Gleanings on Joy

Gleanings on Joy: A Devotional

“Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21).

“God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Heb 1:9).

At some point in life, we all find ourselves joyless. During this time, it seems that we also are unable to remember what joy even felt like when we experienced it. I too have gone through tough, joyless seasons. In the midst of those seasons, I wondered, “Have I ever known what joy was like?” I can recall waking up when I was a little boy, on Christmas morning and being so excited to see what gifts I got. My brother and I would look in awe at our stockings being so full that they were laid on the ground! But this was not joy. This was excitedness or happiness. Now we’ve reached an impasse. What then, is the difference between happiness and joy?

I started to find this out when I was a freshman in college. During this transitionary time in my life, I found myself becoming irritable, feeling annoyed at every little thing, and sometimes just downright angry inside. The combination is dangerous because it led me to resent almost everything people around me did – and worse – led me to resent other people. Resentment, it most similar to what Jesus said about anger and murder, thus likening resentment to sin. When you resent people, you want nothing good for them, and thoughts of petty revenge tend to circulate in your mind. Maybe that’s just me – but I doubt it. We cannot honor Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, when we resent them.

Nonetheless, during this season, I had to find joy. I needed it. I craved it, even though I had not known it, truly. The Lord took me on a journey that year. He brought different voices, different people into my life to teach me more about joy. I found that joy is not at all like happiness. Happiness is temporal, but joy is eternal. Joy is like an ultimate satisfaction in life, in the life that the Lord has given you. Joy leads to flourishing in life, which is what God wants for each of us. Joy is part of your lifestyle, and mindset. It came about for me in this way: Joy is an realization of my powerlessness, and God’s powerfulness. This self-realization is not cliché nor is this meant to be discouraging or make us feel like we have a loss of independence. The Joy that I experience comes from realizing that God’s grace has given me an eternal second chance to live life the way he wants me to. This grace leads me to an optimistic disposition, a sense of empowerment, that is not my own, but it is given to me to be exercised and to spur me on to live well for Christ. This is one angle of joy for me. Joy is not happiness. Seeing puppies makes us happy. Eating a good meal makes us happy. Giving and receiving good hugs make us happy. Having family to love and to be loved by makes us happy. But joy is God’s. Joy is God’s to give and can only be found in Christ. His joy is what enabled and continues to enable our joy.

John Piper in his book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, offers such an encouraging and refreshing take on joy for me, “But the glory and grace of Jesus is that he is, and always will be, indestructibly happy.” Hmm. At first, we become skeptical of this because it sounds so simple. But it’s true! Let’s think about this some more.

Jesus himself-and all that God is for us in him-is our great reward, nothing less. ‘I am the bread of life… If anyone thirsts, let him come to me’ (John 6:35; 7:37) Salvation is not mainly the forgiveness of sins, but mainly the fellowship of Jesus (1 Cor 1:9). Forgiveness gets everything out of the way so this can happen. If this fellowship is not all satisfying, there is no great salvation. If Christ is gloomy or even calmly stoical, eternity will be a long, long sigh. (Loc 220).

Why is it that in our theological studies, or in the sermons we hear or the church services we attend, we are told to be joyful… just because? Why should I be joyful? I know it means living better, but I like to understand concepts before I can integrate them into my life. We ought to be joyful, because. Christ is joyful. Has anyone ever spoken to you about the joy of Christ? I have had no such experience. This is profoundly relevant to us, because the more we study Jesus, the more we find out that he came to show us how he – the Word at the beginning, through whom nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3), the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9, 13), Creator – intended humanity to live. Jesus even says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). We cannot have joy without Christ. Furthermore when Jesus prayed for his disciples he said, “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” (John 17:13). In Jesus, then, is completed joy. Fulfilled and eternal satisfaction. This is joy. Piper continues,

It would not be fully gracious of Jesus simply to increase my joy to its final limit and then leave me short of his. My capacities for joy are very confined. So, Christ not only offers himself as thee divine object of my joy, but pours his capacity for joy into me, so that I can enjoy him with the very joy of God. This is glory, and this is grace (loc. 226).

“God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Heb 1:9).

In Hebrews 1:8-9 God [the Father] speaks to the Son, not to the angels, with these astonishing words: “Your thrown O God, is forever and ever… You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” Jesus Christ is the happiness being in the universe. His gladness is greater than all the angelic gladness of heaven. He mirrors perfectly the infinite, holy, indomitable mirth of his Father.

Piper again,

…Peter [in Acts 2:25-31] interprets Psalm 16 to refer to Christ: “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced… For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption… you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” The risen Christ will shake off the shades of death and be glad with the very gladness of God. The glory of Christ is his infinite, eternal, indestructible gladness in the presence of God.

Joy is not from us; we cannot manufacture or even fake joy. Joy is of God. Joy is of Christ. Joy is of His Holy Spirit. We do not know joy until we have known His grace.

These have been some gleanings on joy. We must never cease to desire Christ’s Joy.

 

Let us pray:

Dear Lord,

we pray that you would help us to find insatiable and eternal joy in you. Let us know you, and your grace. Let us recognize what you want to change in us. Let us recognize how much we need you, because once we realize this, we have submitted fully to your will. We need you, Jesus. Holy Spirit please dwell within us, transform us daily, hourly, by the second to be more like Christ. Show us you joy. We recognize that your joy is not from earth, it is not from us, it is not from others. Pour your joy into us, satisfy us like only you can, and make our joy complete, as you promised to us in your Word. I love you Lord.

Amen.

Ethan Van Buskirk

Instagram: @evb871_EngIdPbGYQQwFNagwyG9AA

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