Joy-Full Living

Some people just never seem to have any authentic joy in their lives.  Oh, they might experience happiness, but joy and happiness aren’t the same.  Happiness (or unhappiness) depends on happenings. Joy comes from God Who eternally lives within us. Some people just seem to fret all the time about the negative, “dark” aspects of life, and never seem to find God’s true joy for their lives.  Are YOU one of those people who never seem to experience true joy?

Put another way:  deep at your core are you a Happy Person?  Unhappy?  Joy-full?  How do your family and friends perceive your core character and nature?  You and God are the only ones who really know the answers to such questions.  But you are also the only one who can make the decision to be basically a happy, unhappy, or joy-full person.  You weren’t born those ways.  You get to choose!  It doesn’t just occur by magic sometime during your life—that you turn out to be happy, unhappy, or joy-full!  No, at some point in time, you choose whether or not to be basically a happy person, an unhappy person, or a person full of joy!

Another way of putting it:  Throughout your day-to-day life, do you generally enjoy  life?  Enjoy is just a little word; “en” in front of a word means to “put in.”  For example encourage means to put courage into a person’s life.  So, en-joy means to put joy into your life.  Holy Spirit living in you wants to put his own joy into your life.  I hope this teaching will help you receive Holy Spirit’s deep, abiding joy into your life if you need it. 

Here’s my very first major statement for this teaching:  happiness and joy are not the same!  Not even close.  Poles apart.  They have nothing to do with one another.  Never confuse the two.  They’re not the same in the Bible.  They’re not the same in real life.

In the entire Bible, the word “happy” occurs only 26 times in English.  The word “joy” and its derivatives (such as joyful, rejoice) occurs over 300 times, and the definitions of “happy” and “joy” are not even close.  “Happy” is defined as “a feeling or emotion of pleasure”—feeling and emotionbeing the operative words. 

“joy” is a word that’s not quite so easy to define.  First, it’s not a feeling or an emotion—NEVER.  The Bible defines JOY as “a state of abiding, underlying satisfaction in my growing relationship with God and resolving to fully cooperate with God in joint, JOYful control of my life.” 


Let’s look first at the “rubber hits the road” additional definitions of the feelings or emotions of “Happy.”  First, as noted above “happy” (or unhappy) depends on “happenings.”  A good happening generally makes us feel happy.  A bad happening generally makes us feel unhappy.  And…it is always a feeling or an emotion.  As you know, our feelings or emotions are constantly changing:  sometimes we’re “up” and happy.  Sometimes we’re “down” and unhappy.  And that can change almost from one minute to the next.  Our feelings and emotions are like roller coasters or merry-go-rounds at a carnival.  Whatever is happening at a given moment causes us to feel happy or unhappy.

The advertising industry knows this all too well.  Most television commercials, radio ads, and printed ads are selling something that appeals to our emotions and feelings.  For example:  Buying this vehicle will make you happy.  Eating this food will make you happy.  If you don’t have this type of phone, you will be unhappy.  Our insurance will make you happy.  This shampoo will make your hair shine and you’ll be happy.  Wearing these shoes will make you happy and accepted by your friends.  And on and on and on the advertising goes.  Have you noticed that such advertising very seldom, if ever, suggests their products will give you joy—merely happiness.

Keep this in mind, however:  God created each of us with a wide range of emotions and feelings.  Our emotions are legitimate; God gave them to us.  Let yourself feel all your emotions as they surface.  BUT, learn to bring them under control of Holy Spirit, and never, never, never make important decisions based solely on your emotions!  Train yourself (with Holy Spirit’s inner power) not to live your life primarily by your emotions and feelings, but by your will. 

Some of you never experience God’s deep-seated JOY because you let your emotions run wild and free, and don’t bring them under God’s control.  God is not going to harm you if you surrender control of your emotions to Him.  Psalm 119: 68 declares:    “God is altogether good and absolutely everything He does is good.”  God will always do ultimate good for you when you surrender your emotions to his control.

[NOTE:  Throughout this teaching, when I give biblical references, I will be quoting from The Passion Translation or using my own paraphrases based upon the original languages in which the Bible was written.]


