Are you in spiritual danger? If you were, how would you know? One key sign of spiritual danger is losing your joy. Don’t skim past what Paul says at the end of Philippians 3:1: “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Paul reminds them to rejoice because it is safe. Joy is one of the vital gauges on the dashboard of the Christian life. When the needle dips—when you lose your joy—you should take note of your joyless Christianity. To stay safe, you need to pay attention to your joy.
Joyless Christianity Is Dangerous
1. Life-and-Death Canaries
How does this work? Here’s an illustration.
Coal miners know that dangerous gases can gather silently and secretly in the tunnels. Carbon monoxide will asphyxiate them. Methane explodes.
A methane explosion took the lives of 12 men in the 2006 Sago mine disaster in West Virginia. In 1906, almost 1,100 miners were killed in Courrières, France, in one massive chain of explosions.
But in the early days of coal mining, they found an effective, low-tech solution: They brought canaries into the mines. A canary’s metabolism is very sensitive to air quality. As long as the bright yellow birds chirp and sing, miners know the air is safe. If gas levels rise, the canaries stop singing, wobble on their perch and eventually fall to the floor of the cage.
Christian joy is like that singing, yellow bird. One of the first effects of sin or doctrinal error is that we lose our joy in Christ. When your heart stops singing, that is a warning to watch your life and doctrine closely.
2. Jesus’ Joy in You
Jesus himself connected our daily spiritual life with joy.
If your soul is satisfied in Christ, you will rejoice in Christ. Take your eyes off Christ, and you’ll end up with a joyless Christianity. Christian joy is a barometer of your spiritual life.
Don’t confuse this unique joy with other upbeat feelings. Genuine Christian joy is not the power of positive thinking. Joy is not a bubbly, optimistic personality. Joy is not being happy because life is going my way. Joy is not walking through life with a naïve, glass-half-full attitude.
“The joy we have in Jesus cannot be extinguished by the circumstances of life.”
Jesus says it is my joy … in you. And Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord. Joy is the emotion of salvation. It is the joy of seeing, knowing, loving and trusting Jesus Christ. We cannot generate this true joy ourselves—it is the product of the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22). Joy is a glorious gladness and deep delight in the person of Jesus Christ.