“Always be joyful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT)
Have you ever felt you had more than your fair share of problems? That everyone else’s life seemed packed with blessings, while yours was buried in burdens? Ever struggled with feeling unhappy as a result? Me too.
For a couple years, my overall happiness and love for life waned. More times than I care to admit, I secretly wished I could go live someone else’s life — someone who seemingly had far fewer problems and adversities than I did.
This attitude caused me to feel weighed down by all the burdens I was carrying, constantly focusing on how many problems I had. I longed to feel happy again, but I wondered if true joyfulness as I once knew it was a thing of the past.
I prayed daily for God to restore my happiness and the joy of my salvation, even if my circumstances remained the same. Then, over a period of many months as I continued to lean into my faith, God did exactly that.
Gradually, I began to feel more empowered to take control of my thoughts and emotions rather than let them control me and my happiness. I became determined not to let the enemy steal or control my joy another day. I chose to intentionally love my life — despite my burdens — because it was the only life I had been given to live. I felt God leading me to make a commitment to begin counting my blessings instead of my burdens.
So, in obedience to that holy prompting, I began keeping a “blessings list.” Every time something good happened, from small, seemingly insignificant things to huge blessings and answers to prayer, I wrote it down.
After a few weeks of doing this, I realized this was a stepping stone to not only reclaiming my joy and happiness, but also learning to love the life God had given me. I was retraining my mind to focus on God’s generosity instead of life’s letdowns. One of the secrets to true joy and loving life is simply being mindful of all God gives.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul said, “Always be joyful.” Why? Because he knew joyfulness is imperative in order to love the life God has given us. But how do we do that when life stinks? When people hurt us? When circumstances seem hopeless? When our hearts are broken? Paul answers those questions in the two verses that follow.
First Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying” (NLT). To be joyful, we need to stay connected to God in prayer, asking Him daily to fill us with joy based on our walk with Him — not our satisfaction with everything in life.
Then, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). During our continued prayers, we are to be grateful for all He has done for us and the life He’s given us. It is His will for us to live with joy, not because life is perfect but because He is.
Being “joyful always” doesn’t mean we have to walk around with a fake smile on our face all the time, ignore reality or suppress every negative emotion. This verse simply implores us to intentionally focus on the good, instead of the bad. To count our blessings rather than our burdens. To let our faith, not our feelings, dictate our joy.
The secret to real happiness isn’t really a secret at all. It’s simply realizing the importance of counting blessings over burdens and understanding that gratitude has incredible power over grumbling.
Bible Verses about Happiness and Joy
By: Fred Bettner, faithgateway.com
Since the early 1920’s believers have added their voices to a chorus, written by George Willis Cook. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart… You may be able to finish the chorus for yourself. It is a timeless song, because we all desire to have joy in our life. The fact that people search for Bible verses about joy, reminds us that joy can be elusive.
Joy, like any other attitude, can come and go. It is not guaranteed simply because we are believers. We must put ourselves in the places where experiencing joy is a possibility. Studying joy in Scripture helps build an understanding of how to put ourselves in places where it is possible to find and maintain an attitude of joy.
But what is this elusive thing called joy? According to Dictionary.com, joy is “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” This is nice but we could experience this by eating bacon. Is there a better definition?
Joy is setting the soul upon the top of a pinnacle; it is the cream of the sincere milk of the Word. Spiritual joy is a sweet and delightful passion, arising from the apprehension and feeling of some good, whereby the soul is supported under present troubles and fenced against future fear. – Patti M. Hummel, Glorifying God
So how can we put ourselves in the place where exceptionally good things happen and our soul is supported under troubles? We can discover some very important principles by categorizing joy verses.
5 Bible Verses about Joy
There are 214 uses of the word joy in the NIV. Of those verses, nearly a quarter of those verses are found in the Psalms. For this reason, we can establish our principles of joy from the Psalms, then finding corresponding Bible verses about joy in other sections. Here is what we learn from what the Bible says about joy.
1. Joy is not an emotion that can be forced, fabricated, or faked.
There are times when joy eludes us. This is normal and we need to understand that there are times when we will not feel joyful. Yet, it is important that joy cannot be forced.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? – Psalm 137:2-4 (NIV).
2. Joy is not dependent upon our circumstance
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. – Psalm 27:5-7 (NIV).
We can be in a difficult situation and yet experience joy. Jesus added to this by saying, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” – Luke 6:22-23 (NIV)
Though joy cannot be forced, it can be experienced in difficult situations. James adds to this thought with, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3 (NIV).
