In yesterday’s study, we concluded by talking about happiness. On the other hand, joy is quite different. Joy comes directly from God, and is not related to circumstances; and so no circumstances can ever destroy it. Thus if the individual belongs to God and is allowing God to fill him with joy—along with all the other fruits of the Christian life described in Galatians 5:22-23—he will triumph.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to speak of the supernatural qualities of Christian joy without saying at the same time that many Christians fail to experience this joy as they ought, and that all of us fail to experience it at times, or lose it after the initial joy of their salvation. Circumstances get them down. And instead of the victory they should experience, they know depression.
One of our great hymns speaks of victory even in death:
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
On the other hand, other hymns tell of the loss of joy that’s characteristic of the life of many Christians. One hymn writer wrote:
Look how we grovel here below
Fond of these trifling toys;
Our souls can neither fly nor go
To reach eternal joys.
And another songwriter hereby added:
How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see.
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers
Have lost their sweetness for me.
Well, it’s a sad confession. And it’s doubly sad, since it’s a sad state in itself and because it’s true for many Christians. This should not be. Instead of depression there should be a joy in the Lord that goes beyond our circumstances. Do you know this joy? Perhaps you’re saying, “I know that I should have it, and I would like to rejoice in the Lord always. But circumstances still get me down. What can I do? How can this joy be sustained?”
The answer is in God’s Word, and we must follow it as we would a doctor’s prescription. If you see a doctor because you feel tired and run down, and he prescribes exercise and an increase in vitamin B, you go to the drugstore and buy vitamins. And if you’re disciplined, you make sure that you exercise every day. In the same way, if we lack Christian joy, we need to adhere to God’s remedy. Well, what is this remedy? I believe it can be summed up in several principles.