One of the most popular Christmas anthems is “Joy to the World.” But how in the world is joy possible? Literally, how in this world that is filled with such sorrow and pain do you experience true joy? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Because the perceptions of Christianity is that you must eliminate all joy and fun before you will be accepted into Christianity. But those myths and perceptions are so wrong.
Joy is very realistic. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples, “you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20) Jesus doesn’t ask you to pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; he asks you to look at the suffering in a different way. Jesus gives the example of a woman going through labor pains. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) The pain is real, but there’s something that happens that changes everything – the outcome of the pain. When that little baby is presented to the mother, the pain is not exchanged for joy. The pain is literally transformed into joy because the mother holding the baby in her arms sees what all the pain was for. It’s the same thing with the death of Jesus. It caused him and his disciple’s great pain and sorrow, but now the cross is celebrated across the world. Why? Because you see its purpose. The sufferings of Christ have brought about complete forgiveness and eternal life for all those who will believe in Him. The cause of the sorrow has been turned into the cause of joy. So Christian joy is not the absence of sadness or sorrow, it’s the absence of despair.
Joy is constant. The joy of Christianity is a constant joy as compared to the unstable joy that the world offers. The only type of joy that the world can offer is a joy that is contingent upon good circumstances. It’s a joy that’s based on having your health, money, beauty, or success. Therefore, it’s unstable because all of those things can change in an instant. But Jesus offers a joy that nothing and no one can take away. Your circumstances may change, but God’s perfect love, faithfulness, mercy, justice, promises and grace never will. Christian joy is a deep satisfaction in the unchanging goodness and sovereignty of God.
Joy is overflowing. “May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace so you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) What a magnificent verse. It is such a beautiful expression. All the great words of the Christian faith appear here: hope, twice (once it is called “overflowing hope”) and joy, great joy, peace, calmness, confidence, trust, and belief in a living God. And finally, the power of the Holy Spirit, the invisible force that can open doors and no man shuts them, and can shut and no man opens — the power of God released among us.
Jesus brought joy to the world, the type of realistic, constant and abundant joy that only He could bring.
1. I Thessalonians 5: 16 (NLT) says, “Always be joyful.” Is that realistic? How do we turn sorrow into joy?
2. Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Is expecting joy to be constant in our lives realistic? If joy in hope is what enables this patient endurance, how do we apply that in our lives? What is the value of constant prayer?
3. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” What is the difference between hope and joy? Have you experienced overflowing joy in your life?
4. Pray that God would make joy a realistic, constant and overflowing part of your life.