In the dictionary, Joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”. Another definition described joy as, “a state of happiness or felicity”.
There is currently a lot of controversy going on about whether joy and happiness mean the same thing. I am personally not interested in the difference between the two today but rather examining what joy means to the Christian and whether it is something we produce or acquire. As a background to this discussion, I want us to examine the life of a man called Nehemiah and how he and others embarked on a journey from extreme sadness to exuberant joy.
Nehemiah was a very important and senior official in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes I, at the capital city of Susa which was about 150 miles away from the Tigris river in what is now modern Iran. He served as the king’s cupbearer which made him one of those who had very close access to the king. Such was the close relationship he had with the king that the king was able notice a change in the demeanour of Nehemiah when he got wind of the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem as described in Nehemiah 1:1 – 3.
“Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
The news evoked feelings of sadness from Nehemiah, making him weep and mourn for days as he continued fasting and praying to God. The wonderful thing about this story is that it did not end in sadness and mourning. Nehemiah decided to do something about the situation. He became an instrument for the restoration not only of the walls and the city of Jerusalem but also for the restoration of the joy of the people.
Fast forward to Nehemiah 12: 43 (52 days after rebuilding began). “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”
Such was the joy of the people that their shouts were heard miles away. At this time, there were still people in exile and many of the houses were probably still in ruins but rebuilding the wall was of great significance. The was because a city without walls left its inhabitants without protection from their enemies as well as wild animals. It exemplified a people defeated; easy pickings from anyone who decided to invade them. This was why the rebuilding of the wall produced joy in the hearts of the people. It signified even to their enemies that God was back in the midst of His people and therefore giving their enemies second thoughts about trying to attack them in any way
For Christians, joy is the bye-product of our walk with God. I believe God has given everyone the ability to be joyful. However, the measure of that joy determines the depth of it, hence the reason why happiness and joy are often being interpreted differently.
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8: 1:2) Here Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, spoke about the generosity of the churches in Macedonia in spite of the severe circumstances they were facing. According to Paul, they were generous as a result of their “abundance of joy!”
If there was one person who understood what it meant to have the God-kind of joy, it was David. When he sinned against God by committing adultery and murder, he experienced what it meant to be drained of joy. No wonder he prayed, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12) These two things were important to David, the Holy Spirit and the the “Joy” of salvation.
So far, what have we learnt about joy?
– It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22- 23)
– Joy can be measured ( John 15:11, John 16:24) – “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete gskcws4.”
– The depth of your joy is the bye-product of walking in the Spirit
– Joy can be transmitted – (Phil 1:7, 1) – “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed
– Joy can be lost (sin, grief, loss)
– Joy once lost, can be restored (Psalm 51: 12)
Why is having joy important to the Christian? It is important because joy is the strength we receive when we walk with God. We may be happy when good things happen to us but joy is the deep feeling that we have from knowing that God us with us and will see us through whatever situation confronting us. We may not always be happy but the bible commands us to always be joyful because the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8: 10)