Though many people talk about joy, the truth is that very few of us really understand much about it. Most people think, for example, that joy is something we're only supposed to have occasionally when things are going especially well. We see it as little more than a brief oasis in a life full of woe and care, as a "Holy Ghost giggle" that only comes now and then.
That, however, is not God's perspective of joy at all. In fact, He's made it quite clear in His Word that joy is one of the most powerful spiritual forces He's made available to us as believers.
He says in Nehemiah 8:10, for instance, that "...the joy of the Lord is your strength." That's a very revealing scripture. When you think of joy as strength, you can see that it's more than a spiritual luxury to enjoy now and then. It's an absolute necessity.
Every believer knows that strength is an indispensable part of the life of faith. You simply can't live a life of faith without being strong in the Lord. Ephesians 6:10 say’s, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." When God wants you to be strengthened with His might, joy is what He uses to do the job.
It's true! Colossians 1:9, 11 confirms it. There the Apostle Paul says: "For this cause we also...do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be...strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." Notice the words "with joyfulness." Joy is the might, or power, with which the inner man is strengthened. You can't be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might without joy being alive in you.
Some believers have failed to understand the power of joy by getting it confused with happiness. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. There's a world of difference between them. James 1:2 gives evidence of that. There, the brother of Jesus says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations."
Obviously, you can't count it all happiness when you fall into temptations, testing and trials because those things are downright uncomfortable! But you can count it all joy because, unlike happiness, joy doesn't come from outside circumstances - it flows from the inside out.
In other words, you don't have to get depressed when the devil starts trying to give you trouble. You can just start reminding yourself that the devil was defeated at Calvary. You can just keep thinking about that and talking about it until the joy of the Lord starts to bubble up within you. Then you'll be strong enough to whip any kind of trouble the devil can bring your way!
That's what the Apostle Paul did. Now here's a man who knew what trouble was all about. He'd been stoned and whipped and imprisoned and ridiculed - and yet he was always rejoicing. He even rejoiced when people preached the gospel for no other reason than to make his imprisonment more galling (Philippians 1:16-19).
How easy it would have been for Paul to wither up and die a bitter man, driven to despair by the circumstances around him. But he didn't! He lived long (in Philemon he refers to himself as the "aged" Paul) and joyfully.
He turned away from self-pity and chose to rejoice instead. He kept re-energizing joy by drawing on the supply of the Holy Spirit within him. Joy kept his attitude right. Joy kept his long-suffering at work in the situation. Joy kept him looking to God and flowing in power!
Joy is a far more powerful force than happiness. Joy is stable. Joy doesn't depend on our constantly fluctuating emotions. Joy affects the mind, making it alive and receptive. Joy makes the human will vibrant and yielded to God.
Joy even affects the body. There are people who have gotten healed of terminal diseases watching old comedy movies! As they got to laughing and laughing, they just barely tapped into that area of joy and their bodies responded to it. As the Word of God says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22).
The strength of joy is at the heart of every aspect of our Christian faith. Let's look at Galatians 5 where the Bible lists the fruit of the spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (verse 22). All of the qualities listed there were invested in your spirit when you were born again. They're all of the Holy Ghost and one is not more important than another.
You see, without love, there is no joy. Without joy, there is no peace. Without peace, there is no long-suffering. Without long-suffering, there is no gentleness, etc. In other words, each of these forces supports the other. It takes them all, working together, to make us complete. The joy of the Lord is the force that is our strength. Joy is the strength of peace. Joy is the strength of long-suffering, of gentleness, of goodness, of faith, of meekness, and of temperance.
Joy is not just a state of mind. It is not a fleeting thing. Joy is a very real force. The devil doesn't have anything that can stand up against faith, joy, love, peace, longsuffering, goodness or temperance. Just as fear has to yield to faith, discouragement has to yield to joy. These forces that flow out of the re-created human spirit are real. They are powerful. They are greater than anything the devil can send our way. Sure, he's tried to counterfeit them through drugs, sex, alcohol and money. But those are poor substitutes indeed and anyone who's ever tried them knows it!
"But you don't understand," you may say, "I'm just so beaten down and depressed that I don't have any joy left in me." Oh yes you do! Just read what Jesus said in John 15:11: "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
The Holy Spirit invested joy in your spirit when you were born again. What's more, Jesus is telling you here that you can share His joy as well. Just think of it - Jesus has put His own joy in your heart!
How do you put that force of joy to work in your life? Just like you put the force of salvation to work in your life: by faith! First, you believe you have received it. Then you confess it with your mouth. (In other words, quit crying and start shouting "hallelujah" instead!) Then you start acting on it. You don't have to whine and beg God to give you joy. He's already done that! He'll teach you how to develop it. But you're the one who's going to have to take those steps of faith.
No matter what your circumstances are today, you can be full of joy. You can be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. You can draw on the joy of the Holy Spirit within you and come out on top! If you've been fighting a long, hard battle with the devil, lay aside every thought, every weight, and every care and get your heart centered on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). Consider Jesus - and the joy of the Lord will turn you into the champion you've always longed to be. To help you, here is a confession you can confess every day. It will help you keep your mind on having the joy of the Lord over every circumstance:
Father, I thank You that Your joy is my strength. I know You've put it within me and I choose today to walk in it. Whatever circumstances I face today, I will look at them through the strength of Your joy. I will count it all joy when I face trials and temptations. I know that the fruit of the spirit is a spiritual force alive in me! Each fruit is working together, strengthened by joy, to cause me to overcome every work of the enemy. I know that today my joy is full because Your joy remains in me. I lay aside every weight and every sin and I run the race of life with patience. All the while, I will look to You, Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. Today my heart is merry and Your joy is like a medicine to my spirit, mind and body. Thank You, God, for Your joy. In Jesus' Name, today will be different - because I will go out with joy.
Prayer References: Nehemiah 8:10; James 1:2; Galatians 5:22; John 15:11; Hebrews 12:1-2; Proverbs 17:22; Isaiah 55:12