“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.”
Sheldon Vanauken

I’ve been thinking about joy quite a bit lately. Joy is a big deal to God and comes up a lot in the Bible.

The Psalms are full of verses that speak of proclaiming our joy. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

In Deuteronomy 16 God blesses to bring joy. “For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God...because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. “

A few chapters later in Deuteronomy 28, God judges his people “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.”

In Ecclesiastes Solomon writes, “And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful...”

Paul declares in Philippians, “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith…”

So what are we to do when we find ourselves in times where joy is hard to come by? When our joyfulness and gladness of heart are found wanting? The ability to put on a happy face is often easy enough, but the deep joy that the Christians of Hebrews chapter 10 experienced as they joyfully accepted the plundering of their property...this joy is not manufactured. It is a deep joy rooted in the eternal, not the temporal. And truth be told, living joylessly is quite exhausting. This blog is not an in-depth theological treatise on joy, rather a look at some of the things that God has reminded me of lately regarding my desire for a deeper joy.

One passage in particular that has shed some light is John 15:11. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” The joy that he speaks of in the latter half of the verse flows out of the ‘things I have spoken’ in the preceding 10 verses. And something very noticeable from these preceding verses is that Jesus uses the word abide ten times. This word must be important! Here are a list of synonyms for abide:

comply with
keep to
hold to
conform to
adhere to
stand by
act in accordance with

If we read this list again after inserting Jesus, it reads:

comply with Jesus
obey Jesus
observe Jesus
follow Jesus
keep to Jesus
hold to Jesus
conform to Jesus
adhere to Jesus
stand by Jesus
act in accordance with Jesus

This gives a pretty good idea of what it looks like to abide in Jesus. To conform to him as he does the Father. And the truth is that if I am not abiding in Jesus, then I am actively abiding in something or someone else.  Abiding in them in order to find purpose, comfort, hope, and joy. Most often I am not joyful because I’m disappointed that the things I thought would bring me joy have not, and cannot. And to think that having more of what I already have is going to make me happy, means I’ve entered the ‘cul de sac of stupidity’, as one pastor calls it.  If my joy is tethered to temporal things that can be stolen or destroyed, or to people who can disappoint or leave, then my joy is at risk daily. But if my joy is in God, the one I abide in, then nothing can take it even if everything around me burns to the ground. It doesn’t mean things won’t be hard or painful.  Jesus never says following him is easy or safe, in fact its just the opposite. But my joy can be full because I know that my loving and sovereign God works all things together for the good of those who love him.

God looks glorious when we are joyful, and the aim of the Christian life is to make much of Jesus and bring glory to God. God really does care about our joy. He wants it to be full...and the good news is that He births it in us through the power of the Holy Spirit when we abide in Him.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Aaron Rose is on staff at Westside Church, where he oversees media and design and is the deacon of ministry development. Aaron is married to Kveta and has three boys and a girl.

Categories: Culture,Devotions,Wisdom,Written