This excerpt is from the blog back in January 2011. Phil reminds us what true joy is and isn't--and that having true joy is our Christian duty.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
"Rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Authentic joy is not about temperament. I hope you don't think of joy as a personality quirk that belongs to naturally upbeat people. True joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It's not a mood or a reaction that is triggered by external stimulus like slapstick or funny stories. True Christian joy is not a sensual emotion.
Don't make the mistake of equating the biblical concept of joy with laughter, merriment, or humor. Laughter and levity are sometimes fruits of joy, but they are not the essence of joy.
As a matter of fact, post-modern society is filled with laughter but almost totally devoid of real joy. Have you ever noticed that some of the angriest people in the world are our best-known comedians?
Laughter is often used to mask the utter absence of genuine gladness. The world uses humor and hilarity as substitutes for authentic joy. We in the church should not ape that mistake.
Nor should we take the approach of certain old-style Victorian high-church prigs who seemed to think every expression of jubilation or happiness was carnal and uncouth. The joy Scripture commends is a pure sense of well-being, delight, gladness. The joy the apostle Paul constantly wrote about is a vivid pleasure that arises from a sense of well-being and satisfaction—even in the midst of earthly hardships. It is a wholly positive thing. It does often produce smiles and even laughter.
Authentic joy—the kind of joy we have a duty to cultivate—is a deep gladness that springs from within. It is impervious to external circumstances. Its ultimate source and object is God. Scripture speaks of it as "the joy of the Lord" (Nehemiah 8:10: "the joy of the Lord is your strength").
What is the chief end for which we were created? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. That enjoyment—a delight in God, a love for Him, and an attitude that finds gladness in every one of His attributes—that great delight and satisfaction is the source of true Christian joy.
Spurgeon said, "You cannot be too happy, brother. Nay, do not suspect yourself of being wrong because you are full of delight. You know that it is said of the divine wisdom, 'Her ways are the ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.' Provided that it is joy in the Lord, you cannot have too much of it."
Indeed, joy is our duty, and according to 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, it is a moral duty on the same level as prayer and thankfulness and doing good to one another.
Baal worshipers can cry aloud and "cut themselves with knives and lancets, after their manner" [1 Kings 18:28]. But Jesus said you, even when you fast, "anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret" [Matthew 6:17-18]. We are supposed to be cheerful, contented, always rejoicing in the Lord. That is part of our testimony, and if your countenance is barren of joy and gladness, you are not being a good testimony for Christ.