On the other hand, joy has nothing to do with happenings or with our feelings and emotions.  Joy is one of the fruits of Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5: 22 and 23; here’s how they’re listed in The Passion Translation:  “God’s divine love, overflowing JOY, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life lived with goodness, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.”

You might want to contrast and compare these fruits of Holy Spirit with some of the fruits of evil originating in human hearts as stated by Jesus in Mark 7: 21 and 22:  “Evil schemes, sexual immorality, theft, murder, greed, treachery, jealousy, gossip, slander, and arrogance.”  Of course, there are many other fruits of both Holy Spirit and of human, evil nature mentioned throughout the entire Bible, especially the New Testament.

How do we get joy, and what does joy do for us?  First, joy originates with Holy Spirit and is part of his core nature.  We cannot conjure up joy or produce joy for ourselves.  We can’t grit our teeth and create our own joy.  When Jesus is invited into our lives in his unbodied form of Holy Spirit, joy is part of the package we receive along with forgiveness of our sin, cleansing from our sin, a new life, hunger for the Bible, hope for both this life and the future life, a future home in Jesus’ coming Kingdom, a growing, eternal relationship with Father God through Jesus—and a host of other named and unnamed abundant benefits mentioned throughout the Bible.  We begin an entirely new, eternal life, and Holy Spirit’s joy is part of the package.  

joy is a deep, settled, satisfying, and abiding fruit of Holy Spirit within us, and as the old song says, “The world doesn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.”  Having Holy Spirit’s joy doesn’t necessarily mean we go through our days with silly grins on our faces, laughing, smiling, or feeling hilarious or giddy all the time, being humorous every waking moment, or saying only joyful things.  It’s resolving once and for all to have a deep, settled, satisfactory relationship with Father God through Jesus.

Happy is an emotion or feeling that can change like the blowing, unseen winds.  Joy is an unchanging fruit of Holy Spirit within us.  We obtain Holy Spirit’s joy by an act of our will.  What is our human will?  It is the power of controlling our own thoughts and behavior with the inner power of Holy Spirit.  It is to make quality, rock-solid decisions that remain fixed and unchanging, no matter the circumstances. 

Your will is deeper than mere wishes, much deeper inside you than your emotions.  It’s your inner self—your core self—that makes decisions, and controls what you do and who you are.  Your emotions are not that deep inner self.  Your will is the source of all your actions and behavior.  Your emotions should be the “servants” of your will, which is the inner controller of who you are.

Many people experience unrest and confusion in their relationship with God simply because they allow their ever-changing emotions to govern their lives instead of their wills.  God has given you inner power to control your emotions, and inner power to exercise your will under his control.  It’s actually a type of “joint control”—you and God cooperating in the control of your will.  We each have inner power to acquire God’s own joy by using our wills!

Here is Jesus’ example of great joy as we read in Hebrews 12: 2:  “Jesus birthed faith within us and leads us to ‘grow’ our faith.  His example is this:  Because his heart and will were focused on the JOY ahead of Him, He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits at the right hand of God’s throne.”

Psalm 40: 8 tells us of what our response to Jesus’ joy in fulfilling Father God’s will should be:  “I take joy in doing your will, my God.”  One reason many people do not experience Holy Spirit’s deep, abiding joy within them is because their response to God was an emotional response, not a response of their will.  That’s why some followers of Jesus seemingly fall away and leave Him—then have to continually renew their commitment to Him.  In other words, they seem to get “born again again and again and again,” and never seem to quite begin growing and maturing in a solid, ever-growing relationship with God.

For that matter, why does it seem that many people are afraid of surrendering themselves or consecrating themselves to follow God’s will for their lives—as though God might somehow mess up their lives or make them do something they don’t want to do or go somewhere they don’t want to go.  Our Father’s very nature and character is love; He won’t mess up our lives.  He never has, and never will!  If our lives get messed up, it’s because we haven’t turned over our lives to God by an act of our will, and we’ve just chosen to live our own self-absorbed and self-centered lives, instead of God-centered lives.

