Where Does Joy Come from?

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Paul was an extraordinary man. He knew how to rejoice when things went well. But, as the Lord said, even the gentiles rejoice when things go well. Nothing especially Christian about that. What is extraordinary about Paul is how unbelievably durable his joy was when things weren’t going well. For example: “I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 7:4). Or “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Colossians 1:24).

Where did this come from? First of all it was taught by Jesus: “Blessed are you when men hate you ... Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). Troubles for Jesus compound your interest in heaven—which last a lot longer than earth.

Second, it comes from the Holy Spirit, not our own efforts or imagination or family upbringing. “The fruit of the Spirit is ... joy” (Galatians 5:22). “You received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1Thessalonians 1:6).

Third, it comes from belonging to the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Fourth, it comes through faith, that is, from believing God. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). “I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Philippians 1:25).

Fifth, it comes from seeing and knowing Jesus as Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Sixth, it comes from fellow believers who work hard to help us focus on these sources of joy, rather than deceitful circumstances. “We are workers with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Seventh, it comes from the sanctifying effects of tribulations. “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

If we are not yet like Paul, he calls us to be. “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). And for most of us this is a call to earnest prayer. It is a supernatural life.

Learning Paul-type joy,

John Piper