Quickly! Answer this question. Don’t think hard and long. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, how JOYful are you on most days? Does your joy level depend on the day of the week or what others are doing? Would you like to be more steady and stable in your Christian joy? Keep reading for some powerful tips to intentionally living the JOYful life that Christ has designed for His followers.
Even though Christianity should be a JOYful journey, many Christians appear to be constantly running low. Why is it that many do not experience what the Lord obviously wants us to have? Again, I must point out that there is a difference between joy and happiness, though the two are related. Until a believer matures into this understanding, it will be difficult to maintain daily victory in this realm. Your joy could stay in constant disrepair.
What’s the big deal? Well, I think you’re psychotically ill if you are wondrously happy about a loved one suffering from disease and then passing away in a cruel and slow manner. Or, let’s say that your child is sick and racked with pain. You shouldn’t be happy about that. Perhaps you just got unexpectedly laid off and have no sign of employment on your horizon. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks and your spouse just blurts out the “D” word. You’re not about to happily plan a dinner party to celebrate either of those happenings. Happiness has to do with the happenings of life or my circumstances. And the reality of life is that some days are not filled with happy emotions. Some days, I don’t sing, because I am not happy.
However then shall I fulfill or walk in the obedience of my text verse for 2016? In case you’re new here, that’s John 15:11. I’d like to share a few tips from it and perhaps we can gain some new perspective.
Think first about the background of this verse within the life and times of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been on a journey to Jerusalem and has told His Disciples three times that He would soon experience death. And they know that He has enemies in Jerusalem that want to kill Him. So consider their perspective. They’ve been with Him for about three and a half years. They’ve grown to love Him sincerely and accept that He has been sent from God. They have forsaken their old lives in order to follow Him. And now Jesus keeps talking about leaving them. These men were uptight and a little worried, to say the least. Their ears have heard life filled words of faith, peace, prophecy, and those all important words about another Comforter. Then Jesus interjects with an explanation about their lives and says:
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (NKJV).
Let’s break it down into three parts and make it easier to understand. 1) “These things I have spoken to you,” 2) “that My joy may remain in you,” and 3) “that your joy may be full.” And within these three parts, we find three words that bear examination. These three, lead us to three tips to the intentional joy that we can’t afford to miss.
1) Well, what are “these things” that Jesus has spoken. In the sequence of events, “these things” come before our JOYful key verse. The Great Physician has a spoken plan and we need to follow every detail. First, in John 13:34-35, Jesus told them to love each other. It’s impossible to hate other believers and have the joy of Jesus. It’s a simple commandment, but admittedly difficult to accomplish with some folks. From my own experience, I have found it easiest to love those for whom I’m actively praying. Moving along in John 14:1, Jesus teaches us to trust in faith. Stop worrying about all this stuff and trust in Me, that I can take care of you – that’s what I think the Lord is saying. It’s not an act of faith to be consumed with worry as though God has vacated His throne. And worry never leads to joy. Lastly, Jesus tells us in the seven words of John 14:15, to obey His commandments. There is deep satisfaction found (aka, joy) for those who walk in the given light of His Words. Disobedience leads to a joyless existence, but obedience leads to a JOYful experience that can’t be fully described (for bonus points, try wrapping your head around and memorizing John 14:21). – Jesus’ plan for our joy is that we love each other, trust in faith, and obey His commandments. Our application for these instructions is to simply, just do it! Go, and do likewise.
2) The second tip to intentional joy has to do with Christ’s word, remain. Jesus means for His joy in us to stay put. Unlike the temporary emotion of happiness, which is tied directly to our happenings, the joy of Jesus is meant to be the permanent disposition of His followers. This means I must go through the trials of life, which will come according to James 1:2-4, with a deeply settled soul contentment that tells me everything’s gonna be alright (aka, joy). The necessity is that I stay faithful to Christ in spite of the trials and temptations of life. James 1:12 mentions that a crown of life awaits me. – Walking through the trials of life and staying faithful to Christ, His joy should be joined to His people. It’s like how God takes two and joins them into one and they remain joined forever despite the unhappy days of life. Let the joy of Jesus remain joined in you in spite of the difficult days.
3) Thirdly, let’s receive this joy-full tip in the final phrase of our key verse. The first point to this fullness is a noted change in ownership. Such a transaction means that as an individual I must take ownership of my JOYfulness. Jesus moves us from His joy remaining in us to saying that “your joy may be full.” It’s my JOY now. The devil didn’t give it to me, and he can’t take it away. My joy level can remain in the full range, because it is based on Jesus first and foremost, and not the changing emotions of my humanity. Following the example of the Early Church noted in Acts 2:46-47, we learn that an attitude of joy will be reflected through the simplicity of our fellowship with Christ first and then His people. And when we are persecuted, we can follow the example of His Apostles who in Acts 5:40-42, were found joyful in persecution. The Early Church believers stayed full of joy, despite the physical ascension of Christ and so can we. – With a learned attitude of joy, the Bride of Christ too can stay full of joy in spite of any persecution that comes our way. Yes, our joy level can stay as full as a bride’s joy on her wedding day.
So those are the three words found in my key verse for 2016: spoken, remain, and full. Though it’s a lifelong journey, my intentional focus this year will be upon joy. Will you join me? I’d love to have you along this year so we can encourage one another. Comment and ask questions at your will. I’ll address this JOYful thread again and let you know how I’m doing within a few months. Until then, let the joy of Jesus remain in you so your joy can be full.