We need to make our decisions about our relationship with God as an act of our wills, not our emotions.  Then we shall begin to experience the reality of Nehemiah 8: 10:  “The joy of God is my strength.”   Yes, there are down-times in all our lives; yes, there are dark periods in our lives; yes, there are periods of grief, mourning, and sorrow.  Psalm 30: 5:  “We may weep through the night, but at daybreak it will turn into ecstatic joy.”

Listen to David in Psalm 51: 12 as he re-consecrated himself to God by an act of his will after he had sinned on one occasion:  “Let my passion for life be restored, tasting joy in every breakthrough You bring to me.  Hold me close to You because my spirit is WILLING to obey whatever You tell me to do.”

What About Happiness and Joy in MY Life?

Parts of my childhood were fairly happy—with some episodes of unhappiness mixed with happiness.  I honestly don’t remember ever experiencing authentic joy as a child or young person, nor to the best of my memory did I ever observe true joy in another person; maybe I did, but just didn’t recognize it. 

At age 18 I invited Jesus to take up permanent residence in my life in his unbodied form of Holy Spirit.  Joy began to flow into my life as a result, because Holy Spirit’s joy is part of the package of receiving Jesus.  However, during my adult life I have experienced 3 episodes of deep mental depression, one of them lasting for 6 long years! 

I don’t know why I had depression, I’m so grateful God healed me, and I never want to have depression again.  During those periods of depression, I don’t believe I lost Holy Spirit’s joy:  it simply went underground, in a manner of speaking, as the mental depression suppressed Holy Spirit’s joy within my spirit.  Since my last period of depression ended in 2008, I have again experienced honest, ongoing joy from Holy Spirit. 

Bible Indicators and Expressions of Joy

Now I want us to begin looking at and examining other expressions and situations of joy in the Bible.  Let’s begin by looking briefly at joy in the life of Jesus.  First, we’ve already examined Jesus’ great joy when He faced the cross, knowing what was in store for Him after the cross.  Here’s John 15: 11:  “These things I have told you about Me being the vine and you being the branches are true; our Father wants me to bear much fruit through you.  I have told you these things so you will have my true joy, and so that it may be full and overflowing in you, and that you will never be without my joy”

Let’s look at joy in our lives as a result of our relationship with Father through Jesus and Holy Spirit.  This is only a small sampling of biblical references about joy God gives to us—from over 300 references in the Bible.  Here’s a general promise of joy for not only Jesus-believers, but for all people; Luke 2: 10:  “Then the angel said to the shepherds, ‘don’t be afraid, for I have been sent by God to bring you good news of great joy for everyone everywhere.’”

Psalm 16: 11:  “God, You will guide me along right paths to take during my life.  When I’m with You, I’m full of joy.  At your right hand—[where Jesus sits on his throne beside You]—is full and complete joy.”   Here’s Psalm 30: 5:  “We may have sorrow, and weep for various reasons—often during the night—but at daybreak it will turn into ecstatic joy!”

The ancient prophet Isaiah had much to say about joy:  “God, You are my salvation; I will trust You and not be afraid, for You are my inner strength and give me songs.  With joy I will pull up buckets of living water from your well of salvation.”  Isaiah 12: 2, 3.   Isaiah says this, too:  “God’s redeemed people will return to Him…with singing; they will experience everlasting joy in their spirits and minds; they shall have joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee from them.”  Is iah 35: 10. 

Finally, Isaiah promises this to God’s people:  “God consoles those who mourn…and gives them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, clothing of praise replaces their spirit of heaviness…”  Isaiah 61: 3.

Listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 14: 17:  “For the Kingdom of God is not about religious rules…, but is about living with Holy Spirit, filled with right-living, peace, and joy.”  Romans 15: 13:  “Now may God, the Source and Fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him.  And may the power of Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his superabundance until you radiate with hope [and joy].”

