Joy Is an Inside Job


Joy is proof that what you have is real. Joy can’t be manufactured, and it doesn’t come from circumstances. Joy that is a fruit of the Spirit is steadfast in sorrow, triumphant in tribulation, lasting in losses. Joy is eternal.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy… (Galatians 5:22)

Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

...I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. (2 Corinthians 7:4)

Rejoice in the Lord always... (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)


A smile is outward. Joy is inward. A smile lasts for a moment. Joy is eternal. Joy is not “happiness,” for happiness is cosmetic, but joy is part of your innermost being. How is happiness different from joy? Happiness comes from outside circumstances. Joy comes from within. Happiness meets surface needs. Joy meets the deepest needs. Happiness is a thermometer registering conditions. Joy is a thermostat, regulating conditions. We’re going to see in this study how to have fullness of joy, for joy is an inside job. Happiness always functions best when rooted in joy. If you have joy and then overlay joy with happiness, that's wonderful. But joy, on the other hand, is not dependent upon happiness and may function even better when happiness is taken away.


The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness depends upon what happens. That’s why we call it “happiness”—if what happens is good, you're happy. If what happens is bad, you're unhappy. But if you’re putting all your eggs in that one basket of happiness, you’ll always be a victim of circumstances, because your “happenstance” is forever changing.

We live in a generation frantically seeking happiness. Everyone thinks “Don't worry, be happy” is good advice. It’s terrible advice. You're not supposed to be happy all the time even if you could. People experiencing great sorrow can’t paste a smile on their faces—and they shouldn’t try. Happiness often evaporates in times of suffering. But joy frequently intensifies in suffering and is sometimes intertwined with suffering.

The Bible says the Lord Jesus was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), yet it also speaks of the joy of our Lord. He was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Hebrews 1:9). Every human life is impacted by tragedy, sorrow, and heartache, yet even in these, we can have joy. If we couldn’t, God would not have said, “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). He never tells us to rejoice in circumstances but to rejoice in Him always (Philippians 4:4), because we can depend on the fact that God never changes. Since He doesn’t change, since He doesn’t turn on a dime or act on whims, the Bible can say to rejoice evermore for He is the "King eternal" (1 Timothy 1:17).

Why is joy so important?

Joy is important in soul winning. It’s proof that what we have is real and it satisfies.

Nothing is more winsome and attractive in people than the joy of the Lord. Cold, dry faith has no appeal. When King David, who wrote most of the Psalms, committed a terrible sin and fell out of fellowship with God, He lost his joy. He stopped being a soul winner. Then when he came to himself, David prayed, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You" (Psalm 51:12-13).

Joy is necessary for living the Christian life.

The Bible says, “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2). Joy lubricates life and lifts the burden. Joy takes the pain dreariness out of work. Joy has often energized my physical frame. The joy of the Lord is my strength! (Nehemiah 8:10).

  1. Who won you to the Lord? Perhaps it was a parent or Sunday School teacher or a close friend. Maybe you received Him as a young child. List the names of three influential people in your Christian walk. As you do, write also the qualities they possess that have had the greatest impact on you.
  2. When television, movies, and books today portray Christians, how are they presented to viewers? What sort of personality do these “Christians” in media seem to have?
  3. If your best friend were to describe you, what qualities would they name first? How about your family members? Would one of those qualities be joy?
  4. Is the thought that the Lord Jesus was a person of joy a new concept for you? Think about Jesus’ life and ministry. Can you think of some events in the Bible where Jesus displayed His joy?
  5. Jesus' gladness and joy overflowed in ministry to others. When did it get Him into trouble with the Pharisees?

Four Ingredients of Joy

Romans 5:1-2 says there are four qualities that bring joy to life and make it worth living:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.


Cleansing brings joy. To be clean and pure before God, knowing there’s no sin between you and the Lord, brings indescribable joy, for joy comes from having peace with God. Romans 5:1-2 describes a cause-and-effect relationship between a clean heart and having the joy of the Lord:

  • Jesus Christ provides us access to grace.
  • Grace brings faith.
  • Faith brings justification. It is as though we had never sinned.
  • Justification brings peace with God.
  • Peace with God brings joy.

When the disciples came back from ministering, all excited because they were able to cast out demons, Jesus responded, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Oh, friend, better than having demons cringe before is that you've been justified. God imputes to every believer the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your sins are cleansed, your name is written in Heaven on God's side of the ledger. Now, that is justification, and that brings great joy.

Sin steals joy. When you allow sin to creep back into your life after you've been saved, that will destroy your joy, just as David confessed in Psalm 51.

God knows what’s in your heart. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He hears every idle word, and we will give account to Him for that. "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).

Who can know it? God does. Remember what Romans 5:1-2 says: Justification brings cleansing. We have confidence that no matter what happens, all things are worked together by God for His glory and our good because we are His. We commit to making Jesus our Lord, saying “I am totally Yours.” Then we rejoice in the Lord, in God himself. We don't produce this joy. It's produced by the Spirit, and just as a tree bears fruit, we bear this joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit.

When we receive salvation through Jesus Christ, all things become new—and that includes our hearts.

  1. If you want to know what’s down in your heart when you’re not walking in the Spirit, it will be revealed more by your reactions than your actions. How do you react when someone cuts you off on the freeway or steals a parking space, or insults you? How do you respond to a snarky comment?
  2. Someone has said, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” Think back to a time when someone upset you and you lashed out in a way that grieved the Holy Spirit. How could you have handled it differently? What could you have said to diffuse the situation?
  3. Have a game plan for next time. Jot down some ways you can respond. Use the following verses to help formulate your plan:

When someone treats you badly, does it take your joy?

