Throughout the Bible we read about the great joy we can have in the Lord –
“…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.” (Psalm 5:11)
“… in your presence there is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11)
“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous…” (Psalm 32:11)
“Then I will go to … God my exceeding joy…” (Psalm 43:4)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy … in believing” (Romans 15:13)
“The fruit of the Spirit is… joy” (Galatians 5:22)
“Rejoice in the Lord always…” (Philippians 4:4)
But what exactly is this joy?
Pleasure and Satisfaction in Christ
Many passages show that this joy is an emotional feeling of pleasure and satisfaction (Psalm 4:7, for example).
But this joy is not pleasure and satisfaction in our circumstances; it’s pleasure and satisfaction in God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ (Habakkuk 3:17-18 and 1 Peter 1:8, for example).
So why is it that many Christians don’t experience this joy?
Why so Little Joy?
One answer dawned on me yesterday as I was praying about my lack of joy.
God does promise to give this joy to every believer (Psalm 63:7;Psalm 68:3; Luke 2:10; John 16:20,22; for example).
But he also tells us how he will give it to us – through faith.
Notice how joy and faith are connected in these verses –
- “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5)
- “You make him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the LORD (Psalm 21:6-7)
- “For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” (Psalm 33:21)
- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13)
- “I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25)
- “Though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 New American Standard Version)
So there is a cause-effect relationship between faith and joy. God promises to pour out this joy when we turn to him in faith.
So maybe one reason we don’t experience this joy is because we don’t pursue it by faith.
Getting There by Faith
If someone told you that the way to get to your destination was by bicycle, what would you do?
You would not start walking, or get in the car. You would hop on your bicycle, and start peddling.
So when God tells us that the way to get to joy is by faith, what should we do? We should turn to him in faith.
But so often, when I lack joy, I don’t turn to God in faith.
Instead, I languish in spiritual dullness, or busy myself with activity, or complain to my wife.
But what I should do is turn to God in faith.
Faith means trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.
So how do I turn to God in faith?
First — I turn to God just as I am, in my dullness and sinfulness, knowing that because of Christ’s death I will be loved and welcomed.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
Second – I confess all known sin to the Father. I confess whatever I am seeking joy in besides Christ, and ask him to help me turn my heart back to him. I am assured that through Christ I am completely forgiven.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Third — I look to God, trusting him to give me what I need. All that I bring to the table is neediness. But in Christ God promises to give me everything I need.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Fourth — I earnestly ask God to give me joy in him by strengthening my faith, overcoming my sinful blindness, and showing me his glory.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)
Fifth – I notice whatever worries or desires are keeping me from joy in the Lord, and work on slaying those with promises from the word of God — the sword of the Spirit.
… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God … (Ephesians 6:17)
Sixth – I pray over passages describing God’s glory until I experience the Spirit enlightening the eyes of my heart so I once again see and feel the all-satisfying glory of God in Christ.
… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened … (Ephesians 1:17-18)
As soon as you can, set everything else aside, and take time to turn to God by faith.
As you do, notice how the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith, shows you God’s glory, and gives you joy in beholding Christ.
And notice how that happened — by faith.
It’s by faith that God promises to give us joy in him.
So seek him — by faith.
Grace and Peace,