Joy in life is something that everyone strives for. Many people will go to great lengths just to be happy and to live a joyful life. As one of the fruits of the Spirit, we need to understand that true joy can only be found in a Spirit-filled life. You will never experience complete joy if you are not living a Spirit-filled life. In order to fully understand the joy that comes from a Spirit-filled life, let us consider the whole counsel of God’s Word as we look at joy in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. “In both OT and NT joy is consistently the mark both individually of the believer and corporately of the church. It is a quality, and not simply an emotion, grounded upon God himself and indeed derived from him (Ps. 16:11; Phil. 4:4; Rom. 15:13), which characterizes the Christian’s life on earth (1 Pet. 1:8), and also anticipates eschatologically the joy of being with Christ for ever in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Rev. 19:7).”
Joy in the Old Testament. Throughout the Bible, joy is described in both an emotional feeling and also a quality of life. Both of these types of joy are seen in various places in the Old Testament. (1) Joy in the national and religious life of Israel. Deuteronomy 12:6-7 says, “And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.” In this passage, we find the children of Israel rejoicing in all that God has blessed them with and bringing sacrifices and offerings unto the Lord. There is great joy found in giving praise and worship to our God. Thinking of all that God has blessed us with is a cause for rejoicing. There is a similar display of joy found in 1 Samuel 18:6. “And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy and with instruments of music.” The nation of Israel is celebrating victory over the giant, Goliath. They even found themselves dancing and singing in the streets. When we experience victory in our lives, it also compels us to express acts of celebration and joy. In 1 Kings 1:39-40 we see joy expressed at the anointing of a great leader. “And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.” Here we find a great party breaking out over the anointing of Solomon as king of Israel. In the church, we anoint God’s servants and send out missionaries, it is also a time of great joy and celebration. (2) Spontaneous joy in the Psalms. Psalm 81:1-2 says, “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.” Sometimes we are filled with joy and will break out in praise to God for no apparent reason other than reflecting on His goodness and greatness. (3) Joy in the fullness of God. Isaiah experienced such joy as he says in Isaiah 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornamanets, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Isaiah is joyful in who God is and what God has done. This is a constant joy that is experienced by all believers. We may not always feel joyful in an emotional sense, however, we will have an inner joy that comes from our relationship with Jesus.
Joy in the New Testament. (1) Joy in the Gospels. There are many references to joy in the Gospels. (a) At the Saviors birth. Luke 2:10 says, “And the angel said unto them, fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The announcement of a birth is always a joyful occasion. However, this particular announcement was no ordinary birth announcement. This was the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This announcement was not made by postcards or facebook posts. This announcement was made by a host of heavenly angels. This news of Christ’s birth is certainly a joyous thing. We celebrate this wonderful news each year at Christmas time, which is also a time filled with great joy. (b) At the triumphal entry. Mark 11:9-10 says, “And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, there was a great celebration. The people lined the streets and laid out garments and waved palm branches as they worshiped Jesus. There is coming a day when Jesus will once again come into Jerusalem and will rule and reign on this earth for 1,000 years! What a glorious and joyful time that will be. (c) At the resurrection. There was certainly great joy expressed at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:8 says, “And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.” Imagine the joy that was experienced when they saw the empty tomb just three days after they saw Jesus crucified. There is no greater joy found than in the resurrection of Jesus. (d) In the words of Jesus. There are several occasions in the Gospels when Jesus Himself spoke concerning joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Jesus spoke about what it means to abide in Him and to be filled with the love of God. When we abide in Christ and we are filled with the love of God, we will have overflowing joy in our lives. (2) Joy in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a transitional book in the New Testament. It gives the account of the development of the early church and the spread of the Gospel around the world. There are great expressions of joy seen throughout this period. (a) Life in the early church. Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.” There is a sense of great joy being a part of the body of Christ. Being with God’s people and being a part of a church family brings great joy in the life of the believer. (b) Miracles. Acts 8:8 says, “And there was great joy in the city.” Many miraculous things occurred in the days of the early church. The sick were healed, unclean spirits were removed, the lame walked, etc. Sometimes, the Lord will allow us to witness the miraculous; and when we do, it brings overwhelming joy in our lives. (c) Conversion of the Gentiles. Acts 15:3 says, “And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.” Hearing the news of a lost soul accepting Jesus as their Savior never gets old. No matter where you are, no matter who you are with; there is great joy when a soul is saved. (3) Joy in Paul’s epistles. The apostle Paul spoke about joy on several occasions. Paul’s mentioning of joy provides a great lesson for us today. (a) Joy in the progress of the Christian life. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 says, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” Philippians 2:2 says, “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul was filled with joy when he saw the progress of those he had taught. There is joy in growing in Christ together. There is joy in discovering great truths and coming to great understanding of God’s Word. There is joy in growing in our walk with God together. (b) Joy from suffering. One of the most difficult things to understand about Christian joy is joy in suffering. Colossians 1:24 says, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” 2 Corinthians 6:10 says, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” 1 Peter 4:13 says, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” Hebrews 10:34 says, “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” There is joy in suffering, knowing that we share in the sufferings of Christ. There is joy in suffering, knowing that God is working all things out for our good. There is joy in suffering, knowing that one day all suffering will be gone forever as we dwell with Jesus in heaven. (c) Joy as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22 mentions that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Just like love, joy is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This joy, however, cannot be experienced unless we are living a Spirit-filled life.
True joy is more than an emotion or feeling. True joy is not a passing moment. True joy is consistent and authentic. True joy can only be experienced when you are living a Spirit-filled life. Do you have true joy? Are you living a Spirit-filled life.
 Smalley, S. S. (1996). Joy. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 615). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.