“What’s robbed you of your joy?” It’s a funny question possibly because it refers to something deep within our being, something that should’ve been safe, something that surely no-one can take away from us. Nonetheless, we’ve all experienced times where there has been a distinct lack of joy – so what’s that about? How did the “joy” tank empty? Who left the tap on and why didn’t it refill?
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul includes a marvellous little formula for Christian living.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
This is God’s will for us who are in Christ Jesus. It’s a simple equation. If you are in Christ, His will for you is joy. But the question remains – “are you conscious or aware of this”- even in the midst of difficult circumstances?
Though facing ridicule and rejection, we read that,
“…the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52)
Just as we are in Christ and Christ (through his Holy Spirit) is in us – so too then – is His joy.
To rejoice means to enter into or take possession of joy. Like the word “joyful”, it means to be full of joy. It’s choosing to acknowledge, realise afresh or appreciate the joy of Christ within us, even as he is.
As we do this, we experience the truth of Jesus’ words,
“Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:38)
It’s not a response to external circumstances, it’s a release of an internal reality.
It seems that the experience of “joy” just isn’t an option for the Christian. Like the oxygen in our lungs, it’s always there however, sometimes we are more conscious of it. Even though we may pass through the odour of sorrow, the benefits of joy are not cancelled out.
There’s no doubt about it, this world can offer joy but it always comes and goes within the vehicle of circumstance. When: the movie is over, the game ends, the party wanes, the holiday finishes or the applause stops, the short-lived benefits disappear too.
The believer’s joy is as different to the world’s joy as is its source. Jesus promised, “I am with you always, even to the very end of the age”.
Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. -G.K.Chesterton