Hear what James has to say about joy in his book of the Bible:  “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up Holy Spirit’s power within you to endure all things.”  James 1: 2

Finally, here’s what Peter wrote:  “You love Jesus passionately although you cannot see Him, but through believing in Him you are saturated with ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory.  For you are reaping the harvest of your faith—the full salvation promised you.”  1 Peter 1: 7, 8


That last reference by Peter mentions “faith.”  Where does faith come into play in this matter of acquiring Holy Spirit’s joy?  Our faith is how we receive JOY from Holy Spirit; it is how we acquire Holy Spirit’s abiding, sustaining joy as a rock-solid anchor for our lives.  At this point, you may be thinking to yourself that other people seem to have more faith than you do, or that you just never seem to have faith—or enough faith—to accomplish anything, or have anything in relation to God.

That is categorically not true.  It’s a lie you have come to believe.  The Bible is very clear in stating that God has given faith to every human being.  That’s in Romans 12: 3.  The Bible’s own definition of faith is found in Hebrews chapter 11.  Faith, though unseen, has substance, a solid quality to it.  It is a real thing, a real entity—just as other unseen things such as air, atoms, and molecules are real and have substance.  Yes, the Bible says faith has real substance.  And you have faith!

Faith is very real.  It’s not sort of wispy, unreal hope, wishful thinking, or vague belief you either have or don’t have. It’s real, it has substance, though unseen, and God has given you faith, custom-tailored just for you.  So…you cannot honestly say you don’t have faith.  You do.  It’s not your faith itself that’s the issue; it’s what you do with it.

Using your faith is nothing more than trusting and believing God when He says He either has done something for you or will do it.  I’ll bet you probably have no difficulty in believing God is capable of managing all his vast creation, and yet you find it hard to believe that He is able to give you his own joy!

It comes down to a matter of using your faith, releasing your faith.  Your faith is of no value to you if you just keep it bottled up inside you and don’t use it or exercise it.  It’s the object or focus of your faith that is important.  You can keep your faith to yourself, or you can use it by focusing it on God and releasing it to “activate” God in your life, in a manner of speaking.  Our faith brings things into reality—if we use it, and if we release it to God.  It brings unseen things into our realm of sight and reality.  Faith brings us joy if we release our faith to Holy Spirit, asking Him to give us his joy and “operate” it in our lives.

Let me speak of faith another way.  There is much more to our lives that what we experience with our outer five senses.  What we perceive with our senses is nothing more than the tiny tip of an iceberg.  The real parts of our lives lie unseen, mostly hidden, but really gigantic and shining and beautiful in their hiddenness.  Faith is part of that unseen, but very real, part of our lives.  Use your faith to acquire Holy Spirit’s joy!

I begin to close with this:  The rest of your life could be the best of your life, full of unspeakable and uncontainable joy, and great purpose and adventure—as my life has been!  You get to choose.  And, our human joy comes directly to us from the laughter and joy of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit fully enjoying one another’s company in Eternal Realms, and spilling over into our mortal lives here where the rubber-hits-the-road day after day.  Reach out with your God-given faith and grab the joyof God freely offered to you by Holy Spirit!

Here’s how one Gospel song writer attempted to describe JOY 100 years ago:

                            I have found that hope so bright and clear,
                            Living in the realms of grace.
                            O the Savior’s presence is so near;
                            I can see his smiling face.
                                            It is JOY unspeakable and full of glory…
                                            …O the half has never yet been told!
                            I have found the JOY no tongue can tell—
                            How its waves of glory roll!
                            It is like a great overflowing well
                            Springing up within my soul!
                                            It is JOY unspeakable and full of glory…
                                            …O the half has never yet been told!

I’m inviting you right now—this moment—this second—to ask Holy Spirit to give you his very own joy…permanently!  You do that by releasing your faith to Him and exercising your will.  If you don’t yet have that joy and honestly desire to possess it, right this second ask Holy Spirit to release his own joy into your life.  I am trusting God that He will give it to you right on the spot, right here, right now, this moment.  Just release your God-given faith and set your will to receive Holy Spirit’s uncontainable, unexplainable, and unspeakable joy to abide permanently within you the remainder of your life!

Bill Boylan
Revised and Updated February 2023

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