Joy for All?

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Psa. 19:8 π Mt. 13:3-9 π Mt. 13:18-23 π Mk. 4:3-9 π Mk. 4:13-20 π Lk. 8:5-8 π Lk. 8:11-15 π Lk. 8:13 π Lk. 10:17 π Lk. 10:18-20 π Lk. 24:39-43 π Jn. 17:3 π Acts 12:13-14 π Rom. 6:23 π Rom. 14:17; 2nd π Gal. 5:22; 2nd π Col. 1:11 π Heb. 12:7-8 π Heb. 12:11 π 1 Pet. 1:8
Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Joychara – [5479]

There is a notion floating through the body of Christ that Jesus came to bring joy and only joy to His children. Somehow many of us have come to believe that we here in America have grown up in “dysfunctional” and abusive families and are now in need of special portions of God’s joy to bring us emotional healing. This notion is extremely popular in the trite and superficial American church which enjoys the highest standard of living in the world - and yet this notion remains a virtual absurdity in countries and cultures which are currently experiencing famine and severe persecution.

That joy is truly of the Holy Spirit there can be no doubt. It is the fruit of the Spirit ( Gal. 5:22; top ), it is an essential ingredient in the kingdom of God ( Rom. 14:17; top ), and it is an integral part of our life in the Lord. ( Col. 1:11 ; 1 Pet. 1:8; top ) Without that inexplicable joy which goes beyond our ability to understand, Christianity would be just another dead and dry religion and could happily go the way of all useless things. Joy is indeed one of the more important and necessary “by-products” or “effects” of walking with the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a flip side to joy that we must be aware of. The Greek word the New Testament uses for this essential joy (Greek “chara” [ 5479 ]) is the same word Jesus uses in the parable of the sower and the seed. ( Mt. 13:3-9 , 18-23 ; Mk. 4:3-9 , 13-20 ; Lk. 8:5-8 , 11-15; top ) “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy (chara); and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” ( Lk. 8:13; top ) Apparently joy, by itself, does not have the roots, that is, the qualities of having dug deep into the word of God and the things of God, to sustain the believer unto eternal salvation.

This same joy is also the emotion the disciples experienced when they returned from their first mission. “Then the seventy returned with joy (chara), saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’” ( Lk. 10:17; top ) But then Jesus reproved them saying: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” ( Lk. 10:18-20; top ) Jesus reminded them that another being once got carried away with joy over his supposed superiority and was consequently, and rather abruptly, ejected from heaven. The disciples’ joy over their superior authority was leading them toward haughtiness and pride. Jesus had to remind them of their need to be humbly grateful that God had graciously granted them eternal life by writing their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

This same joy actually temporarily prevented the operation of faith when Jesus first appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. “‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy (chara), and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” ( Lk. 24:39-43; top ) The disciples were so overwhelmed with joy at seeing Jesus alive again that they did not yet believe in Him, that is, they could not accept and trust in His identity as resurrected Messiah. Jesus then had to do something mundane and almost trivial to evoke their faith in Him as the risen Messiah. He had to bring them out of the realm of emotional exuberance and into the realm of faith and understanding.

This same joy caused the girl Rhoda to leave Peter standing outside of the house where the Jerusalem ekklesia met after he had been miraculously released from prison. “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness (chara) she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.” ( Acts 12:13-14; top ) Rhoda’s actions were not too wise. If the guards had known of Peter’s escape, they would have been tearing the city apart looking for him. This girl, in her joy, left a wanted fugitive standing in the middle of a street at a house that was probably well known to be a center for Christian activity. Joy prevented her from exercising wisdom.

In the body of Christ, there are many counterfeits being perpetrated on many less than wary people - a counterfeit to appeal to which ever side of the soul dominates the individual. There is now an emotional counterfeit that portends to bring the “joy of the Lord” to emotionally “dysfunctional” individuals so as to release them from the bondage of joyless living. As we have just seen from these examples given from the Word of God, seeking joy as the primary goal or emphasis is only going to be misguided Christianity at best and perhaps the deceitful and destructive doctrines of demons at worst. Watchman Nee, who wrote in 1933, dismissed much of this type of behavior as being strictly from the soul and not in any way from God. [1]

Revival, a renewal and revitalization of one’s relationship with God, is not measured in terms of volume, excitement, or even spiritual joy. It is measured in terms of obedience to God and of self-sacrificing love for everyone around you. The true joy of the Lord is only to be found through obedience to the written and revealed Word of God. ( Psa. 19:8; top ) Frivolous and unrepentant hearts employing unScriptural methods can, in the end, only expect heartbreak and disillusionment.

The goal is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” ( Jn. 17:3; top ) And we know that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ( Rom. 6:23; top ) To seek the gifts and not the Giver only amounts to seeking something other than what God has given us in Christ Jesus. To seek an “it” when God commands us to seek “Him” is to be deceived and to miss the point entirely. To seek only joy when God has given us Himself is an affront to the awesome sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary and a direct slap in God’s face.

And there is yet one more aspect of this that must not be overlooked. The writer of Hebrews said, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons... No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” ( Heb. 12:7-8 , 11; top ) If all we will receive is the joy of the Lord and not the painful suffering of discipline of the soul and spirit, we have set ourselves to oppose the will of God. We will find ourselves resisting God and what will we then do when the joy which sustains us withers away too? We will find our faith is shipwrecked and we will have to go through a period of “unlearning” as we learn to remove our faith from the joyful side of life and learn to be content with whatever comes from God’s hand.

The shallow, one-sided, over-simplified gospel of the American “church” is designed to rob you of your powerful faith in God. So long as you have the comfortable and peaceful life of a chameleon “Christian,” you are faithful. But when the fire gets hot, you will be tempted to turn away from God. When the fire intensifies, praise God for you are being dealt with as one of His sons. But if your life is receiving no fire, be afraid. For if you are not disciplined, then you are not God’s son. Repent while you still can.

The true joy that is the fruit of the Spirit ( Gal. 5:22; top ) and the integral part of God’s kingdom ( Rom. 14:17; top ) is that you become exactly what God created you to be. There is no deeper satisfaction available to the human being than to know deep in his “knower” that he is being exactly what God made him to be. This joy is not an “it” that can be pursued outside of the relationship with Christ through His Spirit. It is the direct by-product of that relationship. If you start to pursue any “it,” even this joy, your relationship with Christ will suffer. Pursue Him and, when He knows that you need to experience joy, you will experience joy unspeakable and full of glory.

[1] Watchman Nee, The Latent Power of the Soul, p. 71-74. back

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