Christianity 201

February 3, 2015

Joy Beats Happiness Every Time

 

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:13-14, KJV emphasis added).

What follows below about half of a much longer article.  If you have the time, I encourage you to click the title below and read the introduction (and ending) instead of jumping in at the middle. The author uses the KJV throughout, but most of these scriptures are clear.

Where’s the Joy?

by Dr. Dan Hayden

WHAT IS THE JOY OF THE LORD?

A Definition Problem

 A young lady once said to me, “Pastor, how can God expect me to be joyful (or did she mean happy?) when life is so tough and everything’s going wrong?” She was expressing a common frustration with regard to Christian joy. Problems and pain are usually thought of as inconsistent with the joy of the Lord.

You see, happiness is directly related to the circumstances of our lives. When things go well, we’re happy. When things do not go well, we are not happy. It is as simple as that. Now, if we equate happiness with joy, then we will think of joy in the same way. The fact that pleasant times are usually seasonal and transitory (sometimes even totally elusive), means that the joy of the Lord is perceived that way, too. Sometimes we have it; sometimes we don’t.

Is that what our Lord had in mind when He prayed for us? Not really. Jesus was praying for something far different. When He said, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (v. 13), He used a word to indicate something consistent and lasting. The Greek word for “fulfilled” is pleroo, which means to make full or, in another sense, to complete and bring to a finished product. The idea then, is that we might have His joy brought to completion, or matured, in us.

Also, the grammatical form of this word (the perfect tense) contains the idea of something that begins in us with consequences that continue throughout our lives. It is something that happens within us that is irrespective of any outward circumstance. It is consistent, not intermittent. It is lasting, not temporary. Thus, the joy of the Lord has a quality about it that surpasses what we normally think of as happiness.

The key to our understanding the joy of the Lord, however, is to observe carefully the specific joy our Lord had in mind in His prayer. When Jesus prayed, He said, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (v. 13). There it is. Do you see it? He does not have our joy (in the sense of what pleases us) in mind at all. Rather, He is thinking of His own joy brought to completion (fulfilled) in our Christian lives. That is more than an interesting observation. It is the essence of knowing what the Bible means when it refers to Christian joy. The joy of the Lord, quite frankly, is the Lord’s joy. In other words, it is the kind of joy experienced by Him when He was on the earth.

So you ask, what is the Lord’s joy? What is it like? Thankfully, we are not left to guess concerning the nature of this joy. In Hebrews 12:2 we read:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (KJV).

We are told in this verse that “the joy” our Lord knew was something that was “set before him.” In other words, as He lived out His life there was something before Him that so captivated His attention that the difficult times (the cross and the shame), were no match for His enthusiasm. It motivated Him. It strengthened Him for the hard times. It created an excitement in His heart that made all other things pale into insignificance. It was so wonderful that His entire life was dedicated to pursuing it. The thing that was “set before him” was His joy. It was the joy of the Lord.

The last phrase of this verse, however, gives us our clue as to what it was. The Bible says He “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That final expression is descriptive of the glory that came to Christ as a result of all that He did. In His high-priestly prayer (John 17), He tells us that His whole purpose for living was to bring glory to the Father by accomplishing the work of redemption which the Father had given Him to do (v. 4). Jesus went on to say that there was a glory that would come to Him as a result of that accomplishment (v. 5)—a glory so wonderful and so exalting that no hardship was too great (the cross) and no rejection too severe (the shame) to deter Him from that goal. Even eating took a back seat to that purpose (John 4:31-34). It was the joy of His life.

Now the thing we need to understand is that the Lord’s joy was related to what would happen at the end as a result of what He did in the process. The glory and praise He would receive in Heaven as a result of having “endured the cross, despising the shame” on earth, was His joy. That was what was “set before him.” It was the end result, the goal, and the finish line that joyfully enthralled His soul. Therefore, He endured with joy the hardships He experienced because they were the means of achieving the joyful result (James 1:2-4).

All of this can be beautifully illustrated by our previous verse in Hebrews 12:

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1, KJV).

Serious athletes understand this principle. Olympic runners, for instance, will subject themselves to rigorous workouts, painful situations, and severe deprivation in order to do their very best in the Olympic Games. They are not masochists who simply rejoice in pain. They “lay aside every weight” and “run with patience” because they are driven by a vision of glory in which they win the race and receive the gold medal. The pleasure of participating and, ultimately, the glory of winning is their joy. Even the process becomes enjoyable in the sense that it contributes to the joy—the glory of winning.

That, dear Christian friend, is the presence of the joy of the Lord. It is not pleasurable experiences that make us happy here on earth—although happy times will come on occasion. The Lord’s joy is a wonderful sense of privilege and an incredible sense of destiny as we participate in the grand work of Christ upon the earth. It is enlivening expectation that the result of all our work, trials, and suffering in the cause of Christ will be a magnificent sharing in the glory of Christ. We will reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12), we will sit with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:21), and we will share with Him in His glory (1 Pet. 5:1). Can anything beat that? Is that vision set before you? If so, it will be your joy, and you will say with Paul, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Those that have caught that vision will understand exactly what Peter meant when he said:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (1 Pet. 4:12-13, KJV).

Our Lord is praying for us that we might have His joy fulfilled in us. What is He praying? He is praying that we will enter into such a close union with Him that the joy of His life will be the joy of our lives. He is praying that we will catch the vision of devoting our lives to the glory of God and to His purpose in the world with the realization that we will one day share in His glory. Oh, what a joy it is—no matter the cost!


So…how can we get that joy?  For that you want to read the second part of the article.

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