Life may be messy, times hard, and conditions unfair. Got it. What’s new? More important, what now? What if you could develop a simple biblical formula for creating joy during chaos and confusion, joy under any conditions? That would be a good thing. The word is: you can. It’s called the Joy Challenge.
Consider this. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”—literally, under any and all situations. Then he repeats for emphasis that we should remain in a joyful state— always (Phil. 4:4). Jesus talked about having full joy amid deep sorrow, a joy that no one can take away (John 15:11; 16:22). The Bible consistently maintains we can habituate joy.
When referring to joy, the Bible doesn’t mean a brief, emotional, ecstatic, fleeting feeling—that’s not true joy. Instead, the believer’s joy refers to a deliberate state of mind that has a robust confidence and lasting contentment. This joy results in a conscious sense of well-being , despite external circumstances. How does this happen? It’s triangular. It rests in a relationship with Jesus Christ and confidence in His Word, a conscious act of the will that implicitly trusts in divine Providence and cooperates with the empowering agency of the Holy Spirit. This combination results in a calm, peaceful joy that passes human comprehension (Phil. 4:7). Many who talk about it may not experience it. When this peaceful joy is present, you will know it.
In Ezra 3:9-13, at the triumphal laying of the foundation of the temple, part of the congregation was joyfully singing praises to God for this monumental moment of progress. Simultaneously, another part of the gathering was weeping and bemoaning how it was so inferior to the former Solomonic temple. The difference between the expression of joy and despair was dramatic. Why? It had to do with attitudes, personal choices, and where one put their focus and confidence.
A believer can meet the Joy Challenge by positively responding in the following five ways:
1. Considering the context or circumstances for what they are: difficult, painful, unpleasant, etc. (2 Tim. 3:12-17).
2. Contemplating the promises and inherent power of the Word of God that speak to the current situation (John 6:63).
3. Constructing or visioning the outcome from the onset and knowing that “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28-39).
4. Choosing to do the right thing , knowing character growth is the result (James 1:4-8).
5. Cooperating with and accepting the righteous peace, joy, and yes, sometimes even serenity that result (Phil. 4:6, 7).
The resulting outcome of passing the Joy Challenge will be as Ellen White describes it: “It is His [Christ’s] purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. He desires that we shall reveal His own joy in our lives. The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflow- ing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others. . . . There is peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Believing brings peace, and trusting in God brings joy.”*
Let 2022 be the year you successfully face the Joy Challenge in the various dimensions of your life.
*Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985), p. 134.
Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.