Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God.
Joy is the Greek word "chara." It means cheerfulness. Joy is one of the nine fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It is an encouraging fruit. Joy is not the same as happiness. You can be happy because of the five senses situation around you. Joy is an inner exuberance or effervescence that is a result of your operation of the spirit of God. It is a cheerfulness within that is not related to the senses situation around you.
Jesus Christ looked forward to that which was to come with joy and he endured the cross. He certainly was not happy about having to be crucified. In fact, he asked the Father three times if there was another way to get the job done without going through the pain and suffering. But he endured the cross and did God's Will with an inner joy as he looked forward to that which would be accomplished by his sacrifice.
1 Thessalonians 1:5-6
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
To receive the Word of God, follow the Lord Jesus
Christ, and manifest the power of holy spirit produces great joy.
The Thessalonian believers were faced with a few afflictions when the Apostle
Paul spoke the Word of God to them. The unbelievers hired "lewd fellows
of the baser sort, set the city on an uproar, assaulted the house of Jason,
and took the believers to trial. (Acts 17:5)"
Yet they received the Word, became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and
began to operate holy spirit which produced great joy in their lives.
Even when we are right in the midst of all of the negatives of the world, we can have joy because joy is an inner quality.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Joy is never dependent upon our surroundings. Just as a rock remains steady no matter how the waves slap or the winds blow, we have joy because we know where we are going, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances. We have peace with God. We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts as we operate the manifestations of holy spirit. We have the great hope of Christ's return which is the focus of our hearts as we believe God's Word. We know the outcome because we are assured of seeing him face to face.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
And there was great joy in that city.
The believers from Jerusalem were scattered abroad because of persecution. Yet, they went everywhere speaking God's Word. Even in the midst of persecution, the Word of God produces results and brings deliverance. The operation of the manifestations of holy spirit produce great joy.
2 Corinthians 8:2
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
The believers in Macedonia found an abundance of joy in giving to meet the needs of other believers even though they were in poverty themselves and in the midst of a great trial of affliction. Joy is absolutely not dependent upon the circumstances around you. It is that steady "rock-like" quality that comes from walking by the spirit of God. When believers walk, even in the midst of affliction, those who taught them God's Word are also blessed and full of joy.
2 Corinthians 7:4
Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulations.
The Apostle Paul was exceeding joyful (even though he was experiencing tribulation himself) because the Word of God was being manifested in the lives of the believers. When those to whom we have spoken the Word of God believe and walk on God's Word, it brings us great comfort and exceeding joy. It is something to boast about and be proud of in the midst of the negatives of this world.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.