Can you be a Christian without joy?

A Christian without joy is actually an oxymoron. Joy is one of the inevitable by-products of salvation. But if that is the case, why do we have so many gloomy and miserable looking Christians in church today?

Is it really possible to have a Christian without joy?  Well, the answer is yes and no.  Obviously, there are a lot of Christians that have no joy. But this is mostly because of their lack of understanding of how the joy of the Lord works. See, joy is not another word for happiness. Happiness depends on happenings but joy has nothing to do with what may or may not be happening. Joy is more intrinsic in nature than happiness. If you understand this simple truth, you will never lose your joy – even though you might not necessarily be happy at all times.

Let me explain with some scriptural examples.


Nehemiah

Nehemiah might not be as popular as the other Bible characters but one of the statements he made is widely quoted in Christian circles – the joy of the lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Here is the background to the story – the Jewish people had just returned from exile to rebuild the city of Jerusalem which had been lying in ruins. The return to Jerusalem enabled them to conduct worship services again and one such occasion, Ezra stood on a podium and read from the book of the law while they listened.

Obviously, it had been a long while since they listened to the word of God and as Ezra read it to them, they were struck with conviction at realizing how far off they had strayed from God’s law. The entire nation wept bitterly in repentance and it was against this backdrop that Nehemiah famously said:


Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
~ Nehemiah 8:10 , KJV

This is a perfect example of the difference between joy and happiness. See, the people were saddened at how they had strayed from God. The power of conviction hit them like a ton of bricks. Ok, maybe not a ton but you get the point. They were in deep contrition and sorrow. But Nehemiah encourages them to stop being sorrowful and be joyous instead. 

Was Nehemiah insinuating that repentance was not necessary? Was he belittling their remorse? Was he working against the authentic effect of a revival of a people that were in dire need of a renewed touch from God? Not at all! What he wanted them to know was that it was still possible to be joyful even if the situation looked bleak. It’s almost like he was encouraging them to be joyful by faith. And I believe this is a good scripture to quote to any Christian without joy.


Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul is another perfect example of a bible character who demonstrated that it was possible to always be joyful. Apostle Paul, just like the other Apostles in Bible time, really faced it rough. Here are just some of the things that he had to go through.

  • He was beaten several times to the point of death
  • He faced the customary 40-lash punishment on 5 different occasions
  • He was beaten with rods on three different times
  • He was stoned and left for dead
  • He was shipwrecked on three different ships
  • Almost lost his life to floods
  • Was a victim of mob justice countless times
  • Had spent many cold nights on a hungry stomach and almost starved
  • Lacked warm clothing in winter and almost froze in the cold
  • Served a prison sentence for preaching the gospel


Can you imagine one person going through all that suffering in one lifetime? Most modern Christians would just give up. And those that wouldn’t give up would be “miserably born again.” But not Apostle Paul. However much the devil tried to put him down; he always maintained the joy of the Lord. Instead of worrying about his problems, he decided to encourage other Christians to always be joyful. Check it out:


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4, NIV

The word always means always. So how often should a Christian rejoice? The answer is ALWAYS! I guess this scripture also answers the “can you be a Christian without joy” question quite substantially. The next time you think you are going through too much to be joyful, just consider what Apostle Paul went through and think of how he responded to it. No matter what the devil did, Paul never allowed the devil to steal his joy.  The problem with happiness is that it can be stolen away – all the devil needs is to take away the things that make you happy. But joy is something that comes from the Lord. He cannot touch it. So whether you are in a good place or a bad place, just keep rejoicing.


Jesus Christ

I saved the best for last.

Jesus was, is, and shall continue to be the epitome of joy.

Do you remember the warmth and joy you felt the day you invited Jesus in your heart? Yes? That is an indication of the kind of Joy Jesus wants you to continue enjoying in your life.

But Ronnie, what about the shortest verse in the Bible; Jesus wept?

That’s a great question – if you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, you will realize that his ministry was founded on compassion. He empathized with the people he was ministering too. The following scriptures illustrate this truth clearly.


But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
~ Mathew 9:36 KJV


But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
~ Mathew 9:36 KJV


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
~ Hebrews 4:15, NIV

In other words, Jesus had genuine empathy for the people. And this is exactly why he wept in John 11:35.  He was not weeping because he had lost his joy – in fact, he was weeping because Mary and Martha had lost theirs.  Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to say that it is wrong to cry when disaster strikes. It is totally okay to cry. In fact, it is therapeutic. However, it is wrong to remain miserably about the bad things that have happened. After you are done crying, ask the Lord to renew your joy and refuse to lose the joy of the Lord even in the face of adversity.

Before Jesus left the disciples, he gave them some important marching orders. One of them was to always remain joyful no matter the circumstances.


These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
~John 15:11, KJV


These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33, KJV

 What made this advice solid was the fact that Jesus had embodied it while he lived with them. Can you imagine going about your business knowing the exact day that you would die by being crucified on a cross without any anesthesia? I mean, such knowledge would totally cripple most people. But even though Jesus knew all that, he continued with his ministry nonchalantly like nothing horrible was about to happen. Where did Jesus get the strength to do it? Hebrews sheds more light on this.


looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:2 , KJV

That’s a powerful truth right there!  Should you find yourself in a situation where you have no reason to be joyful, just do what Jesus did. If you can look beyond the situation you are in, if you can see your future from God’s eye view, you can be able to endure anything the devil throws in your generation direction. Even when things do not make sense any more, you can always take this to the bank – God is still holding your future in his hands. And as long as you keep hope alive, something good will come out of this.


Finally, let me wind up by reminding you that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  And this is the reason why I started by stating that a Christian without joy is actually an oxymoron. Any Christian that has the Holy Spirit should also have joy. This is the joy that is described by Apostle Peter as joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8). In other words, it is an inexplicable joy. You can’t really explain it because you get it even when it doesn’t make sense, naturally speaking, to be always joyful.

May you walk in the joy of the Lord today and forevermore!

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