Biblical Joy

We know that we are supposed to be rejoicing, even in trials. The question is how does that really work. How can I have joy when things are going wrong? The Bible has a lot to say about our joy. There are 155 verses in the Bible that use the word joy. I have pulled out a few that we can learn from, and answer the question of how to have realy joy.

This is not a coherent or structured lesson, instead all the verses are listed in the order they appear in the Bible and a few notes are made on each one. It is left to you to connect the truths in each verse and apply the whole thing in your life. To help you get started, here is a parital list of categories that you can place the verses into:

I can have joy ...
  1. 1 Chronicles 29:9 Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.

    1. Here David has told the people that Solomon is to build the temple for God. David also says that he has begun to make preparations for building the temple.
    2. The elders and leaders of Israel (the they in v. 9) then make their own generous donations.
    3. By their generosity the elders set an example and brought to joy to those under and over them.
  2. Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for [this] day [is] holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

    1. In the beginning of the chapter, the people had heard the law which they had forgotten and were sad over their sins.
    2. The day was holy. That usually brings to mind solemnity and soberness, but this Holy day was for rejoicing.
    3. This was during the feast of the trumpets. (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1)
    4. Leviticus 23:23-44 Gives the commandments for the feasts in the 7th month.
      1. Leviticus 23:40-41 — Says that the feast of the booths is a to be a celebration and a time of rejoicing.
      2. The point of the feast was to remember Israel living in tents when God brought them out of Egypt
  3. Esther 8:16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.

    1. Jews had faced a great trial, but God brought them through to gladness, joy, and honor.
    2. Esther 9:22 — Again another feast for joy, remembering what God had done.
  4. Psalms 5:11-12 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as [with] a shield.

    1. Trusting in God gives joy. Why? Because even though right now things might look impossible or terrible or frightening, faith in God tells me that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).
    2. So, even in the face of fear, when I can see no way out, I can ever shout for joy, because thou defendest me.
    3. God has promised that He, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt ... compass him as [with] a shield. So that leaves it only to my faith to trust His promise.
    4. Just as I can rejoice in the great things God has done, I can also rejoice in the great things He will do, because His promises are absolutely certain. (Psalms 42:4-5)
  5. Psalms 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fullness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.

    1. Thou wilt shew me the path of life — David rejoices in God's guidance (Psalms 16:7-9).
    2. But in the end it boils down to close fellowship with God, walking with God (at thy right hand) gives pleasures for evermore.
    3. Note that this not God walking with me, but me walking with God, I need to be careful that I am following God.
  6. Psalms 30:5 For his anger [endureth but] a moment; in his favour [is] life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy [cometh] in the morning.

    1. God may have to bring temporary trials into my life, but His end goal for me is joy.
  7. Psalms 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all [ye that are] upright in heart.

    1. Psalms 32:1-2 — Blessings of forgiveness
    2. Psalms 32:3-5 — David's guilt and confession
    3. Psalms 32:6-7 — A sure rest from trouble
    4. Psalms 32:8-10 — God's exhortation to submission and obedience
    5. Psalms 32:11 — Our call to rejoice in God, for all of the above.
  8. Psalms 51:8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; [that] the bones [which] thou hast broken may rejoice.

    1. The joy of restored fellowship.
    2. Psalms 51:12
  9. Psalms 126:5-6 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].

    1. Read the entire Psalm.
    2. Verses 5 and 6 are the lesson learned from Israel's return from captivity.
  10. Proverbs 23:24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise [child] shall have joy of him.

