It is something that has always seemed elusive to me. The definition of the word is “great happiness or something that brings happiness”. Synonyms include happiness, delight, pleasure, enjoyment, bliss, elation, thrill, gladness and many more.
Okay, I get all of those definitions, but I’ve never felt that I really understood the true meaning of joy, nor have I ever felt it consistently. There, I said it.
Oh, now, don’t go looking at me like I had three heads! Surely there are scriptural concepts that you just don’t ‘get’?
Let’s dig a bit deeper into my theological joy conundrum.
Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, listed right after love. For it to be number 2 on the list, likely means it is pretty important. The Zodhiates Key Word Study Bible tells me that the Greek word used here for joy is ‘chara’ and it means ‘to rejoice, joy, gladness.’ Well, now that was helpful! Mr. Z goes on to say that related words are exultation, exuberant joy, good cheer, mirth, gladness of heart. Hmmmm??!!
Does that mean I am supposed to run around all the time with a big goofy grin on my face being happy, happy, happy about everything? I don’t think so. When I took a personality test a few years ago, I discovered I was a choleric-melancholy, which means I am a down-rather-than-up control freak. Sheesh. “Happy, happy, happy” is not likely to happen with this girl on any consistent basis. Not that I go around with a long, sad face all the time. I don’t, but neither am I usually the life of the party.
This weekend, as I was spending time in 1 Thessalonians, I hopped over to a commentary to check out a verse of Scripture. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says
‘rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks….’
Rejoice always. What in the world? I picked up my MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1&2 Thessalonians and began reading. MacArthur says that we need a proper perspective on biblical joy. If we have this right perspective, we have reason to rejoice. Okay, now we might be getting somewhere.
MacArthur goes on to list ten reasons for joy. Ten, and not a one of them were food related. Stink!!! Even in light of that huge oversight on MacArthur’s part, I was finally able to get a better grip on joy. Here are his ten reasons for biblical joy and at least one Scripture to support each:
1. The character of God
Psalm 28:7 (NIV) – The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
2. Christ’s work on the cross
Romans 5:1-2 (NIV) – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
3. The Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers
John 14: 26 (ESV) – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
4. Many spiritual blessings
Ephesians 1:3-14 – (My synopsis of the list of spiritual blessings.) We are blessed, chosen, adoption, redeemed, forgiven, and included by God.
5. God’s providence in orchestrating the world and our lives
Romans 8:28-30 (ESV) – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
6. The promise of future glory
Matthew 5: 12a (ESV) – Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…..
7. Answered prayer
John 16:24 (ESV) – Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
8. God’s Word ~ Scripture
Hebrews 4: 12 (NIV) – For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
9. Genuine fellowship with other believers
1 Thessalonians 3: 9 (NIV) – How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
10. The gospel proclaimed
Acts 15:3 (ESV) – So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
Friends, I can be happy, happy, happy about any one of those ten, or every single one of them.
I don’t know why this was such an eye-opener to me, but it was. The world doesn’t give us much to be joyful over with all the evil and yuck spread around. God, on the other hand, gives us a whole passel of stuff to feel joy over. I can experience joy because of my relationship with Jesus, in spite of the muckity muck in the world. So can you, friend!
Linking up with Kelly Balarie at #RaRaLinkup.