Welcome to Welling, for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. Nothing Bundt Cakes– you probably heard of a company which sounds like it, and I can’t advertise it, but we buy our birthday little cupcakes for staff when we celebrate from this place called Nothing Bundt Cakes. It’s very close to us, and the only focus on cakes and a particular kind of cake.
They build off the phrase “nothing but” to make their name, for the phrase “nothing but” means focus, specific, just, merely, simply, purely, wholly, fully related to a particular kind of reality. “Nothing but” is how I want to title this particular talk on nothing but joy.
Recently, a blogger wrote, “the word joy generates all kinds of reactions in everything from irritation to allergy.” Actually, it is my conviction that if a person is irritated by hearing the word joy, he or she needs it a lot.
In our first episode, we distinguish joy from happiness, and you might want to go back and listen to it. Happiness can be faked. It can be false. It can be fictional. Joy cannot be faked. It is not false when it is there. Others can pick up the signal that you are truly a joyful person. And there is no such thing as fictional joy. “Nothing but joy.”
I get that from the very first phrase of James 1:2 in this powerful passage which we call Joy Counter: Optimizing Trials. All joy is how James invites us to read his command, to consider and count, to take trials and count them as nothing but joy– full joy, whole joy, unalloyed joy, unmixed joy, nothing but joy.
This joy, for example, that the Lord Jesus spoke about when he said “the kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds a treasure hidden in the field. He hides the treasure and then goes back home, sells everything he has, to come back to buy the treasure.” The joy is in the finding itself, not just in the buying of it.
There’s theological meaning to joy, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Joy is sourced in God alone, that He is the beginner, the source, the giver of joy. In 1 Kings 8, there’s a beautiful verse which says, “they went to the tents, joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to the people of Israel and to David.” Or in Jeremiah 15:16, he says, “your words came. I ate them. They were my joy and my delight, the delight of my heart, for I bear your name Lord God Almighty.”
Things like light and love come from joy. The invitation of that song says mortals, to all mortals, join this mighty chorus, joining people hand in hand. Victory in the middle of strife– isn’t that what we are talking about? That is triumph in the song of life. Yeah, we feel feared. We have confusion. There is uncertainty. There’s anger. There’s self-pity. There’s envy. But there’s a theologically sourced gift of joy.
It’s not only a theological meaning, but there is practical courage now. When you have joy, there is now a courage and a confidence. James is not talking about the eternal joy– that is yet to be future. When we experience in heaven, like Matthew and Paul and Peter do in other places, or Isaiah and Joel and Zechariah, that our future joy gives us perspective now in the middle of our trials to put up with things, horrible things. Because we know that bad things are coming, we rejoice now for what is not yet.
Isaiah 66 is inviting Jerusalem and all of us to be joyful with Jerusalem to rejoice for her, for the future, be exceedingly glad. Or in Matthew 5, Lord Jesus says, “rejoice and be glad now for great is your reward in heaven.” In the middle of persecution, that’s how they persecuted the prophets before us. But you can rejoice now about the future?
Isn’t this the mystery of experience? Joy in the middle of grief– how is that possible? Joy in the middle of pain– confidence and courage in the middle of change and uncertainty. Well, there’s theological meaning.
Christ God is in you.
Beyond theological meaning, there– repeat, beyond theological meaning, there’s practical courage. And beyond practical courage, there Spiritual growth– consider them joy because the testing of your faith proves you’re genuine. It points you to God alone, otherwise we won’t look to him. It develops endurance in life, fortitude, constancy, persistence, sustained power. Nothing but joy– and that’s what the Lord Jesus offers to you and me.
In John 15, he says, “these things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy– my joy becomes your joy and that your joy may be made full.” Nothing but joy– all joy. Theological meaning– practical courage, spiritual growth.
Some time ago, I went to see a man who had just lost his wife. She fell dead. In the middle of tears, he said to me, Ramesh, I have no laughter. I have no happiness. But I have joy.
Imagine that. I have no laughter, I have no happiness, but I do have joy. Well, you see, my friend, trials cannot remove Christ’s joy in the middle of them any more than the world can remove Christ’s peace in the middle of our troubles. Nothing but joy.