What is Joy?
As many of you know we have just finished up our first year of Adventure Club. It was truly a great opportunity to go through 30 different studies all focused on the themes of Man, Sin, and Salvation. Just about a month ago I had the privilege to study and teach through Romans 5:1–11. To be honest, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what this passage says about how we are to live our lives considering the amazing grace that we have been given. Of course, the overarching theme of this passage is that we are justified by faith. But what blows me away every time I read through this passage is the joy that we are called to have in every situation.
But what does it mean to have joy? Of course, we all know that, biblically speaking, joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It seems that some of my dear brothers and sisters find themselves currently in a rut. They have a doom and gloom attitude about what is happening in our world and, more specifically, in our country. Now, I am not saying that we should ignore such things, but as children of God, we should not allow what is happening around us to steal our gaze from the One on whom we should be focused. None of this should steal our joy. Within our examination of this passage (using the ESV), we can see we are actually called to rejoice. In fact, we can see this word used three times within these verses. It is important, however, that we take note that Paul points out for us that this joy is only for those who have been “justified by faith” and who “have peace with God'' (Rom 3:17; John 16:33). This joy is not for everyone universally! This is a call for Christians to understand that our joy is made manifest in three elements.
This is the first point that Paul brings up in verse 2. Those of us who are saved by grace through faith should “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” He points to our joy in salvation itself. We should be joyful, for we have been reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18, 20; Col 1:22). Paul even brings this up again in verse 10 of Romans 5, where he says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son . . .” Through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice by His death, God’s wrath that was due us has been satisfied, and through His resurrection we can now have life in Him. How can this not cause fountains of joy to well up within the Christian? This is the hope and peace that is poured out on us each day—knowing that our salvation is secure in Him and not of ourselves. This is the gift of God that He has shown His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). This is what we need to remind ourselves each day. We are secure in this salvation because He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
The second defense that Paul makes for joyful Christian living is, according to verse 3, that we are to “rejoice in our sufferings.” For those who are outside of Christ this makes no sense and is not even possible. I know suffering is not fun or enjoyable. But that does not mean that we cannot have joy within it. Paul points out that we need to understand what that suffering is doing in us. He says that this “suffering produces endurance” (2 Cor 4:16–18). Just as a weightlifter puts his body under immense stress to get stronger, so too, God allows us to endure suffering so that we may become stronger. This suffering is to us as weight is to the power lifter. One does not simply wake up one day capable of winning a gold medal at the Olympics. It takes consistent endurance in resisting heavier and heavier weight that makes you strong. We should recognize that God is doing a great work in us, through suffering, which produces endurance. Through enduring suffering with joy, Paul concludes that this continues to strengthen our faith in the fruit that is produced in “perseverance” and “proven character,” which once again drives us back to the first point of the hope that we have because of the “love of God” (vs. 5). In this fruit we have joy because we marvel at the great work that God is doing in our lives.
This is what drives us to Paul’s third point that “we also rejoice in God” (vs. 11). The first two ultimately reside in the third. The reason that we can have joy in salvation, in our sufferings and afflictions and in all aspects of life is because our joy rests with God. It is God who brings us joy in everything because He is the source of it. He is the source of our salvation, He is the source of our growth through endurance, He is our joy because He is our God. Holy and mighty is He who rules over all creation, and who has provided a way of salvation from His wrath. It is no wonder that Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 8:10 “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is only by the grace of God that we live each day according to His command. It is only because He made us a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) that we can live in such a way. Let us approach each day and each moment according to Romans 5:1–11. We must understand that all that we have, including our salvation, is because of the great love that God has shown us in sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. It is in the power that He displayed in raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand. This is the hope and peace that we carry each day. Brothers and Sisters, let us find our joy in the Lord, and let us rejoice in our great God.