    1. This is part of a longer set advice to a child.
    2. How I choose to live can bring joy to my parents.
  11. Isaiah 12:2-3 Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

    1. Read the whole chapter.
    2. This is a song of praise for how God will restore Israel, but how much better is the eternal salvation that God has extended to us?
    3. I can rejoice and sing in God's salvation for me. Note that is this born out of faith in God's power and strength.
  12. Isaiah 29:19 The meek also shall increase [their] joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

    1. This is from a passage that seems to be talking about the Millennium or heaven afterward.
    2. This reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:3-5)
    3. We may be little nobodies, we may be pushed around and abused now, but we are special to God and can rejoice in the blessings that God is storing up for us.
  13. Isaiah 51:11-12 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy [shall be] upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; [and] sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, [even] I, [am] he that comforteth you: who [art] thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man [that] shall die, and of the son of man [which] shall be made [as] grass;

    1. Isaiah 51:9-10 — God is the almighty, because of that we can have assurance of His ultimate deliverance.
    2. Isaiah 51:12-16 — Following on this, we are reminded that if God is almighty, we need not live in fear of man.
    3. Isaiah 35:10 is very similar toIsaiah 51:11.
  14. Isaiah 55:12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap [their] hands.

    1. There is joy in being part of God's plan.
    2. Isaiah 55:1-5 — God offers true fulfillment
      1. The fulfillment comes without a price to me.
      2. Why spend my energies on what does not truly fulfill?
      3. God offers the covenant and mercies that He offered to David.
      4. This will extends to nations they had never known, which is most of us.
    3. Isaiah 55:6-7 — Call to repentance and assurance of forgiveness.
    4. Isaiah 55:8-9 — God's plan is bigger than I can understand.
    5. Isaiah 55:10-13 — The plans are bigger than I can understand, but God takes time to explain the broad outline for me.
      1. God's plan is to send His word out, and the Word will be effective.
      2. For ye shall go out — His plan is to send it out through us.
      3. God will pave the way for us and give us joy and bring renewal through His word.
  15. Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me ... To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

    1. Luke 4:18ff - This is part of Jesus' ministry (Mat 5)
      1. To take our mourning, destruction, and burdens
      2. and replace them with beauty, joy, and praise.
    2. trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORDPsalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:7-8
    3. that he might be glorified — The ultimate goal: God's glory
    4. Isaiah 61:10-11 — My response:
      1. joyful in my God — God is constant, therefore my joy can be constant.
      2. so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth — God is working righteousness in us - sanctification. I am not on my own to make it happen. (Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 9:8)
      3. Our response it praise to God.
  16. Jeremiah 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

    1. First lesson: We can rejoice in God's Word.
    2. Bigger lesson:
      1. Jeremiah 15:1-14 — God has given Jeremiah a very hard message for Israel and Jeremiah is suffering for delivering it.
      2. Jeremiah 15:15-18 — Jeremiah has loved God, and abhored evil, but is still hurting and calling out to God for justice.
      3. Jeremiah 15:19-21 — God says, even righteous Jeremiah needs to get some things right, but when he does, God will use him mightily and protect him.
  17. Jeremiah 33:12-11 Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place ... The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD [is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: [and] of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.

    1. After judgment, restoration returns the joy.
    2. Coming out of trials they will say God is good.
  18. Lamentations 2:15 All that pass by clap [their] hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, [saying, Is] this the city that [men] call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?

    1. Lamentations 5:15 The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.

    2. There are many, many verses about how Israel lost their joy because of sin.
    3. Sin destroys many things, including our joy.
    4. The irony of this is that we often sin because we think it will make us happier.
  19. Habakkuk 3:17-19 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' [feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

    1. Habakkuk 3:1-2 — The majority of this chapter talks about the terrible judgment that God was going to bring. However, Habakkuk prays for mercy in the midst of judgment.
    2. The finally three verses of this chapter, remind us that even in this great judgment Habakkuk could look to God in trust, and have joy in Him.
    3. Habakkuk 3:17 — This is utter helplessness, not only is the singer utterly destitute, but the entire economy around him has failed.
    4. And yet, the singer is able to rejoice in God's strength.
    5. Do you see the contention of pride and humility. Our pride likes to think that we can meet at least some of our own needs, but here the singer can meet none at all. It is only by humble dependence on God that he can rejoice.
      1. In the presence of pride this kind of contentment is impossible. Pride will either look to itself to meet the needs or be bitter because it can't meet the needs.
      2. It takes humility to rely fully on God.
      3. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
  20. Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee [is] mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