3. Joy is possible when we feel secure in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:6-8
While others link their happiness to prosperity, believers can find joy in the Lord. When we add our voice to David’s and proclaim, “You alone, Lord,” will be the lifter of my head. In you alone will I place my trust. Whether I am rich or poor, have an active career, or I can’t find a job, I am safe in you.
Paul wrote, “Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy. Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon” Philippians 4:4-5 (NCV).
4. Joy comes when we have a clear direction for our life.
We might also use the word purpose. The following verses about joy illustrate this principle:
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” – Matthew 13:44 (NIV).
Where is your hidden treasure? What is the path of life that God has for you? Are you seeking the fields for the treasure that God has for you?
5. Joy comes when we live in God’s presence.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. – Psalm 21:5-7 (NIV).
In a world where celebrity, success, and money are glorified, it is easy to lose focus on what brings real joy. Put simply, this verse says, victories are good, glory is great, and splendor and majesty are their results, but my joy comes when I spend time in God’s presence.
Psalm 28:6-8 is another great text to illustrate this point, but let’s move joy Bible verses found in the New Testament.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen – Jude 1:2-5 (NIV).
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? – 1 Thessalonians 3:9 (NIV).
Over the past several years the Lord has been burdening the pastoral staff more and more with the urgency of local evangelism. Telling people about God and sin, Jesus and faith rises again and again as a burning priority for Bethlehem.
The Urgency of Evangelism
No matter what part of your Christian commitment you focus on, the Bible leads you from that focus to the urgency of evangelism. For example:
- If we focus on Christianity as a life of love, the Bible shows us that love is hollow if we are willing to do nice things for people but not tell them about how to escape hell and gain everlasting joy with God (Luke 10:27).
- Or if we focus on Christianity as obedience to the commands of God, the Bible shows us quickly that God commanded us to make disciples and to rescue the perishing (Matthew 28:19–10; cf. James 1:22 with 5:20).
- Or if we focus on Christianity as a life of joy and fulfillment, the Bible makes clear that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) and that those we lead to Christ will be our joy and hope and crown of exultation (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
- Or if we focus on Christianity as the way of filling the earth with the glory of God, the Bible shows us quickly that God is glorified when we bear much fruit (John 15:8) and that unbelief is the root of all that dishonors God (Romans 14:23).
- Or if we focus on Christianity as a force for social change and justice, the Bible shows us that apart from saving grace the human heart and human society will sink deeper into sin and immorality and decay (Romans 1:16–32).
- Or if we think of Christianity as a demonstration of kingdom power, the Bible shows us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and that the great demonstration of kingdom power is when Satan’s grip on unbelievers is broken through the power of the Holy Spirit in saving faith (Mark 3:27; Colossians 1:13).
In other words no matter what we focus on as the meaning and purpose of Christianity, evangelism inevitably rises to the surface with urgency. God has shown us more and more that there is no authentic Christianity that doesn’t have a sense of urgency about evangelism. And Bethlehem will not be a faithful, obedient church unless there is a longing and an effort among us to tell unbelieving people around us about God and sin and Christ and faith, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will use our words to bring people to faith in Jesus and to everlasting salvation and joy.
One of Our Responses to This Urgency
One of our responses to this growing sense of urgency (not the only one!) is the development of the pamphlet you have in your hands called “Quest for Joy” and this series of messages based on each of the points in that tract. We printed 5,000 of these and they are available to you free if God leads you to use them in your own efforts to tell people about the meaning of your faith.
Let me stress at the outset that making Christ known and winning people to trust and follow him is an enterprise as varied as the persons involved and as rich and deep as the truth of Jesus himself. There are as many ways to make Christ known as there are ways to describe his glory and obey his teaching.
We believe our job as leaders in the church is not to press everybody into the same mold with regard to how you tell people about Christ, but to inspire you to do it and to give biblical foundations and to throw out possibilities for you to consider. That’s what we are up to in this pamphlet and in this series of messages.
How did this come about? The book Desiring God is an attempt to capture in writing the vision of God and Christian life that drives and guides the leadership of this church. I don’t know whether God will use the book extensively in converting unbelievers. Dan Chalmers did tell us at Missions in the Manse of a nominal Catholic priest in Manila who was converted through studying the book.
But probably it assumes too much to be an effective book for unbelievers. So people began to ask me the question: could we develop a gospel tract that would be basic enough for unbelievers and yet be rooted in the vision of God cherished at Bethlehem and laid out in Desiring God? That’s what we’ve tried to do in the pamphlet, “Quest for Joy.”