The Spiritual Discipline of Joy

January 12, 2021  - By Gretchen Saffles

The Spiritual Discipline of Joy | Well-Watered Women Blog

This post about joy is an excerpt from our 12-week bible study on spiritual disciplines: Planted. Find it in the Well-Watered Co. today.

The Mystery of Joy

In a world seeking happiness and pleasure, the mystery of the joy of the Lord often gets lost.

As believers, we have tapped into the abundant riches of Heaven through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3). Our hearts should be overflowing with joy, and our smiles should testify to God’s goodness in our lives. The life we live on earth was never meant to be drudgery. Still, most of us live each day overwhelmed by monotonous tasks. We are slouching beneath the heavy burdens on our backs, only to be exhausted at the end of the day and not looking forward to the next. It is true that in this fallen world there is sin, there are burdens, and there are plenty of tasks we do each day that aren’t exhilarating, but rather, humbling. 

God knows all of this. Yet, when Jesus told us in John 10:10 that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly,” he meant it, fully knowing we would struggle to find joy in this world.

Joy as a Refuge

John Piper said, “Christian joy is not an act of willpower, but a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart.” When we fix our gaze on the cross of Christ and preach the Gospel to our hearts, the most appropriate response is humble, deeply rooted joy. This is a direct result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts. It is the fruit of a life that abides in Christ (Gal. 5:24–25; John 15:1–5). 

Not only is the joy of the Lord a response of gratitude, an eternal perspective, and a blessing from the riches of Christ, it is also our strength. The Hebrew word for strength in Nehemiah 8:10 refers to a place of safety, protection, and refuge. Literally, the joy of the Lord protects our hearts in times of battle and confusion. The joy of the Lord is a safe place where we can rest our weary souls in a chaotic world. The joy of the Lord is a refuge we run to when the world seems to be caving in all around us. It is a haven for our souls.

Unlimited Spiritual Blessings

We have the abundant riches of God available every single day at any time. There is no limit to his riches in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 explains it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…” We don’t just have a few blessings; every single spiritual blessing is ours in Christ. God is not limited, nor does he limit his blessings depending on our circumstances or our moods. 

Each day you have a choice. You can either serve Christ in all you do, taking hold of his joy, delighting in his presence, and serving him fully (yes, even in the daily, mundane tasks like brushing your teeth and doing the dishes). Or you can choose to be discouraged, to want more than what he has given right now, and to set your eyes on seemingly hopeless situations instead of the cross. Joy is not focused on the present, but on future glory. It is taking all that God has given us through Christ and living obediently.

Joy is More than a Feeling

See, joy is not just a feeling; it is an act of worship. John Angell James described spiritual joy as “the oil to the wheels of obedience. It is this which braces up the soul for action, and carries it forward through difficult and self-denying duties … The heart by holy joy rises above the world, sees it below, covered with smoke and dust, and finds itself in a brighter, purer, happier region, with the cloudless sun above, and all-around filled with his glory.” At the root of joy is holy happiness in God’s sovereignty and a deep appreciation for the cross.

Even in the daily soul-scrubbing tasks, in trials and suffering, and in times of wandering, joy can be ours through setting our gaze on Christ Jesus. As we follow him and obey his commands, we receive the abundant blessing of having his joy take residence in our hearts.

Your Friend, Gretchen

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