The other day I was feeling miserable which made me grumpy which made my family grumpy which made me more miserable. It reminded me of a word which seems so old-fashioned nowadays. A word that occurs over 200 times in the Bible. That word is joy. We all know that joy is a good thing, something to be desired, but what’s good about it? Where does joy come from? Why has it fallen out of fashion?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness,” which explains what joy is, but doesn’t tell us where it comes from.
In Acts 13:48-52 we find the new converts of Antioch in Pisidia filled with joy immediately after Paul and Barnabas have been kicked out of town: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Huh? Where does this joy that defies persecution come from?
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary says, “The experience of deliverance and the anticipation of salvation provide the most significant occasions for rejoicing among the people of God in the Old Testament. The coming of the Messiah, who delivers his people and brings salvation becomes the basis for rejoicing in the New Testament.” We see this in Jesus’ own prescription for joy in John 15:9-11, where Jesus exhorts us to abide in His love and obey His commands, so “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” So that’s where joy comes from.
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary goes on to say about joy, “The response of joy, gladness, or happiness is not only a deep inward feeling, but is expressed in celebration when God’s people gather together.” When this world and its worries fill our minds our joy will ebb away. Even in fellowship. Even in a comfortable, safe place like the Gold Coast. That’s why joy is “old fashioned:” we’ve forgotten the joy of salvation.
But we can build our lives on the truth of Jesus’ saving grace applied to us (praise God!). Then we too can express joy “in Celebration when God’s people gather together.” So let us fill each others’ lives with joy, celebrating our salvation, and let that joy spill out into the world around us. “Joy to the world” must not be just a Christmas carol!