but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (John 16:22).
At the end of verse 22 Jesus informs his disciples that no one will be able to take their joy away after his resurrection. This is perhaps a surprising statement given that the Saviour has just referred to persecution. His promise here is a reminder that Christian joy is not dependant on circumstances and cannot be destroyed by circumstances. Paul in Corinthians 6:8 says that although he had many reasons for sadness he was nevertheless always rejoicing. Indeed he also states that joy is a basic feature of life in the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17: ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’).
Yet if this is the case, why are Christians not always joyful? There are many types of difficult situations in which Christian joy can be expressed. There can be joy despite intense persecution (1 Peter 1:6: ‘In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials’). There can be joy in situations of difficult problems (Colossians 1:11: ‘May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy’). There will be joy when the gospel progresses, when people are converted and experience the forgiveness of their sins. If joy can be known in all these diverse situations, why are Christians not always joyful?
One reason is the toleration of sin. When a believer allows sin in his life, he grieves the Spirit, with the result that the fruit of the Spirit, which includes joy, does not develop. It is impossible for a Christian simultaneously to allow sin and know spiritual joy.
Another barrier to joy that some Christians experience is a sense of oppression that arises from recognising that their inward sin is still strong. It is appropriate to realise that sin is there – Romans 7 makes that clear. Yet the believer has to recognise that this awareness can be accompanied by joy. He should remind himself that it is evidence of a changed heart, that he is being sanctified. Hatred of sin is a source of spiritual joy.
The permanence of joy in a believer’s life is the result of the work of the Spirit. When a Christian depends on Jesus and endeavours to be satisfied with him, then the Spirit conveys to his heart joy that comes from the fullness of joy that exists in Jesus. There are no external or internal factors that can in themselves prevent that joy coming to any of Christ’s people.