Some have asked me why name my blog “Abiding in Joy.”. That is a fair question. It was not just an impulsive idea. My first choice was “Joy Inexpressible” or “Joy Unspeakable” taken from I Peter 1:8. But these names and almost every variation were taken. Actually, as I thought about it, perhaps Abiding in Joy actually fits better than the earlier choices.
For a major part of my Christian life, I have felt that one area God was trying to work in me as a life message was that of faith. I first began sensing this when I was still single. Reading books like Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler and Dr. Taylor’s biography of Hudson Taylor greatly impacted those earlier days. Living by faith and walking by faith have remained constant themes in my daily life. However, about three years ago, I believe God spoke to me that He also wanted to work deep within me in the area of joy. Since then I am constantly seeing in the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament, the many references to joy and rejoicing. A very quick conclusion was that joy is to be a daily part of our Christian life. And yet, if you are anything like me, it is easy to think of joy as something that flows from our outer circumstances.
Here are a just a few things I have learned about joy:
1. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see joy being dependent upon outward circumstances. Joy is therefore a quality that is to run deep within us, and should not be likened to happiness. Many times joy is spoken of in the context of difficult times or intense tribulation. Joy is something that transcends emotions and circumstances.
2. Biblical joy is something so deep and so marvelous that the phrase “joy inexpressible” or “joy unspeakable” is used. It cannot even really be described. What human words could ever capture a joy that surpasses all tribulation? I recently read a book about the characteristics of the persecuted Church. Do you know what was the first quality mentioned? Joy. That cannot be explained in human words. That is the joy He wants us to have.
3. Joy is something that comes from the Lord. It is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As the Spirit controls our life, part of the fruit will be joy. A careful study of John 15:1-11 will tell us that joy comes as we are truly abiding in Him. Jesus refers to the joy that is to be in us as “My joy.” His joy becomes ours, and is full, only as we learn to abide in Him. That is one reason I like the name “Abiding in Joy.” It implies that is possible only as we abide in Christ.
4. Perhaps most sobering to me is to realize that joy is to be a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. We often blame our lack of joy on our personality type, or we think of it as something we cannot possess because of our past experience or background. And so the Church today is filled with people who are gloomy, pessimistic, depressed, filled with heaviness, and certainly lacking in joy. If we are following Christ, if we are abiding in Him, if we are walking in the Spirit, then we will have joy.
I know we live in a culture where true joy is almost non-existent. Perhaps as we reject the notion and the excuses that say joy is not possible, then we can begin to be filled with joy. We can learn to abide in joy. And the world, who is desperately looking for something different in the Church, will begin to be attracted once more to the message of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:14-16 says that as we forsake grumbling and complaining, we will prove ourselves to be children of God. We will become lights in a world full of darkness.
Personally, I know I have a long way to grow in abiding in this inexpressible joy. But I do know that this what is God is calling me (and really all of us) to, and I know this is what I want in my life. Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s move forward into all that He has for us…….including abiding in joy.