In a sermon on 1 John 1:4, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (1948)
[Here], I suggest, are the elements of joy. Firstly, a state of complete satisfaction. There is no joy unless I am satisfied; if I am dissatisfied in any respect I am not joyful. My intellect, my emotions and my desires must be satisfied and, more than that, they must all be satisfied together and at the same time.
Let me illustrate that. There are certain things in this life and world which can give me intellectual satisfaction. Indeed, I may be perfectly satisfied intellectually, but my heart may be cold, and if that is so, then, even though my mind is satisfied, I am not in a state of joy. It is exactly the same with desires. There are things I can do which will satisfy my desires, but my mind and conscience condemn me; there is pleasure for the time being, but there is not joy. The satisfaction that is a part of joy is a complete satisfaction–mind, heart, emotions and desires; they are all fully satisfied, and full satisfaction is an essential part of joy.
But it does not stop at that; the next element in joy is a spirit of exultation. What would we say, I wonder, if we were asked to define the exact difference between happiness and joy? The difference, I would suggest, is that joy is more positive than happiness. Let me give you a simple illustration. Look at a little child sitting with its toy; there it is playing, and it is perfectly happy. Then suddenly you come along and from your pocket you produce a new present. The child springs to its feet; there is a brightness, a flush which is exultant–and that is the difference between happiness and joy. Joy is more active; the child was perfectly happy before, but now it is joyful; there is this positive spirit of exultation and rejoicing.
But I want to emphasise the third element which again to me is vital to a true conception of joy. I suggest to you that in joy there is always a feeling of power and of strength. …[There] is never anything flabby or superficial about it. Joy is one of the strongest powers in the world. Someone who is in a state of joy is in a sense afraid of nothing. When you are truly joyful, you are wound up by some mighty dynamic power; you feel strong, you are lifted up above yourself, you are ready to meet every enemy from every direction and quarter; you smile in the face of them all; you say, ‘I defy them, they can never rob me of it.’ The joy of the Lord is your strength; it is a strong power, a mighty robust thing.
There, then, is a very inadequate description and definition, and yet I suggest to you that we cannot get much further than these elements. Joy is something very deep and profound, something that affects the whole and entire personality. In other words it comes to this; there is only one thing that can give true joy and that is a contemplation of the Lord Jesus Christ. He satisfies my mind; He satisfies my emotions; He satisfies my every desire. He and His great salvation include the whole personality and nothing less, and in Him I am complete joy. Joy, in other words, is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Fellowship with God, p. 27-28