STOVER: Joy is an important part of being a Christian

Published 4:25 pm Saturday, February 3, 2018

By Larry Stover | Stover lives in Valley Grande and is the pastor at Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene

Not too many people today would relate the idea of “joy” with being a Christian.  They might believe that joy is perhaps an occasion of exhilaration or happiness. The pressures of life these days often negate the whole idea of happiness or joy.

The truth is that joy is an important and vital part of holy living. It is really crucial to our daily walk with God and our calling to reflect Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world.

There are 70 instances in the New Testament where people are told to rejoice. When you add another 120 references in the Old Testament, joy becomes an important issue for those who call themselves Christians.  It’s not something for a “lucky few;” it is a viable working part of our conversion.

Some people confuse spiritual joy with happiness.  Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to be happy. Happiness is an entirely human mood dependent on positive circumstances.  In other words, happiness is a by-product of what happens in our lives.

Joy, on the other hand, is a gift from God. When we look at the Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians chapter five, we see that “The fruit of the spirit is love… expressed as joy.” Because it is a gift from God, Christian joy is often misunderstood. People in the world don’t understand how a grieving widow can rejoice because she has the confidence that her husband is in heaven. Others do not understand how believers are so strong emotionally when their world seems to be falling apart. Still, others handle the stresses of life with a fortitude that is not always understood by others around them. Joy in the Lord far surpasses the limited knowledge of this world.

Our Christian response to them is a powerful testimony. Until you are living in a daily relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never know or understand the joy and peace that comes from that connection.   The Lord never said that we would be free from troubles but He promised the grace to see us through them. It is the dynamic of that bond that gives a “joy” that baffles the unbeliever yet is the foundation of our faith.

As a part of the Fruit of the Spirit Joy is a treasured gift from God. Rather than being condemned to a life of guilt, depression, and “what ifs,” we are set free to live by the Spirit and enjoy the fruit of that relationship.

The Apostle Paul garnished his writings with overtures to joy. He penned the words of Philippians 4:4 while in a Roman prison.  They read, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  Happiness would not have been on the heart and mind of an individual who was in chains. We cannot always depend on the circumstances of life to bring joy or happiness. Since joy is a by-product of the Christian experience, Paul could easily say that in all circumstances we need to take pleasure in the joy and wonder of the life changing relationship that we have with Jesus Christ.

Since joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, we know it is a continual blessing of our relationship with Him. As we mature in our faith the discovery of increasing joy becomes an added blessing to our relationship with Christ. When we get rid of spiritual stumbling blocks, the Holy Spirit floods us with increasing joy.

Sin and disobedience are “joy killers.” Those negative attitudes and actions can rob an individual of the joy God intends for us to receive as Christians.  Until our relationship with God and others is reconciled, joy will be a fleeting virtue enjoyed by others. If God is not pleased with our lives, we will forfeit the joy of fellowship with Him.

When King David, in the Old Testament, was confronted with the sin he had committed, he was miserable until his relationship with God had been reinstated. He cried out to the Lord, “Restore the joy of my salvation.”  Later on, he became “a man after God’s own heart.”

Our Joy is in the Lord fellow Christians. It is strengthened by our continued relationship with Him. “To be holy as He is holy” is to share this heavenly attribute. The world will never understand us because we live on a different level. Our testimony of that joy in the midst of the struggles of life will be a beacon to others of the life we have in Jesus Christ and will make our lives “Simply Beautiful.”