I have a friend who is a bishop in Nigeria. Many times he has shared about the murder of members of the churches under his purview by antichristian terrorists. Yet, both he and his people exude an undeniable joy even though they could be snatched up and butchered at any time. I asked him how it was that they were not overcome with fear and grief. He shared with me that they simply choose to focus on living for Jesus Christ every minute and this gives them the armor of joy.
Joy is amazing. The joy of the Lord is indescribably great! Christian author and Oxford scholar, C. S. Lewis has said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” What a beautiful notion. Consider that in the unmitigated presence of God, the native atmosphere is joy. But what is joy?
Joy is not merely great happiness. It can occasion happy emotions, but joy is not itself an emotion. Joy is a tangible good that cannot be thwarted or diminished by external circumstances. Joy for the Christian believer is a state of blessedness based on God’s goodness, perfect, holy, just, loving, and beneficent nature. This joy divine is a gift of God emanating from Him and arising from God’s forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. Joy arises in us from the presence of God the Holy Spirit within us. The Spirit is both the sign and seal of our adoption as children of God and the guarantee that we will live forever in eternity with God. This joy is both sublime and supreme.
However, while we live on this broken world in bodies and with minds subject to frailties and imperfections, we are all too capable of letting the nearness of other things eclipse our joy by taking our attention away from our supremely blessed state in Christ. It is not the case that anything has removed our joy; it is only that we have blotted over the sun-source of our joy by gazing at some trouble without peering beyond it to the God who makes all things work to the good of them that love Him and have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) A different way of saying this is to say that our experience of divine joy is greater when our faith in God is greater and seems less when we take our gaze from Christ to anything else. Faith, hope, and love in and for God are the channels of our ability to benefit from the joy that is God’s unlimited gift to us.
The greatest impediment to the experience of joy is sin. When we choose that which God cannot and does not bless, we pull ourselves away from joy because sin separates us from God. Repentance, worship, and obedience to God are the means for restoring us to joy.
How glorious it would be if every Christian believer could discipline their focus heavenward and God-directed. Many illnesses of mind, body, and soul would vanish in the scintillating brightness of the light of heaven’s joy. Many sins would entirely lose all appeal and loving God and neighbor appropriately would become an unimaginable delight. Join me in praying that each of us lay hold of joy unspeakable and full of glory! If joy is the serious business of heaven, how much more should it be ours?
Contact Pastor Lamb at email@example.com.