How can some people keep going in life when everything seems to be turning out crappy for them? Know what I’m talking about here? Been there, some of you are saying! The dog died, the cat cried, the cowboy lied and I just sighed! That kind of down and out kind of day happens to all of us at some point or another, right? So how can we stay focused on Jesus and have joy be the emotional outcome? Good questions! Let’s begin by looking at what joy is all about.
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:1-4, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
I memorized this many years ago. Joy is the buzz word for James in my mind. He writes that we are to consider every trial and every trouble as a test that we either pass or fail. If we pass then we gain a stronger faith and that faith will have endurance. Once you gain some endurance through faith then your faith goes to the next level which is perfection and completion and we will lack nothing in our perfect faith. Wow brother, this is some heavy stuff! You mean to say that my faith grows when I’m in the pressure cooker of life? I would rather be on the mountain top than struggling through the valley and I bet you would too! But this still doesn’t tell me what joy is, only the end result of trials so what is joy?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9, (NASB).
These are two really long sentences and talk about how blessed God and Jesus are and I agree they are pretty awesome. Why? Because of that hope which comes only from Jesus Christ’s death burial and resurrection. This is a reason to rejoice for sure! But we will have to suffer for it sometimes and we will be tested by fire but if we are in Christ we will have joy inexpressible and full of glory because our faith brings us salvation. This passage makes it even clearer that our perfection and completion brought about by faith talked about by James is bringing us to salvation in Christ Jesus! Cool! I get it! But what does joy mean, I still don’t know.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5: 11-12, (NASB).
The last of the beatitudes that Jesus teaches about in the Sermon on the Mount talks about the cost of being a follower of Christ and that we will be insulted, persecuted, and all kinds of evil things will be hurled at us. The next sentence says to rejoice and be glad! What? Rejoice and be glad that evil people hurt us? Yep! That is how I read it. We will be the proclaimer of the good news in the same way that the prophets of old proclaimed and they were persecuted and so shall we be persecuted. I am beginning to think that joy is something negative. Maybe it’s time to look it up in the dictionary.
A feeling of great happiness, a source or cause of great happiness, something or someone that gives joy to someone, success in doing, finding, or getting something. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joy
This is just plain confusing. I thought that as a Christian I would be happy all the time and that would be the definition of rejoicing. How can a person be happy when being lied about, hurt, maligned, tortured, killed, and suffering all kinds of evil being done to them?
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5, (NASB).
Now I see it! When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior we are no longer fighting with God because God has made peace with us through Jesus. Well that is certainly something to be joyful about! And then our faith grows because those who are still warring with God can’t stand us which really are what trials are all about. And then because we belong to Christ we will gain perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God and that love for us is shown to us and through us by the Holy Spirit! Wow! That is reason enough to celebrate, to have joy, to be happy because we know we have God on our side in life! Woo Hoo!
Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. “By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:10-18, (NASB).
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13, (NASB).
Jesus’ reminder to us is the same as His reminder to the disciples that some of them would be brought before kings and rulers, some will be persecuted and even killed but there is a Kingdom sized opportunity to share the good news in the suffering of the trial. Before the end of the earthly world Christians will suffer perhaps even a little more than other times. But we don’t need to worry about all of this and scare ourselves because God will give us the words to speak, the strength to endure and the will to persevere. Just as Paul stated in his letter to the church at Philippi, we too can do all things through Christ that we are called to do because our strength comes not from flesh and man but from Christ Jesus! Now this is how joy comes to us during those downer days and this is why joy comes, because we have strength from the Lord. Be joyful in Christ Jesus!
Until next time…Katherine