We who live by faith in Jesus Christ are given the permanent gift of joy that reflects the beauty of Christ’s own spirit. Often we repress this spirit – or spoil it with spiritual conceit; but in its purest form, joy offers nothing but blessing to those it touches. We repress this joy when we fixate on our troubles, afflictions, ‘crosses’ and losses instead of our Lord. But when we look up at Him and all that He is to and for us, our hearts are refreshed and our countenance is changed. We also can spoil this gift of joy by acting like it’s ours. The result is a cold, condescending attitude toward the sister or brother who is in distress and despair or who is sorrowing and hurting. This is an abuse of the gracious gift of joy.
I cannot create joy. It comes from God, from His Holy Spirit. Joy is received as a stewardship, not only – or even mainly – for my benefit, but to bless God’s people. It helps to restore the ravages of sin, distress and suffering among us, as we share His joy with each other. Toward the brother who is discouraged by the crush of circumstances, joy shares its resilience and reassurance of God’s faithfulness toward those who love Him. To the sister who faces the guilt of failing to keep a command of our Lord, joy unveils the constant mercy in God’s face for those who admit their disobedience. To the one who carries a heavy burden, joy shares empathy and concern. When we communicate joy in sensitive way, our suffering sister or brother no longer feels alone and trapped in their predicament. Joy is an embracing love that lifts up others with divine courage, support and hope. Joy shares love’s strength so we can bear all things (1 Cor 13:7).
Joy is the wholesome fruit of knowing Christ and drawing on his life, by prayer, to meet the challenges of ours (John 15:4, 5, 11, 16; 16:24). It is the positive, holy presence of Christ within, which unbelievers cannot account for, but that believers find warmly attractive. It is, as Chesterton observed, the “gigantic secret of the Christian.”
As with all spiritual blessings (e.g., faith, hope and love), joy is either shared or smothered. Joy draws Christians together, whose hearts recognize their own spiritual poverty, yet are moved to release the abundance they have received from the Lord. God may fill one believer with His joy so they can remedy its lack in the soul of another. In this way they are blessed together. Joy is given to each of us to encourage the whole body.
There is no selfishness or egocentrism in joy. Godly joy unites us in one fellowship of love, where the humble example of Christ is our blueprint for serving others. Joy takes our relationships to a holy dimension that excludes pretension and dissension. On this plane there are no spiritual superiors or inferiors, because all are one in Christ. On such a fellowship the Lord pronounces His blessing: even life forevermore (Psalm 133:3).