What is joy?

Joy is a spiritual force. It is one of the spiritual fruits that come with the activity of the Holy Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23.)

There are two kinds of good feeling: one is joy; the other is happiness. Many people will treat these two words as having more or less the same meaning but, for Christians, there is a worthwhile distinction to be drawn between them. As we saw in our earlier study about walking in love, there are different types of "love" but God's love (agape) is something infinitely more profound. It is the same with "joy". As we begin to share more of our time and thinking in the awareness of Jesus' life in us, we begin to find that there is a deep contentment and pleasure that springs from being conscious of His presence in our lives. This is "joy". Let's think about some of the differences between happiness and joy.


  • Is a pleasant emotional response that usually comes only when life is going well and we feel good about it.
  • Is often an overwhelming experience that may outweigh any other feelings (such as joy) that we have.
  • Is generally temporary and easily extinguished by adverse circumstances or negative emotions.


  • Emerges from a deep excitement in knowing and trusting God. (Isaiah 61:10)
  • Remains steady while we continue to trust God. (1 Peter 1:8)
  • Defeats discouragement and other negative emotions. (Psalm 126:2; John 16:24)

The benefits of joy

  • It reminds us that we are children of God. (Psalm 105:42-43)
  • It demonstrates the reality of Jesus' life and presence in the world today. (2 Corinthians 9:12-15)
  • It reinforces our relationship ("fellowship") with other believers. (Philippians 1:4)
  • It gives us supernatural strength. (Colossians 1:10-14; Nehemiah 8:10)
  • It encourages us to give cheerfully. (Philippians 4:10-19; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15)

Living joyfully

  • God’s will for our lives is to have joy in ALL circumstances: “Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
  • “Live within My love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes your cup of joy will overflow.” (John 15:9-11)
  • Joy comes from walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13; Proverbs 15:13)
  • Joy comes from being consistent in our relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the source of all joy. (Hebrews 12:2; Isaiah 53:4; John 15:11)
  • Joy comes when we constantly remind ourselves of His amazing love for us - as proved at the cross. (Isaiah 12:3; Ephesians 3:14-21; 1 Peter 1:8; Acts 5:40-42)
  • Joy comes when we obey the command to "rejoice in all circumstances". (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Our feelings may change continually, but an awareness of Jesus' presence in our lives will always supersede them. (Hebrews 13:17; John 16:19-22)
  • Joy comes by faith, just like love, when we act in obedience. The feelings follow after. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
  • Joy comes even if our circumstances are exceptionally difficult. (Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:12-13)
  • Joy comes when we honour God and not ourselves. (Acts 16:34; Acts 8:5-8; Psalm 126:2; Psalm 27:6)
  • Joy comes by having the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:1-5)
  • Joy comes by speaking God's word out loud, in faith, knowing that God is working in every circumstance for our good. (Proverbs 15:23; Jeremiah 15:16)

Jesus' example

Jesus is the most fantastic example of the power of joy. “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3) He could walk in such joy because He had a heart overflowing with love for all people and no selfish ambition. (John 17:13) He knew that in every circumstance His Father would work for His good (Romans 8:28), so He used joy as a powerful spiritual force to carry Him on to victory. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 126:5; Isaiah 35:10; Hebrews 12:2)

Instant beauty treatment

  • Proverbs 15:13 - A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
  • Proverbs 15:30 - A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
  • Proverbs 16:30-31 - He who winks with his eye is plotting perversity; he who purses his lips is bent on evil. Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life.
  • Proverbs 17:22 - A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not (even) now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy.” (1 Peter 2:8 - Amplified version)

Joy is promised to all believers, so claim these promises:

  • Nehemiah 8:10;
  • Psalm 16:11;
  • Psalm 132:16;
  • Isaiah 35:10;
  • Romans 14:17;
  • John 15:11;
  • John 17:13.

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