Joy is a settled state of mind and heart produced by the Holy Spirit, resulting in contentment and hope-filled confidence in God’s trustworthy character and good purposes. It’s a settled state, not a passing feeling, of mind and heart; that is, it involves thoughts and affections. Joy is produced by the Spirit, not cranked up within or prompted by favorable circumstances. This leads to contentment, or being peacefully satisfied in God, and a hope-filled confidence in God as the one who is in control of our lives for His good purposes. This is why joyful people are relentlessly positive; they cannot be kept down. Even when life repeatedly beats them up, they rise again.
Romans 5:1-5 connects joy to our relationship with Christ.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
How to Maintain Your Joy
There are three ongoing disciplines that God wants you to understand and apply, in order to maintain your joy.
Root your joy in the peace you receive from your standing in Christ (vv. 1-2a). This peace is not a subjective feeling, but an objective reality. Those who are in Christ are no longer enemies of God, but are justified by his grace made possible through the blood of Jesus Christ (see Rom. 4:4-5). If your joy is dependent upon your circumstances—or life going well—then it will not remain. It will not endure, because we live in a fallen world that is filled with sorrow—a place where there are constant threats to our joy. To maintain your joy, you must not look inward or outward, but upward. Look to Christ and remember who you are in Him.
Renew your joy by embracing the promise of your salvation from God (v. 2b).
We “rejoice in hope of the glory of God;” that is, our joy is renewed when we embrace the surety of the promise of God (for example, look at Romans 8:15-21). Listening to gospel-rich, Christ-centered, grace-infused music can help tremendously. Maintaining your joy is a spiritual discipline. When the challenges of life threaten to steal your joy, you need to embrace the promise of God for your salvation.
Revitalize your joy by accepting the purpose of your sanctification by the Spirit (vv. 3-5). The purpose of the Spirit’s work of sanctification in our hearts is to conform us to the image of Jesus—not merely by altering our behavior, but changing us at the level of our desires and affections. Suffering does this for us: It strips us of worldly baggage, and it pulls us away from of false hopes. There is a purifying power in suffering that is unmatched.
Two Practical Considerations
- Joy impacts our evangelism. How you and I respond to suffering will either cause our witness to shine more brightly, or it will hide our eternal hope under a bushel basket (see Phil. 2:14-15). Our joy (or lack of it) impacts our witness for Christ.
- Joy affects our edification. Our response to suffering also impacts other believers. If, in the strength of God’s grace, we maintain our joy in the midst of suffering, then other believers will be helped to grow to maturity in Christ. As we walk through dark valleys, together, we help one another to grow.
Remember, the call to be conformed to the image of Christ is not merely an individual command. It’s for each and every local church, every local manifestation of the family of God. What are you doing to maintain your joy? How are you helping other believers who are struggling to maintain theirs?