Christian Joy

{Andrew McMurray shares some thoughts from Ghana, where he is on a gap year with PAIS, working to spread the love of Jesus in schools in Accra, Ghana}

Recently I have been thinking a lot about Christian joy.   This started after I read Pastor Jack McKee’s (New Life City Church, Belfast) book, “Don’t just sit there”.  He talks about the attributes that are involved in being an ambassador for Christ; and one of these attributes he mentions is Christian joy.  Ever since I’ve read that chapter, I couldn’t just sit there, I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been challenged.  I’ve been wrestling with what true Christian joy is and what it means in our lives.

But what is Christian joy?  The dictionary tells us joy is a feeling of great delight and happiness, but I think joy is something more than that.  Something deeper.  The joy that Paul talks about in Galatians 5 v 22 when he talks about the fruit of the spirit is diffidently more than just a feeling of delight and happiness.  It must be, right?
But what then is the joy Paul teaches about?  The joy Paul teaches about is joy which is hard to achieve.  A state of being which is idealistic, but unfortunately, due to our inabilities as humans, often unrealistic.  Yet we have to fight to achieve the full joy that Paul talks about.

Imagine you are being arrested for your faith and thrown in prison.  Imagine being beaten purely because you are a Christian.  Imagine someone in your family dies suddenly – before their time, or is killed because they follow Christ.  Imagine when the child doesn’t cry at night, or when you don’t have enough breathe in your lungs to get out of bed in the morning.  Imagine you get the phone call we all dread and fear might someday happen.  Imagine living in a remote village in deepest Africa and your child gets sick.  You can’t afford healthcare.  Imagine when something really bad happens…

For many, I pray, it is hard to imagine, to REALLY imagine.  You might think you can, but can you really put yourselves in those shoes??  For others, unfortunately, you might not need to imagine, you might have been there.
But in all these things we are meant to show the fruit of the spirit, including that all important three letter word – JOY!  What’s more, Paul goes further than to say we are to show joy, and he tells us we are to “Rejoice in the LORD always, and again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4 v4).  Wow!  So even in the darkest of times, when it seems the world is falling apart all around us, we are not only to show joy, but we are to rejoice.  When you think about this, you start to ask yourself, “How is this ever possible?”

By the Grace of God, nothing particularly bad has ever happened in my life, I’ve never felt like my world is falling apart all around me, yet still at times I have found it hard to rejoice and show true joy.  As humans, and particularly as western humans, we are spoilt.  Little things going wrong can ruin our day and stop us rejoicing and showing joy.  But we need to get a new perspective on life.  We need to change our view. If little things cause us to stop rejoicing, how much more will these major life events cause us to stop rejoicing?
But God doesn’t want us to stop rejoicing!

So how do we make sure we rejoice always and show joy, even in the face of hardship?
For some people, happy is about having lots of people round them, friends and family etc.  For others, happiness comes from money.  Some find their happiness in having the nice car, having the nice house, or buying all the latest “stuff”.  Many find their happiness in having good health or in freedom.
But what if all of that was gone??  What if your friends deserted you?  What if you had no family left to turn to when life gets tough?  What if the stock market crashed and your money was gone?  What if your home was repossessed or you had no car to park outside your house?  What if your health was failing and you heard the worst?  What if your freedom was taken away from you?  What if you couldn’t remember when you had last eaten a good meal?  What if all those things that make you happy, that make others happy, were gone?

For most people, happiness is a surface that depends on circumstances and stuff.  But this isn’t a divine view of happiness.  Where does God teach in the Bible that happiness comes from having stuff?  I’ll save you time researching it – it doesn’t say it anywhere!!

Psalm 1 v 2 says “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD”.
That is why there are some Christians who love the LORD and give all they have to serve the LORD and, they do so though they are physically tortured and run the risk of being killed for their faith.  Are they happy?  Are they blessed?  To be honest, they are probably more blessed than we could begin to imagine because blessed means more than superficial happiness that relies on materialistic possessions or on the right physical conditions.  Rather it means you have a joy that remains steadfast when everything else is removed.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians he was in prison, yet still he could write, “Rejoice in the LORD always, and again I say rejoice”.  The people on the outside should have been writing to him to encourage him, yet he, the one on the inside, was writing to them to encourage them.
He had lost his freedom – yet he still could rejoice.
He had lost most of his family and friends – yet still he could rejoice.
He had poor health – yet still he could rejoice.
He was broken financially – yet still he could rejoice.
That’s the type attitude of joy we need to strive to have.
Getting there’s not going to be easy.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!   We can’t just sit there, we need to do something.  We need to rejoice always.  When you see how little Paul had, when most think he had no reason to rejoice, he had every reason to rejoice, because of the love of the LORD.  And you have that love too, so”Rejoice always…again I say rejoice”.
Are you rejoicing and having joy with the same attitude as Paul?  Or with the attitude of this world?  If God removed all the physical blessings in your life, would you still be rejoicing?  Probably not!  We need to change our perception of joy, and what brings us joy, so that we are joyful for the right reasons, so we are joyful even when all is stripped away, and we simply stand before the king of kings.

Learn more the author of this post:

AndrewMcM
  • Sam W

    Great article McM, I’m studying Philippians and that verse really stood out to me. God’s love for us should be enough to make us more joyful!!

  • Sam W

    Great article McM, I’m studying Philippians and that verse really stood out to me. God’s love for us should be enough to make us more joyful!!