Seven Biblical tips for living a joy-filled life

  • This is adapted from a Sunday talk at Glenwood Church – listen to the talk here

    Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

    The fruits of the Spirit are the things that grow in our lives as we live in step with the Holy Spirit as disciples of Jesus Christ.

    We need to grow this fruit called joy, because generally speaking the perception is that Christians are the opposite of joyful. Christians seem to be thought of as serious and judgemental and frowning at everything.

    The singer-songwriter Billy Joel summed this up in one of his songs saying:

    “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, because sinners have a lot more fun.”

    In the Bible it says that Joy is a hallmark of the Kingdom of God. In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus tells this parable:

    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

    ‘In his joy’, this guy went and sold everything he had so he could go and buy that field and make that treasure his own.

    At the final meal with his friends before he was taken by the authorities and crucified, Jesus prayed for his disciples, asking God that they “may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John chapter 17, verse 13) That is going to be one of the signs that we are Jesus’ disciples – that we have the full measure of Jesus’ joy within us.

    So, given all that, how do we nurture joy growing as a fruit in the orchard of our lives?

    There are plenty of clues in Scripture. These are seven practical things it says we should do:

    Principle 1: We should smile more

    Proverbs chapter 15, verse 30: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart”

    This isn’t just about making other people happier by smiling at them. Psychological studies show that if we choose to smile we will feel happier and more content. We think it’s the other way round – we smile because we’re happy, but what the psychologists say is that actually we will feel happy if we smile. (And the writer of Proverbs pre-empted those modern studies by a few thousand years.)

    Principle 2: We should promote peace

    Proverbs chapter 12, verse 20:“those who promote peace have joy.”

    It’s hard to be joyful if you are arguing with everyone all the time.

    Principle 3: We should seek justice

    Proverbs chapter 21, verse 15: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous.”

    Whenever there is a fight for justice, there is tremendous joy expressed when justice is done. A just society is happier and more peaceful. Injustice breeds resentment among the oppressed and fear and paranoia among the oppressors.

    Principle 4: We should be grateful and thankful for what we have

    Ecclesiastes chapter 9, verse 7: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart.”

    An attitude of gratitude finds joy in the things we have. It is the opposite of wanting stuff, which only creates envy and coveting.

    Principle 5: We should trust God

    Psalm chapter 13, verse 5: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

    Trusting God brings peace about the future and calmness in the presence. It reduces worry and stress, which are both detrimental to joy.

    Principle 6: We should praise God

    Psalm chapter 97, verse 12: “Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.”

    Depending on how we feel, it can be hard to praise God sometimes. But God is worthy of our praise whether we feel like praising or not. Offering praise to God helps us to focus on something beyond our own troubles and reminds us of the one we have put our hope in.

    Principle 7: We should be mindful of our salvation

    Luke chapter 10, verse 20: Jesus tells his disciples that they should “rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

    When we truly think about our salvation we recognise how God has worked in our lives, and leads to thankfulness and gratitude and our trust in God grows. Our names are written in heaven! That should bring us joy.

    If we could do those seven things, then we will begin to experience more joy.

    We also need to remember that Joy is just one fruit that Paul lists there in Galatians. Many of those fruit interlink. If we embrace the idea of loving each other, then we will know more joy. It’s hard to be joyful if you are impatient. Kindness leads to joy – both showing kindness and being shown kindness. These fruit all grow together with the help of the Holy Spirit.

    We have to make the decision that we want this fruit to grow in our lives; we have to choose joy.

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