise its shame. Have you ever wondered what that joy was that strengthened Jesus to take upon Himself the entire sin of humanity? Perhaps it was seeing His Father’s joy over the many lost little ones that His beloved Son was going to bring home to His glory? (Hebrews 2:9-11)
I know that we all still see through a glass darkly, but one day, we will see God face to face. And on that great and glorious day, every believer in Christ will be presented to the Father with great joy (Jude 1:24). What a time of celebration that will be for all of us! My hope and prayer is that we will all be filled with a foretaste of that same joy this side of heaven so that we can have the strength that we need to live as loved sons and daughters today.
I close with the description of heaven that King Solomon wrote from Wisdom's perspective. If you think heaven is a dull and dreary place, think again!
30 I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence. 31 And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family! 32 “And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful. (NLT)