The lyric’s significance rushed over me. The words reverberated in my head and grew wildly in my heart as I realized the power within them.
“If I have you, I have everything. But without you, I have nothing. If I have you, I have everything, but without you, I have nothing.”
And right there, face pressed into the shag of the bedside rug, I laid it all down. Jesus, my everything, even if I have nothing. The nothing represented by loss, sorrow, and void. Dreams that seemed like dust swept away. Hopes that bore no fruit.
But to still have Jesus is joy. As the power of those words rushed over me, I thought of our series on joy and saw how the lyrics supported the idea that joy isn’t a fluctuating emotion, but joy is completed in Jesus.
Jesus Completes Our Joy
Prior to knowing Christ, we’re captives to sin. But when we receive Christ, he ransoms us from captivity. “The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 51:11
Jesus paid our ransom and gave us new life so that we might return to God. Our heads are crowned with everlasting joy, and as we allow salvation’s gladness to overwhelm us, our sorrow and sighing abate.
But as we learn to live this new life, we discover that renewing our mind is a process, and we struggle against sinful behavior because of the battle between the flesh and the spirit that rages inside our heart.
And we, like David in Psalm 51, can cry out for a clean heart and we can pray, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
Jesus completes our joy when he rescues us from a life of eternal separation from the Lord. He took this captive–bound by her sin–and set her free. He can do the same for you.
The Old Testament Israelites show us that outward rules and regulations don’t change the heart. Jesus makes a way for hearts to unite with the Father’s. God is joyous. He delights in you and me. He looks upon us with joy, but he’s holy, righteous, and just too.
And so Jesus made a way that enabled God to write his heart on our hearts, to complete the joy he has about us in us through Jesus. We don’t have to live our lives separate from God, thinking that salvation comes through what we do.
Salvation is God’s free gift through belief in his son. He asks us to believe.
Will you believe?
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
Joy is like the fireworks painting the night on the fourth of July. You anticipate it, but you don’t know exactly when it will happen. You hear the explosion, the sky lights up, and sparkles with the designs of the creator.
Salvation’s joy is like that firework display that elicits ooo’s and aah’s and smiles that stretch a mile wide.
We’re saved from captivity, ransomed for freedom and joy overflows.
We believe and then we’re invited to abide. John 15:10-11 states, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandantst and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Abiding takes place as we surrender, submit, and obey the Lord.
Imagine a tank of water and standing beside it is someone holding a bolt in one hand and a piece of wood in the other and drops them both into the tank.
The bolt sinks. The wood floats.
But if the bolt is attached to the wood, the nature of the wood transfers to the bolt and the bolt floats.
If we attempt to live this Christian life in our own strength and understanding, we’re like the bolt and we sink. But if we abide in Christ and take on his nature, we float.
Jesus completes God’s joy because he ransomed and saved us.
Our joy is complete when we believe and abide in him.
Listen to: Always Enough by Kari Jobe
How do we translate joy into strength when this life seems to drain us of our energy?
We live in the thin place where we function in this world but not of the world. Where we embrace grace so that we can live well with grace while resisting the temptations of the world that hold us back and prevent us from standing strong in the faith that saves.
It’s in the thin place where we realize that we don’t affect transformation but that God works within our surrendered hearts so that we experience renewal. If we look within ourselves for joy and fulfillment we’re let down. If we look to others then we join the human race of competition and comparison where we’re always, always disappointed.
But if we look to God for joy, we discover the source of joy, and the strength to face the troubles that comes with this life.
The end of Nehemiah 8:10 states, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” In context, we discover the Israelites weeping as they listening to Ezra reading the word of God.
Nehemiah tells the people that it’s good and right to be sorrowful over their sin, but not to allow their sorrow to be so excessive that it hinders their joy in God and cheerful service. He exhorts them to find strength in God’s joy.
This joy of the Lord as our strength is not found in the flesh, but found in the holy understanding that God is good, that his grace directs and governs our lives, and that our hearts delight in his love and favor.
God is Good
Many times the world seems to disprove this, but if we look with eyes to see, we find God’s hand. At times we expect God to ride in on a white stallion and remove us from our situations, when in reality, he sends people along with a kind word, a gentle smile that gives us the strength to endure. We can serve other’s in this way as well.
God is good. Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean he endorses them. This life holds pain, struggles, triumph, and joy, and we mustn’t judge God based our circumstances. Knowing the joy of the Lord as our strength begins with wrapping our minds around the truth that he is good.
