There may not be any characteristic of the Christian life that is more attractive than genuine joy. The bible never asks the followers of Christ to paint on a false smile, give glib answers to tough questions, or to deny that life is fraught with difficulty. Joy is not pretending. Joy is overcoming and receiving. Joy is the hard to define but impossible to deny byproduct of living in the Holy Spirit. Joy is the one thing that I could not deny when I saw it being lived out in the life of the one whom God used to bring me to faith in Christ. I could argue many things with him back in those days (and I did!), but I had no rebuttal for his joy. Things didn’t defeat, discourage and derail him like they did me. I saw him mistreated for his faith at the place where we worked. He responded with joy. I watched him live in solitude as the only believer in our department…but he never sulked. He sang and smiled and shared. It actually made me mad when I watched him do this for a few years because I was so jaded that I did not even believe in authentic joy. This man had something in his life that I had never experienced and I knew it. It was his joy that gave me reason to want to hear him out concerning the claims of Jesus Christ in my life. So I listened to Him, and a few years after He began to shine in my direction, I was ignited myself by the Source of his joy.
The Apostle Paul was bold enough to say in Romans 14:17 that joy is a summary element of the entire Kingdom of God (along with righteous and peace). If the Kingdom of God is partially summarized with the word joy, then this is not side-dish that we can pass over if we choose. Joy is deeper than happiness, has more substance than a positive attitude, is longer lasting than being good humored and is animated by the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s children. Joy is huge. It is also something that doesn’t come naturally to many of us.
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance… more than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:2-3, 11)
Let me address the first part of what Paul writes about joy in the above passage. He connects it to the glory of God which is the theme of the ages. God’s glory encompasses His magnitude, His weight, His ultra-bigness, His uncontestable power and His unsurpassed majesty. Before there was ever an angelic eye to behold Him, God was supremely glorious and as He was, He is and forever will be. Though mankind has rebelled, and we do not yet see today everything in existence bowing to His glory, one day this will come to pass. The theme of eternity future will be the glory of God (Rev. 1:6; 4:11; 7:12; 19:1) and that is why we may experience deep joy in this life. Paul says above that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. This type of hope is not wishful thinking but, instead, confident certainty that something will come to pass. It is classified as hope in the sense that we have not experienced it in full yet, but it can be called confidence because we know that we shall. We are eternally secured in the glorious Creator of all via the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are actually a part of God’s glory as those who have been redeemed by His mighty hand. When it seems that earthly life is closing in and will end in some form of defeat, our hopes are raised when we remember that the end of our story is not here and now. Our eternal victory is a present reality to be fully unveiled in a future moment. We cannot lose (in the truest sense of the word), because we are tethered to the glory of God which prevails forever! When we walk in this confidence we experience a joy that is valid in the present, points to the future because of what God has done in our past. Joy in hope of the glory of God.
In my next post I plan to cover the second part of our joy which Paul mentions in Romans 5:3: joy in our sufferings. For today my hope is that God will enlighten our minds and we will not only acknowledge but deeply sense the reality that our joy is rooted in who He is and what He has accomplished for us. Joy is a gift from Father but it cannot be truly experienced if we anchor it in something less… so aim high, wait long, ask in dependence and be willing to experience and overhaul of your priorities.
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