Preserving Joy in Christ
Joy results from being in Christ rather than a being goal that we are striving to achieve. Paul in Philippians 2:12 tells us that we must ”work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling.” In saying this, Paul is not suggesting we can save ourselves. Instead, he points out that everything we receive at salvation -- we receive in embryo, including joy. Yet, our joy in Christ will only grow and become complete as we follow him and become mature in him. If we neglect the salvation given us in Christ, it will never produce anything, and our lives will be miserable. We will lack joy, and gradually our gift will fall into decline. Indeed, it will be as though we had no gift at all.
If our life in Christ is to grow and our joy is to become complete, we must: First, continually affirm the reality of Christ and his lordship over our lives. John Stott writes, “When Jesus is truly Lord. He directs our lives and we gladly obey Him. Indeed, we bring every part of our lives under His lordship – our home and family, our sexuality and marriage, our job or unemployment, our money and possessions, our ambitions and recreations.” Second, we must bear in mind the validity of the evil one, who seeks to make us miserable and devoid of joy. Elise M. Boulding declares, “For the real difference between happiness and joy is that one grounded in this world, the other in eternity. Happiness cannot encompass suffering and evil. Happiness depends on the present. Joy leaps into the future and triumphantly creates a new present out of it.” And finally, we must recognise afresh each day the gifts that are ours in Christ and live each day with joy and thanksgiving for the salvation that is ours and the gifts that stem from it.