This post is from a larger series under the cat­e­gory Friend to Jesus. It is a detailed explo­ration of the three stages of faith: the believer, the ser­vant and the friend of God. If you want to start at the begin­ning, it begins with the post How Look­ing at a Car­avag­gio Paint­ing Can Change Your Life and then con­tin­ues chronologically.

If you lose the joy and the fun, why bother? Jack Heffron

I remember someone once saying that joy is the hallmark of the Christian. Another characteristic of what it means to be caught in the phase of the servant with regard to your faith is that this person has a lack of joy in their lives. This is one the main missing ingredients when you get stuck in your faith—it’s often joy that is missing. But what exactly is joy? First, from a biblical standpoint, there are fifteen different Hebrew words and eight Greek words to describe joy. From a grammatical standpoint, it is both a noun and a verb—I can have joy and I do joy.

As I have said, there are many words for joy in the Bible, but perhaps my favorite is the Hebrew ranan. For me, this word encapsulates the broad scope and the meaning of joy. It simply means to overcome or to cry out in exaltation or distress. The part I like is the aspect of being overcome by something. Here I can think of what was happening to me internally on my wedding day. I was overcome by the experience—something special was happening when I committed my life to Julie. It was a beautiful day. It was an intense day. It was unlike any other day that I have experienced. The picture of that moment in time for me is what it means to be a follower of Jesus in so many different ways. I mean think about it this way—what exactly happens to us when Jesus enters our lives full-blown? What might be an analogy of what happens to me when I give my life to him?  When joy happens, this is what happens to me—I am overcome by his joy. Did you know that a key character quality of God is joy?

Joy then is simply the possibilities of what it means to have a growing relationship with your Creator. Often we might think of joy as pleasure; but it’s not that. A word that I think of when I think of the word joy is abandon. To understand this, let’s go back to my wedding day and use an analogy of our sexuality. Sex is good and fun and pleasurable, because it’s all about abandoned intimacy at its core. It’s about entering this dramatically intense and intimate experience with your spouse. It’s becoming yourself. It’s about becoming the other person. Spiritually and physically, the Scriptures describe it as the two becoming one (Mark 10:8). Beyond the physical pleasure, to experience sex in its purest form is a soul-pleasure at its core. The best sex is when you get lost in your spouse, and yet at the same time, you become yourself in that intimacy. You touch a place in yourself like never before. Emotionally and spiritually, you go to another place like never before, and you understand another person like never before.

Joy is similar. But it is way beyond the feeling of pleasure. Joy is feeling good, but it’s also consistent and deeply experienced. It is natural. It’s inside you. You feel good about yourself. You know that God is confident in you, and that you are confident in him.  Jesus is our model with this, and therefore, because he was a man of tremendous joy, we can do the things he did because of his overwhelming confidence in his Father, but also because of the Father’s confidence in him. Jesus guides us when he says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” (John 14:12) You can walk on the water. You can tell the mountains to take a step to the left and move out of your way. You can move into someone’s life and bring life-changing restoration. So let’s summarize:

  • First, joy is about rejoicing. It’s celebration.
  • Second, joy is about entering into an experience full-heartedly.
  • Third, joy has an intensity about it. Joy = passion.
  • And lastly and most importantly, joy allows people to be themselves, really themselves.

In: Friend to Jesus
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