It might take their joy, but shouldn’t take yours. In fact, it might increase your joy, for the Bible says when men persecute you, rejoice and be exceeding glad (Matthew 5:11-12).

Only one thing can take your joy. Not what your children do, not what your spouse does, not what circumstances do, but one kind of sin. Yours. You received joy when you were saved. You may need to have it restored if you've allowed sin to come back into your heart. The most miserable person on earth is not an unsaved person, but a saved one out of fellowship with God.


We “rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12). Hope is not “maybe so” or “I hope it's going to happen,” but secure, rock-ribbed confidence, based on the Word of God, knowing that no matter what happens, all things are worked together by God for His glory and therefore our good (Romans 8:28). We have this confidence because we rejoice in hope.

For the child of God, no situation is hopeless. No matter what happens to me—name the worst thing you can think of—I know, based on Romans 8:28, that God is working it together for my good. What if I’m told I’m going to die in five minutes? I'm going to heaven. I’ll be made like the Lord Jesus Christ. 

"...I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 7:4). Joy that is a fruit of the Spirit is steadfast in sorrow, triumphant in tribulation, lasting in losses.

What if you came home today and found your house had burned to the ground and everything was smoldering? Would you still have joy? If your joy comes from your possessions, then no. But if it comes from the Lord, you'll still have joy. The devil doesn't have a key that can get inside that treasury.


“…through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). With cleansing and confidence, commitment must follow. Paul had made Jesus his Lord; therefore, Paul could rejoice. You won't have cleansing or confidence unless you are committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Commitment is the secret to cleansing and staying clean.

F. B. Meyer, one of my favorite authors, wrote a number of books. In one of them, he told about the secret of his joy and how he found it. He said, 

Joy began in my life one solemn night when I knelt before Christ and had the holy light of his Spirit turned upon one thing in my heart that was filthy. I had accumulated it there and I hardly knew it.

He had been living a very unsettled life for some time when a young man came and spoke in his church. Meyer felt strongly that this young man had the secret of joy which he himself didn’t have. Early the next morning, Meyer visited the young man, introduced himself as a Christian minister, and admitted he was very unhappy:

“My heart is full of evil and I cannot deal with it. Will you please give me your secret?”

The young man asked Meyer, “Have you given yourself entirely to Jesus Christ?’

“In a general way, I have.”

“If you have not done so entirely, go get alone with God and settle it.”

That night, Meyer knelt by his bed and resolved he would not sleep until he had surrendered everything to Jesus. He continued:

It seemed as if Jesus Christ were standing at my side and I took from my pocket a large bunch of keys which I generally carry. I took from that bunch one tiny key which I kept, and then held to Jesus the bunch with one key missing. And I said to Him, “Here are the keys to my life.”

He looked at me sadly and said, “Are they all there?”

“All but a tiny one to a small cupboard. It's so small that it could not possibly amount to anything.”

Jesus replied, “My child, if you cannot trust Me with everything, you cannot trust Me with anything.”

Satan whispered to me, “You can't give that thing up. Besides, if you let Christ have His way, no telling what He'll ask next. Don't give it to Him.”

At last I said, “Lord. I can't give you the key. But at least I'm willing for you to come and take it.”

I seemed to hold out my hand. He came, opened my fingers, and took that key from me. Then He went straight to that cupboard, unlocked and opened it. And I saw there a thing that was terrible and hideous. He said. “This must go out, and you must never go this way again.”

At that moment, He took the thing from me, took the desire for it out of my soul, and I began to hate it. Then I yielded myself absolutely to Him and said, “From this night, Lord, I want You to do as You will with my life.”

The next morning, I expected a sort of hallelujah feeling. But I was as calm and quiet as I am now. I only had a delightful sense that I did belong to Jesus Christ. And a hundred times that day I said to myself, “I am His! I am absolutely His.”

Someone has well said, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He's not Lord at all.”

  1. What lesson speaks to you from Meyer’s testimony?
  2. Meyer said this was the secret of his joy. What key, if any, are you holding onto that may be spoiling your joy, that you need to give to Jesus? Is there a sin the Holy Spirit is bringing to your mind?

Joy won’t be found in circumstances but in a Person. When you commune with the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the vine, you are the branch, and His joy comes into you. Not an imitation of His joy, but His joy. You rejoice in the Lord and through the Lord, because joy is the fruit of the Spirit.

  1. Read these three verses: Philippians 4:4John 15:11John 17:13. What do they tell you about joy, the second fruit of the Spirit? 

No matter what you have, if you don't have joy, life is meaningless for you. “Rejoice always” is a command, not a suggestion. That means you can choose not to do it. To rejoice is a choice. No one is going to force you. It's not automatic. It's a choice, and that choice begins with choosing Jesus and knowing Jesus. No Jesus, no joy. But if you know Jesus, you will know joy.

  1. What did you learn today about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He interacted with people?
  2. Is the joy of the Lord present in your life, in spite of your circumstances?
  3. What is the source of your joy?
  4. In light of this study, what choices do you need to make today?

A Closing Prayer

Father God, I thank you for joy that is steadfast in sorrow, triumphant in trouble, lasting in losses. Dear God, if I’m clutching a small key that I need to give to Jesus, I ask that the Holy Spirit reveal to me what it represents. Help me, Father, to surrender that key to You. I come to you for cleansing. I repent of holding onto my sin. Forgive me and cleanse me. I believe Jesus paid my sin debt with His shed blood on the cross. I believe You raised Him from the dead to show He is the Son of God, and I trust Him to save me. I come to you for cleansing, and in confidence, I commit my life to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.