Episode 1. Joy Under Fire
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It would seem, on the surface of things, that joy and suffering are incompatible. And yet, when God talks about joy, HIS joy, in HIS Word, the Bible, more often than not, He talks about joy in the …
It would seem, at least on the surface of things, that joy and suffering are incompatible. And yet, when God talks about joy, HIS joy, in HIS Word, the Bible, more often than not, He talks about joy in the midst of suffering. That, I think, is worthy of a closer look.
In this world, the basic law of the jungle is that you have to work hard for everything you want – you work at it, you get it. It’s a performance oriented world. Okay, every now and then, someone may win the lottery and get something for nothing, but that’s pretty rare. It’s the exception rather than the rule.
In my lifetime, I’ve only known one couple who has one a big prize in the lottery. The rest have all had to work hard for what they have. My hunch is that you, like me, are one of those.
So when someone comes along with the idea that you can have something for nothing … well, that doesn’t sit too well with us. You know the old saying – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually us.
Last week on the program, we were taking a look at the joy of the Lord. Joy after all, is something we all want to have in our lives, in our hearts. Man, if you can have joy overflowing out of your heart in any and every circumstance, wouldn’t that be awesome, although it does sound too good to be true.
Joy and suffering, after all, don’t go together. At least not in our mindset. And yet … and this is what we’re going to chat about today, God’s joy can be His free gift to anyone who is willing to accept it … not a sense of happiness that waxes and wanes with your circumstances, but a deep, abiding sense of joy that never leave you.
When a person accepts Jesus into their lives, as their Saviour, the one through whose suffering God forgives, and as their Lord, the one whom they follow and live for the rest of their lives, something amazing happens. The promise of God is that the moment you do that, the Holy Spirit, God Himself, comes to dwell in you. That’s what Jesus said:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:15-27)
That’s a pretty amazing promise, and it’s true. That’s exactly what happens. And as the Holy Spirit starts to help us to grow and change and get closer to Jesus, it’s like that process bears fruit. And in fact, the Bible talks about that fruit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self. (Galatians 5:22)
There are nine things in that list and one of them is joy. By the way, it’s closely linked to the other eight. But joy is a natural consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s not something you have to go out there and get for yourself. It’s something that God gives you. And as we saw earlier in this series, the original Greek Words for Joy, and for grace come from the same root, their almost identical. The idea is that joy is a free gift from God.
So that’s why, God can talk about giving you joy amidst the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, think about it, if God is in the business of giving His children His joy, the time we most need that joy is when things aren’t going well, right?
That’s why you read things like this in the Bible:
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. And if any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. (James 1:2-5)
Just think of how bizarre that sounds. Whenever you face trials of ANY kind, consider it nothing but joy … another translation says nothing but PURE joy. That flies completely in the face of worldly wisdom and yet God … He wants you to have joy in your trials because there’s meaning there. He’s doing something there. He is growing you and maturing you and making sure that as time goes on, you will be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
Who else does that for you? Without God, you’re out there suffering on your own. But with God, He’s right there with you, giving you His joy, in the knowledge that He is refining your character and giving you the wherewithal to handle the things this world throws at you. That’s how the Apostle Paul can write … 2 Corinthians 7:4
I AM OVERJOYED IN ALL OUR AFFLICTION.
God means to give us His joy when we’re under fire, because then all of a sudden, we discover His strength. His joy is His path to His strength, right when and where we need it.
Well, where do we go with this? How do we lay hold of the Joy of the Lord? Well, according to Jesus, you simply ask:
Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24)
Jesus wants to make your joy complete. Think about that for just a minute. Wow! And what He’s saying here, to His disciples who were about to go through great fear and suffering, is just ask me and I’ll give it to you.
One of the things that I’ve discovered is that when we take God at His Word, when we take Jesus at His Word, He actually honours that. Psalm 118:24 says:
THIS IS THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE, LET US REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.
That’s not such a bad piece of advice now, is it. God made this day. None of it is any surprise to Him. He knows exactly what He’s doing. He is in your past and your present and your future. They’re all connected. He can and will make a difference for you right now, by bringing His joy into your life.
And when your heart is overflowing with joy, at the same time as your eyes are overflowing with tears, there is nothing sweeter than that, because it’s in that place that you discover in your own experience the grace and the faithfulness and the love of God. So let me leave you today with this Word, God’s Word for you:
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Colossians 1:11)