One of the lies we are tempted to believe is that joy and toil can never be packaged in the same box. You can have joy on one day and toil on another. Or you can have gladness of heart at 2pm and dishes to do at 3pm. But you can’t have a jolly spirit while scrubbing potatoes off of a fork, or scrapping ice off your windshield, or clearing out an e-mail inbox.
Man has fogotten what joy is for. And Ezra told us long ago, “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh 8:10). So it is not only that joy and toil come in the same box. But you need joy if you would toil well. Labor without joy is vain pain. It is no wonder so many try to avoid it. In the other direction, joy without work is empty emotionalism masquerading like the real thing and doing absolutely no one any good.
The Christian faith announces not only that you must rejoice. It also announces that the joy you need has come to earth. Joy was wrapped in swadling clothes. It laid in a manger.
Joy is not far from you. It is not out of your reach. Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him. And Paul is not saying that he had to endure the cross without joy in order to get to joy on the other side. He’s saying that joy was set before him like a Christmas feast is set before you on the table. God prepared a table for him in the presence of his enemies. So it is with us. And we realize this by faith.