    1. Zephaniah 3:14-20 — God brings back the joy (that was lost in sin) with the restoration.
    2. Notice, this is God rejoicing over me. God finding joy in me!
    3. Joy returns after repentance and restoration.
  21. Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

    1. for joy thereof — Out of joy, he went and sold all he had! That is some powerful joy.
    2. Does God's kingdom thrill me so much that I am willing to give up all that I have?
  22. Matthew 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    1. The servant's actions had brought his lord joy (see Zephaniah 3:17).
    2. Now that joy is being reflected back to him.
    3. There is joy in diligent service.
  23. Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

    1. Joy of the Resurrection
    2. Luke 24:41-52
    3. We serve a living Savior, not a dead prophet.
    4. Our savior has conquered death. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
  24. Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

    1. Luke 1:44; Luke 2:10
    2. The true joy of Christmas is Christ's coming to redeem us.
  25. Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward [is] great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

    1. Rejoice in our heavenly reward, despite earthly trials.
    2. Note how my focus effects me joy. Am I focused on my present problems, or am I focused on serving God (for the Son of man's sake) and my future (your reward [is] great in heaven).
    3. Matthew 6:19-22; Luke 12:32-35
  26. Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

    1. Once again, we can bring God joy.
    2. Luke 15:10 — Joy throughout heaven.
  27. John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full.

    1. John 15:1-8 — Necessity of abiding in Christ.
    2. John 15:9-12 — The hierarchy of love:
      1. John 15:9 — The Father loves the Son
      2. John 15:9 — The Son loves us
      3. John 15:10 — We return the love through obedience
      4. John 15:12-17 — Our obedience includes reflecting God's love to those around us
    3. Jesus made it clear:
      1. We are not left on our own, all we do is to be through His strength, as we abide in Him. (John 15:5, 7, 16)
      2. What our responsibilities were: Abide in Christ, Glorify the Father, Obey the Son
      3. This is not about a rigid government or a strict religion, this is all driven by a loving family. (John 15:13-15)
    4. First, the joy starts with Jesus and comes to us, so there is an aspect of the "bringing joy to God, brings joy to us."
    5. Second, we can have joy, as we realize that Jesus loves us and provides all we need.
    6. Third, full joy comes as a result of obedience and reliance on Christ.
    7. Fourth, joy comes from studying God's word.
  28. John 16:20-22
    1. Jesus is probably referring to His resurrection and not his second coming.
    2. The joy to follow trials completely obliterates the pain of the trials
    3. This is how we can view Christ's return
    4. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
      Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
      One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
      So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
  29. John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

    1. This is Jesus' prayer to His father at the end of His ministry.
    2. Jesus is praying for a transfer of His joy to us.
    3. What was His joy?
      • First, it is clear that Jesus' focus was on God's glory (John 17:4). Do I rejoice in God being glorified?
      • Second, Jesus is happy to say that everything He had done was in accordance to God's command and by His power (John 17:6-7). Again joy in obedience and reliance.
  30. Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

    1. Paul knew he was heading into a great trial, but he wouldn't turn aside from the trial, because he wanted to finish my course with joy.
    2. Paul saw true joy in obeying God, being faithful and heading into the trial!
  31. Romans 5:11 And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

    1. Salvation is not just a dry fact, it brings joy.
    2. Romans 5:6-10 — God loved us and sacrificed for us, when we were his enemies. So we can have absolute assurance of His love and salvation for us, now that we are right with Him.
  32. Romans 14:17-18 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ [is] acceptable to God, and approved of men.

