A Christian’s life is meant to be joyful! Yet amidst daily trials and brokenness, this can seem impossible. In this video are 7 ways to cultivate deep joy today.
How Do I Cultivate Joy?
“The biblical words regarding joy point us both to an emotional state as well as to chosen behaviours. Joy is something we both experience and need to act on to experience.”
Joy is something we both experience and need to act on to experience.
“My hope is that as you practice these actions regularly and prayerfully, as you work through the accompanying worksheet and discuss it with a friend, I hope that the eternally happy God – the God who in himself experiences deep happiness and joy – will produce that joy within your heart.”
Topics & Timestamps
0:00 – What Is Joy?
1:00 – Jesus Was Joyful
2:00 – We Can Find Joy Like Jesus
2:30 – Our Joys Reveal Our Hearts
3:32 – Joy Can Co-Exist With Suffering
4:45 – How To Cultivate Joy
5:16 — Step 1: Read God’s Word
5:52 — Step 2: Pray To God
6:27 — Step 3: Practice Gratitude
7:00 — Step 4: Obey God
7:39 — Step 5: Invest In Relationships
8:20 — Step 6: Serve Others
8:51 — Step 7: Rejoice Through The Holy Spirit
Top Quotes: How To Cultivate Joy
“The joy of Jesus is the joy of a king who is about to set the captives free”.
“Part of becoming a mature Christian is experiencing the joy of the Lord. Like Jesus we are to find deep joy in communing with God”.
“Again, and again, and again in scripture we see the blessed person, the joyful person, is one who is meditating on and reading the word of God”.
Other Videos On This Topic
This video is the final episode in a five-part series on emotional wisdom by Kyle Johnston:
We’re going to end this series on emotional wisdom by reflecting on what the Bible teaches us about joy. It may surprise you to find out that there are many commands in the Bible related to experiencing joy. The eternally happy God both commands and produces joy in his people. So, let’s think about this together.
What Is Joy?
Firstly, what is joy? Well a simple definition is to see that joy is the experience of gladness. To be joyful is to be glad, to be happy, to take delight in things. And in scripture we see that we experience joy both through our relationship with God and also through the good things that we experience in our lives.
We experience joy both through our relationship with God and good things in our lives.
And there’s four points in particular that I want to think with you about when it comes to the topic of joy.
Jesus Was Joyful
The first thing is to recognise that Jesus was joyful. The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield says, “If our Lord was the man of sorrows, he was more profoundly still the man of joy”. [Find a free copy of his book here]
Jesus found a deep delight in obeying his heavenly father.
When we read the Bible, we find that Jesus found a deep delight in obeying his heavenly father. He found pleasure in communing with him and he rejoiced in seeing God’s purposes unfold in the world. It is also remarkable to reflect on the fact that it was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross.
Joy was a huge aspect of Jesus’ life on earth. And B.B Warfield says that, “Jesus came to earth as a conqueror with the gladness of imminent victory”. The joy of Jesus is the joy of a king who is about to set the captives free. So, the first thing we need to recognise is that Jesus was joyful.
We Can Find Joy Like Jesus
Secondly, we need to see that Jesus is the pattern for us. Part of becoming a mature Christian is experiencing the joy of the Lord. To be mature means to be, at least a lot of the time, very happy.
Jesus is the pattern for us.
You see like Jesus we are to find deep joy in communing with God, in obeying God, in serving God and in seeing God’s purposes come to fruition in the world. Jesus himself wants us to experience his own joy.
Our Joys Reveal Our Hearts
Thirdly, our joys reveal our desires and beliefs. It won’t surprise you to hear this. We’ve thought about this with all the emotions. The emotions give us a window into our hearts, into what we desire and into what we believe. And what we desire to have and what we believe to be important and valuable will inevitably shape our joy.
If your desires are sinful, if your beliefs are wrong, you can actually rejoice in the wrong things.
And this is why sometimes rejoicing can be inappropriate. If your desires are sinful and if your beliefs are wrong you can actually rejoice in the wrong things.
So, for example in the New Testament we see that when the chief priests heard that Judas was going to betray Jesus they rejoiced. So we can see actually that when our desires are sinful, or our beliefs are wrong, we can actually rejoice in the wrong things. And so inevitably the things that we rejoice in reveal what we believe and what we desire.
