Let us turn our attention once again to that complex, mysterious and elusive emotion commonly referred to as joy. It is tough work, but someone has to do it.
We have seen how a highly egocentric definition of joy may lead, in a circuitous route, to the gateway of faith. What joy awaits us when we make that leap of faith? More than can properly be described in a brief essay, that is certain. But neither life nor faith is necessarily simple.
We might profitably and joyfully spend a lifetime exploring the full biblical meaning of the word joy. For now, we might settle for a few comments from J.I. Packer. In his book God's Plans for You (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books) 2001, Packer states:
To dwell at length on the preciousness of joy is needless. Joy makes you shout; joy makes you jump; joy turns mere existence into real living. Joy is life with a capital L. Joy produces tears, and when you weep for joy, it is not because you are miserable (P.109).
Packer goes on to describe the unrestrained joy of his young son when he beat his daddy at ping-pong. Sometimes joy comes from unexpected sources.
Still, we are looking for the real thing. Packer goes on to say:
Joy is at the heart of satisfied living. It is also at the heart of real and credible Christianity, the Christianity that glorifies God and shakes the world (p.109).
Packer suggests, among many other examples, Romans 14:17:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (ESV).
If we aspire to be evangelists or simply to be faithful servants of God, we might check our joy levels the way a race-car driver checks his oil and fuel levels. We simply will not get very far without joy. As Packer puts it, "all who hope to cut ice as witnesses for Christ will do well to study the art of joy as part of their spiritual preparation (P.110)."
"Study the art of joy"? Interesting concept. For some, perhaps it is not necessary. For them, joy in living is as natural as breathing. For others, well, frankly, some of us have our moods. It cannot hurt to study the art of joy.
For those who wrestle with disappointment, depression, failure or fear, Packer says:
The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking. It is by this means that the Holy Spirit, over and above his occasional visitations in special moments of joy, regularly sustains in us the joy that marks us out as Christ's. Our Lord Jesus wants our joy to be full. Certainly he has made abundant provision for our joy. And if we focus our minds on the facts from which joy flows, springs of joy will turn our ongoing pilgrimage through this world into an experience of contentment and exaltation of which the world knows nothing (P. 125).
This joy thing is starting to sound like it could be fun.
Psalm 43: 3-4:
Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God. (ESV)
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