John 17:13 – I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (NIV)
Why is there so little joy in many Christians when Scripture portrays joy as a vital ingredient for life? Jesus was eager that His followers be filled with joy. Paul was too. He said:
Romans 15:13 – 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. (NIV)
For Paul, joy was vital because it anchors God's people in hope and faith. The apostle Peter also referred to joy, saying:
1 Peter 1:8b-9 – Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (NIV)
This was a deep joy in their divine calling and destiny — in other words, their salvation.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, as we are told in Galatians 5:22. When our inner being, the "earthen jar", is filled with the Spirit, then joy will be one of the fruits. Joy is the delightful fruit of promise. It is no frivolous option.
C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, recalled his own unexpected discovery of joy in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. As an atheist, Lewis had no intention of becoming a Christian — until he was delightfully surprised by "the unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet". In a recently published book, The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, we see a different experience of joy among new converts, whose overwhelming joy could not be quenched even by the brutal persecution they were enduring.
Nehemiah faced the daunting task of restoring Jerusalem's walls by boldly declaring, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10b NIV) Nehemiah knew that he would be facing hardship and opposition, and so he counted on a God-given joy to sustain him. We need this joy too — for the same reason.
This is why Jesus prayed that His followers would be filled with His joy. His joy helps us to persevere. No circumstance or emotion can muster up this kind of joy. It is Christ's joy — the joy of Christ within us — the joy in which we find our salvation, our strength, and our endurance.
Prayer: Lord, restore in each of us a joy in Your salvation. May we find endurance and courage through the presence of Your inexpressible joy within. Amen.