When you buy a new car or home you typically can choose several upgradable features. These extras usually add more style, comfort and convenience but most of all more money to the cost. Because cost is a concern, most people skip several extravagant amenities and stick to a more basic model unless money is no object. I worked really hard when I built my own house to save money by doing a lot of the labor myself. By doing this I was able to upgrade some things in my home like granite countertops and crown molding. There were several things I really wanted to upgrade but knew it would be impossible. Things like a multi-head rain shower, heated floors and an office were just out because of cost.
Like those upgradable features we think we can never have, many Christians think all they can have is a “standard” Christian life. Things like joy, they think, are only “extras” they can never have. But joy is a standard feature for every Christian. How is this possible? It isn’t your joy to begin with; It is the Lord’s. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” This verse is clear that joy is the Lord’s and it can be what empowers us. Hard work isn’t where we find strength. Money isn’t the answer, either. Joy itself isn’t our strength. The Lord’s joy is our strength. I don’t have to be dependent on my joy for strength! Amen to that because sometimes I am at a loss for joy. It is when I remember that joy comes from a relationship with the Lord that I find renewed strength and encouragement.
Whenever you feel down or discouraged it is because you lack the Lord’s joy. One thing is true — you cannot fake joy. Either you have it or you don’t. You can fake happiness with a fake smile and fake laugh but you can’t fake real joy. When you have joy, you have real power from the Lord. Happiness is dependent upon the circumstance. If your circumstances are good, you are happy. If they are bad, you are sad. That’s a roller coaster I get tired of riding. But when you have the Lord’s joy you are sustained and fulfilled in even the worst of times. In Psalm 51 David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” It isn’t the joy of my salvation because only He is the inventor, originator and delegator of joy. Joy comes only by God’s work of grace which brings about salvation.
Joy is actually a standard feature of the Gospel. The word “gospel” actually means “good news.” They are interchangeable words. It isn’t bad news or disappointing news — Jesus’ work of salvation is good news. It’s the best news ever! If you are constantly living a Gospel-centered life you are living in the good news. Paul said joy or a form of that word (i.e. rejoice) 16 times in the book of Philippians. When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” If you are living in the Good News, the Gospel, in Christ you are living in true joy. If you have been searching for pure joy then look no further. It is only found in Christ through believing the good news of His Gospel.
Jesus is the answer to your joy problem. Stuff won’t give it to you. People can’t keep it coming. Only Jesus brings true joy. Peter said that those who believe in Jesus are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Jesus promised His disciples in John 16:22, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Trust Jesus for your joy and He will “anoint you with the oil of joy” (Hebrews 1:9).
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Stephen Harrison is associate pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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Editor’s note: Pastors or associate pastors interested in writing for this section may submit articles to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry.