I haven’t blogged or twittered this week due to spending a few days in Roan Mountain. I’d hoped to hike; wrote instead. But I wanted to post the outline for tomorrow’s sermon for this week’s journal entry. This could be a ten-point sermon, Bible lesson, Sunday School study, or personal devotion. Or it could be the basis of a short series of sermons, even a Christmas series (if based on the angel’s message of “Good tidings of great joy”). It came from my looking up all 218 verses that contain the word “joy” in the NIV. (I didn’t look up related terms like rejoce, cheer, happiness, gladness, etc. These are just from the usages of the word “joy” in the Bible).
When the Bible uses the word joy, it isn’t referring to positive thinking, or walking on the sunny side of the street, or calling the glass half full, or knowing that every cloud has a silver lining. It’s not describing a temporary feeling of euphoria. All those things may be the outworkings of true joy. But when the writers of Scripture used the word joy they were talking about an eternal, essential attribute of God Himself.
Joy is the way God is. Joy is a character trait of God, as we see Him revealed in the Bible. As a result, joy is an essential element of vibrant Christianity. Romans 14:17 says: For the kingdom of God is… joy in the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22: The fruit of the Spirit is… joy. Peter said: Though you do not see Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). There are 218 occurrences of the word joy in the New International Version of the Bible. When we take the time to look up these verses, here are ten facts that we could call Ten Buttons on the Jacket of Joy.
1. Joy is the Air God Breathes
Joy is the atmosphere in which God lives. First Chronicles 16:25 says: Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy in His dwelling place.
2. Joy is the Atmosphere of God’s Creation
Job 28:4-7 tells us that the angels shouted for joy as God created the earth. Psalm 65 says that sunrise and sunset call for songs of joy. Psalm 96 says: The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved… Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy. Psalm 98 says: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music… Shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy…. God is a God of joy, and joy vibrates through all the created order.
3. Joy is the Oxygen of the Christan Life
1 Chronicles 29:22 says of the worshippers in Solomon’s day: They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord that day. Psalm 16:11 says: You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. Psalm 21:6 says: Surely You have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of Your presence. Luke 10:21 says about Jesus, He was full of joy through the Holy Spirit. 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.
4. Joy is a Characteristic of Corporate Worship
Psalm 100 says: Make a joyful noise before the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and now we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. In Nehemiah 12, we read: The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
5. Joy Increases as We Grasp God’s Word
The prophet Jeremiah, who was melancholy by nature and who lived in truly tragic times said: Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart—Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV). In John 15:11 (NKJV), Jesus told His disciples: These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Nehemiah 8:12 says: Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them, referring to Ezra’s teaching of the Law and of the Word of God. Psalm 19:8 says: The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. And Psalm 119:111-120 says: Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.
6. God’s Joy Energizes Our Daily Lives
Nehemiah 8:8, which says: The joy of the Lord is your strength.
7. Troubles Can Dampen Our Joy, but Prayer and Faith Renew It
Life can knock the breath out of us like a bad fall; but Christians have a way of soon loosening our lungs again and breathing in the oxygen of joy. Psalm 94:18-19 are great verses on this subject: When I said, “My foot is slipping,” Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 28 is another good example. At the beginning of that Psalm, the writer is frantic. He says: To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit…. But during the course of this Psalm, this man prays his way through his problem, he regains the footing of faith, and by here is the way the Psalm ends : The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song. In John 16, Jesus said: I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and your will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask Me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in My name. Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. As and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
8. Sin Can Short-Circuit our Joy, but Confession and Repentance Can Restore It
Psalm 107: Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds to men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy. Psalm 51 is the prayer of deep contrition and repentance that David composed after his sin of immorality. Down in the interior of the Psalm, he said: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation….
9. We Should Spread our Joy to Others
Joy is a very contagious attitude. If there is one joyful person in a household, that home will be uplifted. If there is one joyful person in a church, that church will be strengthened. The apostle Paul wrote to his friend, Philemon: I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the heart of the saints.
10. Joy Begins When We Receive Jesus Christ as Savior
The Christmas song of the angels was this: Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!