Joy Can Co-Exist With Suffering
The fourth thing and the final thing that I want to reflect with you about regarding joy is that joy can coexist with pain and suffering. This goes back to that concept that we looked at in the first introductory video. The heart is like a balance scale. There’s a sense in which you can experience suffering, and sorrow, and pain, and joy at the same time. We can have this complex emotional experience.
We can have this complex emotional experience.
A verse that captures this very well is Habakkuk 3:17-18 where the prophet says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
There we see the prophet experiencing both suffering and joy at the same time.
So, that’s what joy is. Joy is that experience of gladness that was a characteristic of the life of Christ and is also something he wants to produce in us.
How Can We Cultivate Joy?
So, how can we cultivate joy then? Well, the biblical words regarding joy point us both to an emotional state as well as to chosen behaviours. Joy is something we both experience and need to act on to experience.
Joy is something we both experience and need to act on to experience.
So the command to rejoice is not only that emotional state but also actions that we have to choose to follow. Here are several actions that we can all take to help us cultivate joy in our lives.
Step 1: Read God’s Word
First action step. We can cultivate joy through reading God’s word. Again, and again, and again in scripture we see that the blessed person, the happy person, the joyful person, is the person who is meditating on and reading the word of God.
Again and again in scripture the joyful person is the one who is meditating on and reading the word of God.
In the accompanying worksheet there are biblical references to all of these and one of the ones that struck me is in Jeremiah 15:16 where the prophet says, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.”
So, the first thing we can do to cultivate joy is to read God’s word.
Step 2: Pray To God
Secondly we can cultivate joy through prayer. In Psalm 16:8-9 the Psalmist says, “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices.”
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
When we spend time with God in prayer, when we discern his presence and love, when we recognise his holiness and majesty – not just intellectually but existentially – we experience joy.
So, we cultivate joy through reading God’s word, we cultivate joy through prayer.
Step 3: Practice Gratitude
We cultivate joy, thirdly, through gratitude and thanksgiving. “Sing to the Lord”, Psalm 68 says. “Sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him!”
Again, notice that imagery: this is the God who travels through the dark places, the wilderness, the difficulties. This is the God who’s coming to your rescue. Delight in him, exult in him, rejoice in him by practicing thanksgiving and praise.
Step 4: Obey God
Fourthly, we cultivate joy through obedience. This may surprise us but one of the ways we can grow in joy is by obeying God.
In the gospel of John Jesus says, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” I want to suggest that if Jesus shows himself to you, you will be deeply happy. And the way we experience that depth of intimacy with Christ is through obeying him. So, we can cultivate joy through obedience.
Step 5: Invest In Relationships
Three more things. We cultivate joy through relationships. This is particularly challenging at a time of social distancing. But one of the ways we grow in joy is by spending time with friends and fellow believers, loved ones who can point us to the Lord, who can encourage us, who can affirm us, and help us, and pray for us and with us. In 2 John 1:12 the apostle says: “I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete”.
We cultivate joy through relationships.
We may not be able to see each other in person but we can still see each other face to face over zoom at this time and so I’d encourage you to cultivate joy through your relationships.
Step 6: Serve Others
We can also cultivate joy through serving others. In Philippians 2 the Apostle Paul says that, “Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all”.
It’s a remarkable verse. The Apostle Paul says even if my life is a sacrifice – like a drink offering – for your benefit, I am glad and rejoice with you. We can actually grow in joy as we serve people.
Step 7: Rejoice Through The Spirit
And finally, we cultivate joy through continually rejoicing in the Lord. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” God commands us to rejoice and as we do that, by his Holy spirit, he produces that joy within us.
And that’s a helpful way to end.
God gives us pathways to joy, but ultimately, finally, joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
The experience of joy is not ultimately in our control. God commands us to rejoice. He gives us these pathways to joy, but ultimately, finally, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. And my hope is that as you practice these actions regularly and prayerfully, as you work through the accompanying worksheet and discuss it with a friend, I hope that the eternally happy God – the God who in himself experiences deep happiness and joy – will produce that joy within your heart.