God’s Grace Directs and Governs
God’s grace does not endorse sinful behavior, but makes a way to resist the behavior that separates us from him. We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re born sinners. God’s grace governs and directs our lives and makes a way for us to resist temptation.
As living sacrifices we struggle with the battle between our flesh and our spirit and it’s through God’s grace that we’re able to be renewed. God’s transforming grace governs our lives as we surrender to him day after day. His joy is our strength to say “yes” to him over and over.
God Loves and Favors Us
Joy as our strength to obey comes through the celebration of God’s love and favor for us. Receiving God’s love is foundational to our day to day walk with Christ.
He loves you with an everlasting love that doesn’t waver based on your feelings, but remains constant because God is constant. It’s his consistent love that compels us to obey him even when it’s hard. God’s love propels us onward because his joy is the oil that lubricates the wheels of our obedience.
His favor rests on you, the apple of his eye, and motivates you to obey his call in your life. He calls us to live a worthy life: a life clothed with compassion and kindness, grace and mercy, love and obedience.
The joy that radiates from him like a piercing light is the place where we receive the strength to do the hard things like resisting our sinful nature and saying yes to the ways of God.
God’s joy is our strength to receive his forgiveness and to live like we’re forgiven. Yes, we grieve over our sin and troubles in this life, but we also can live in abundance and God’s joy is the strength that enables us to do so.
Rest in him.
Embrace his goodness.
Receive his love.
Joy as a feeling is something we’re familiar with, but joy as fuel is something entirely different.
We need motivation when we tackle unpleasant tasks and procrastinate like crazy. There’s an idea that we’ll feel joy once we accomplish the tasks, but in order to understand joy as fuel, we must shift our perspective.
Joy is not the outcome of finishing, it’s our motivator. Especially when we face trials. Jesus faced trials during his earthly ministry ending with the ultimate trial of a horrific death. So what was his motivation?
Jesus is fully God and had the power of God at his disposal while on earth, but he chose to live as fully man. He experienced a face to face with the devil, crowds that gloried in what he could do for them, and gangs that attempted murder. He faced traps set by church leaders, betrayal by disciples, and misunderstanding by all.
Beyond obedience and love, what motivated Jesus to continue down this path of exceeding trials?
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Jesus focused on joy as he endured the cross and shame.
We may not face execution via crucifixion, but we do face trials that require endurance. Your relationships may crumble. You experience blackballing. People slander your character and you choose things that destroy your reputation. Consequences of our choices and other people’s decisions haunt our days and prompt nightmares.
How do we endure through our current sorrows and broken hearts and shame?
We shift our perspective that joy is somehow developed by outside circumstances to an inward realization that we’ve misunderstood joy all these years.
God is our joy.
When we allow him to nurture our hearts and to feed our souls by his love, joy, and word rather than depending on outside stimuli, we can know the kind of joy that causes us to endure well.
James takes it a step further in James 1:2 where he states that we should “consider it pure joy” when we “face trials of many kinds.”
Not just any joy, but pure joy. Not the kind that masquerades and fools us into looking for it in the outcome of our circumstances, hopes, and dreams. But joy in God and all he holds out to us to receive.
Christian maturity on this earth is just as important as our eternal destination. God promises us peace, joy, goodness, and mercy here and these grow in us as we mature. In order to reach that maturity we need to shift our perspective about the difficulties we face.
We can find the joy that fuels endurance when we realize that faith undergoes a refinement.
It’s so easy to quit when life gets hard. We think running away from our trials is the answer, but it’s not. Standing firm in Christ and facing our trials is where we discover perseverance in order to face our trials with grace and dignity. And, yes, joy.
Just like a photographer chooses his focal point, we can choose ours as well. We can choose to let our trials blur and sharpen our focus on God’s almighty kindness.
His kindness leads us to repentance and his kindness fills our heart with joy. Focus on his joy as you navigate your trials. Open your bible and let the Holy Spirit illuminate the message God has for you. Look for his heart in his Word.
As you develop a completed picture of the Lord, it becomes easier to focus on him and let the your aches and disappointments blur so that you see him clearly.
As you do this, you begin with a framework and with each revelation the pencil outline of God’s character gets filled in, color and perspective is added. Today, sketch God’s outline with these three words: Joy. Kindness. Mercy. And let the Holy Spirit begin to fill it with color and depth.
The Takeaway for Joy
Meditate on these verses about God’s kindness, mercy, and joy.