What does it take to rob you of your joy? Are you joyful when things are going well but less so when troubles come? You can know joy every day of your life, no matter what you are going through. It is possible to live in joy in every circumstance. John MacArthur once wrote, “One of the surest measures of our spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob us of our spirit-bestowed joy”. A spiritually immature person will find their joy in a constant ebb and flow, coming over them in waves, but drifting away just as easily.
So, if we want a joy that does not leave us, we need to become more spiritually mature. This works because the more we spend time with God, the more joyful we become. And the more we learn about His unchanging character and love, the more we come to believe in His unfailing promises, the more confident we will become in our joy. We will develop such joy that nothing can shake it.
Paul faced more trials than most of us will ever endure. He was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, whipped, flogged, bitten by poisonous snakes, and spent several stints in prison. All these things resulted from him choosing to follow Christ. Yet, through all these trials, not once did Paul give up his faith or hope in Jesus. This is the same man who penned the words to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) and to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul didn’t grow bitter. He didn’t doubt the goodness of his Savior, and he didn’t turn from his mission. He was spiritually mature enough to see through the temporary and fix his gaze on the eternal (Hebrews 12:1-2).
If your joy has left you, it is easy to see why. Our world is not what it once was. Our lives have been irrevocably altered. It is easy to grow discouraged and pine for “the good old days”. Sadly, from a spiritual perspective, the “good old days” weren’t very good. They were simply comfortable, and comfortable is never a place where one grows spiritually. If you want joy, you’re going to have to grow. And you won’t grow if you’re always looking toward the past or feeling victimized by the present. We grow by “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead”; we grow by pursuing “the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said since he had been crucified with Christ, he no longer lived. The only life he had was now in Christ. When you have forgotten your old self and left everything behind, when you are pursuing your future with Christ, and when your life is nothing but Jesus, you will have joy. This is the spiritual maturity required to find a constant state of joy. Surrender everything. Hold on to nothing from your old way of living. Ask Jesus to live not just in you, but through you.
No matter how dire the circumstance or how dark the night, take comfort in knowing the Lord is always in control. Jesus is there, and He will be your light. There is victory in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57). Rejoice! Jesus died, so you might live, and now He is alive in you. Man can kill your body, but your soul is secure (Matthew 10:28; Psalm 56:11). This world may destroy itself, but we will reign with Christ for eternity. Don’t look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Grow in spiritual maturity. His mercies are new every morning, and His joy is without end.