Joy to the World

Joy to the WorldOne of the most popular Christmas anthems is “Joy to the World.” But how in the world is joy possible? Literally, how in this world that is filled with such sorrow and pain do you experience true joy? Do you just need to pretend that bad things haven’t happened or won’t happen? Just try and ignore the pain or avoid the pain? In this world of great suffering, where do Christians get off with talking about the goodness of God and the joy of life? Has Jesus really brought joy to the world? And if so, how? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Because the popular understanding of Christianity is that it is anti-joy. It’s nothing but dos and don’ts. People think, “I want to have fun. I want to experience life with a capital “L”, but I won’t be able to do that if I’m a Christian.” Many people think of Christianity as something that hinders your joy, not as the one thing that can bring you joy. So what is the joy of Christianity?

A realistic joy
The first thing a person must understand is that the joy Jesus brings the world is very realistic. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples, “You will weep and be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Jesus doesn’t ask you to pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; he asks you to look at the suffering in a different way. Jesus gives the example of a woman going through labor pains. The pain is real, but there’s something that happens that changes everything – the outcome of the pain. When that little baby is presented to the mother, the pain is not exchanged for joy; the pain is literally transformed into joy because the mother holding the baby in her arms sees what all the pain was for. She sees that the pain was worth it. The very cause of her sorrow becomes the very cause of her joy.

It’s the same thing with the death of Jesus. It caused him and his disciples great pain and sorrow, but now the cross is celebrated across the world. Why? Because you see its purpose. The sufferings of Christ have brought about complete forgiveness and eternal life for all those who will believe in him. The cause of the sorrow has been turned into the cause of joy. This is the type of joy that Jesus offers you. It’s the joy of knowing that no sorrow or loss is ever senseless. God will not come to you with a consolation prize that hopefully makes up for the suffering you experience in life. No, he will show you the perfect purpose for all the suffering so that the tragedy is actually transformed into triumph. Christian joy is not the absence of sadness or sorrow; it’s the absence of despair and discontentment.

A constant joy
Jesus also told his followers that “your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.” The joy of Christianity is a constant joy as compared to the unstable joy that the world offers. For example, here is a father at Disney World waiting with his little girl to see Minnie Mouse. Minnie is signing autographs and taking pictures with the kids and this father’s little girl can’t wait to meet her. So they wait in line for several minutes, and then just when they get to the front of the line, a security guard comes up and says, “Sorry folks, Minnie has got a show to do”, and she is taken away. You see, that is the best type of happiness that the world can offer. Disney is the happiest place on earth, if you happen to be in the right spot in line. It’s the happiest place on earth, if you have the money to get in. The only type of joy that the world can offer is a joy that is contingent upon good circumstances. It’s a joy that’s based on having your health, money, beauty or success. Therefore, it’s unstable because all of those things can change in an instant. But Jesus offers a joy that nothing and no one can take away. It’s a constant joy because it’s based on the unchanging facts of his death and resurrection and the unchanging character and will of God in your life. Your circumstances may change, but God’s perfect love, faithfulness, mercy, justice, promises and grace never will. Christian joy is a deep satisfaction in the unchanging goodness and sovereignty of God.

An abundant joy
Jesus mentioned many times throughout his teachings that, “I’ve said these things so that your joy may be full.” The joy that Jesus offers is not a cup half full; it’s a cup spilling over. When Jesus performed his first miracle, he was at a wedding reception. He didn’t blow the whistle on their fun and tell everyone they couldn’t have a good time. No, the wine had run out, and Jesus turned six large jugs of water into the best wine the people ever tasted. Wine is an ancient symbol for joy. What Jesus was showing the world is that the wines of this world will eventually run out, and never completely satisfy, but the wine that he provides will never run dry and will always satisfy the soul. This abundant joy happens when you experience God’s redeeming love in the gospel, and then express the same type of love to others. It happens when you commune with God in prayer and watch him answer you. It happens when you deny yourself and follow him into a life sacrificially lived for others. It happens when you meditate upon his promises. It happens when knowing God and being a part of what he’s doing in this world becomes enough. To every believing heart, Jesus has surely brought joy to the world, the type of realistic, constant and abundant joy that only he could bring.

Jeremy McKeen is the Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church, a church in West Palm Beach he started with his wife Lindsay. The church’s mission is to point people to the truth of the gospel. Jeremy received his B.A. in Communications and Philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv. from Knox Theological Seminary

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