    1. The Kingdom of God is not built on physical things, but on how I live my life.
    2. This includes living in the joy from the Holy Spirit.
    3. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 joy of the Holy Ghost
    4. A central part of God's kingdom is joy! In fact, we are expected to live in joy, it is not an optional benefit.
  33. Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    1. We have a certain hope (Romans 5:11), a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), and that leads to joy.
    2. The joy comes from God (the God of hope fill you ... through the power of the Holy Ghost), through faith (in believing).
    3. fill, all, abound — These are not paltry bits of joy and hope that God is handing out. He wants us to be overflowing with joy and hope!
  34. 2 Corinthians 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

    1. The Macedonians were in the midst of a great trial and were dirt poor.
    2. But they had a joy in God that lead to a joy in giving.
    3. 2 Corinthians 8:4 — They wanted to give. The said, please take our gift.
  35. Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

    1. The Holy Spirit works/produces joy in our lives
    2. The context here is that we are exhorted to Walk in the Spirit and allow him to produce these things in our lives.
  36. Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, [my] dearly beloved.

    1. Paul talks a lot about joy in the context of the delight he has in those he has lead to the Lord and discipled.
    2. These people were Paul's joy.
    3. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 — Paul was invested in people.
    4. Am I invested in the right things?
  37. Hebrews 12:2 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.

    1. Focus — Where is my hope and focus?
    2. Remember Matthew 13:44 and Luke 6:22-23?
    3. The right focus can give me joy.
  38. James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    1. Perspective — Trials accomplish a bigger purpose
    2. Because I so want to be perfect and entire before God, I can rejoice in the trial. Is this true?
    3. Think of the athlete training for the Olympics who wakes up early every morning and runs and runs until it hurts, then does it again the next morning.
    4. The right perspective can give me joy.
  39. 1 Peter 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

    1. 1 Peter 1:5-8
    2. Like in James we can rejoice in trials, because trials build our faith, and that brings Glory to Jesus.
    3. If Jesus is the ultimate focus of my love, then bringing Him glory will give me joy, even if it means personal discomfort. Is that true for me?
    4. When I have to deal with a cruel co-worker, or a painful illness, or when the government is trying to kill me just because I am a Christian, I can rejoice, because more important than my comfort is that it brings glory to my Lord. Do I love God that much?
  40. 1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

    1. 1 Peter 4:12the fiery trial which is to try you — Severe trials are an expected part of the Christian life.
    2. when his glory shall be revealed — So my focus is on the future and Christ's glory.
    3. ye may be glad also with exceeding joy — This is not a small glimmer of joy.
    4. 1 Peter 4:14on your part he is glorified — God is glorified in your trials, that is a reason to rejoice.
    5. 1 Peter 4:15 — Only be sure you are not suffering for something you have done wrong.
      1. This does not glorify God.
      2. Notice the range here as well, this is not just major sins that we need to be wary of.
    6. 1 Peter 4:17 — We need to be careful to judge ourselves, and make sure we are living right so that our suffering is glorifying to God.
      1. Also, remember from James that trials are designed to shape and change us.
      2. I must be sure to examine myself especially when I am in a trial to see what needs changing.
  41. 1 John 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

    1. 1 John 1:1-3these things are the story of Jesus and how through Him we can have true fellowship with God and one another.
    2. The chapter continues on with how we can have fellowship with Jesus.
    3. True joy is rooted in our close fellowship with God.
  42. 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

    1. Joy in seeing those we disciple living Godly.
    2. This is joy in service to God or investing in people.
  43. Jude 1:24-25 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, [be] glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

    1. Jude 1:20-23
      1. praying in the Holy Ghost — Fellowship with God.
      2. Keep yourselves in the love of God — Love of God.
      3. looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life — The hope of salvation.
      4. And of some have compassion — Investing in people.
      5. These are all sources of joy that we have talked about.
    2. Jude 1:24
      1. We have the great hope that God will preserve us and work these things in us.
      2. The ultimate joy comes when we stand faultless before God.
    3. Jude 1:25 — Note that the ultimate focus is God's glory, not us, not others, but God.
Lessons for me: