A friend came to our home in Yokohama, Japan, some years ago. He had been my roommate aboard an aircraft carrier and had become a Christian during our time together. On this visit he said, “I have that deep inner peace that I belong to Christ, but I don’t have daily victory. I don’t have joy.”
Of course something was wrong. Joy and peace are basic results of salvation. Jesus promised us in John 16:22: “I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
When the seventy returned from their evangelistic itinerary, rejoicing because of the power they had and miracles they had done, Jesus told them that their joy was misplaced: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
My salvation is from God, and so is my joy. Salvation is the basis for joy. We tend to think that circumstances are the primary cause for joy, but this is not so:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Pleasure is a result of circumstances. Pleasure and joy may be expressed in the same way, but they are not the same. For instance, I can sing for joy, or I can sing for pleasure. In the first case, singing is the result of the great joy—my joy bursts out into singing. In the second case, singing is the cause of the pleasure, not the result of it. I can sing or dance or laugh for joy, but singing, dancing, and laughing will not bring me joy. They might bring pleasure, and we can convince ourselves that this pleasure is joy.
Since joy is directly related to salvation, why do we lack it? Hebrews 12:11 gives an explanation: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
God disciplines us for unconfessed sin (Hebrews 12:5-6). He intends that discipline to be temporary. To those who respond to it and learn from it, God’s loving discipline yields peace and a right relationship with Him. If we do not learn from it, the discipline continues, and so does our lack of joy. When we confess and forsake our sins, the joy returns.
One of the reasons we have great joy when we receive Christ is that we are forgiven. We are cleansed of years of accumulated sin. If we begin accumulating sins again after conversion, it is no wonder that the joy goes away. Walking in a joyful relationship with God requires being honest with Him. God has promised His faithfulness to forgive and cleanse us on this condition:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
When my friend realized that daily joy was a matter of instant confession, he confessed his sins, and his joy was restored.
When King David sinned, God disciplined him, and he lost his joy. Psalm 51 is a record of his confession:
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:12-13).
David knew that he could not teach transgressors or cause sinners to come to the Lord as long as he was without the joy of his salvation. Think of the people you know who are effective in evangelism. Are they joyful, or are they just people who know all the right answers? The joyful Christian life leads others to God. If we are going to draw water from the well of salvation, let’s do it with joy.
*Excerpted from Being Christian. To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore.