8 April 2022
In these last days, with the calamities from climate change, with the ongoing viral pandemic and more to come, in the midst of conflicts between and among nations, with ongoing persecution and martyrdom among believers, is it possible to have joy and to rejoice always?
It is helpful to look again at Apostle Paul, in a prison in Rome, awaiting his impending execution, writing to the believers in Philippi:
Paul calls his converts his joy (4:1); he prays for them with joy (1:4); he rejoices that Christ is being preached even though those doing it were doing it with false motives (1:18); he finds joy even in the possibility of his martyrdom and tells his friends to rejoice in it too when it takes place (2:17); and at the end of his letter, he comes back to the same point and emphasises: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (4:4). Paul did not say rejoice in the Lord sometimes, but always!
In John 17, Jesus prays to His Father that His disciples may be “one…in us…as we are one: I in them and you in me” (vs 13). God’s original purpose was that human beings should share the joyful togetherness of the Trinity. This purpose is pictured by the garden of Eden He gave to Adam and Eve where He Himself walked in the cool of the day. So in John 17:13, Jesus states His wish “that they may have the full measure of my joy within them”. It is in love to the Father and the Son that the fullness of joy will be finally found but sin, self-love, unbelief and unrepentance separate us from the joy of God and expose us to a godless eternal destiny. The Christian discovers that though living in the fallen world is never a ‘joy ride”, yet it may become a road “peppered with joy” through response to the call of God. This is best described by Apostle Paul as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10); it means that in the midst of grief, desolation and pain which are felt, something else is experienced alongside the hurt – joy and rejoicing. God offers believers joy whatever the circumstances they encounter. Why so?
Christians are not victims and prisoners of either their past or their present. The powers of forgiveness and new creation are at work in their lives; before them lies a sure and certain hope of deliverance, transformation and glory – joy will be theirs in full measure some day and they should not give way to the dark feeling that life will never be better for them. Grief, desolation and pain may be triggered by present situations but faith produces joy, hope, and peace at all times, even in the midst of the feelings that hurt.
This is possible because firstly, joy flows from the awareness and consciousness of being loved. There is someone who values, accepts, and cares for us, Besides family and loved ones, we as believers know that God the Father so loved us as to give His only Son to die on the cross in shame and agony so that we may have eternal life (Rom.5:8).
Secondly, joy flows from accepting one’s situation as good; discontent kills joy. Christians can do this everywhere and always because they know that circumstances and experiences, pleasant and unpleasant alike, are planned out for them by their loving heavenly Father as part of their preparation for glory (Rom.8:28). The ‘good’ in vs 28 refers to God’s purpose to remake them to become like their Saviour, the incarnate Son Jesus Christ; it does not refer to making their lives filled with unbroken ease and comfort.
Third, joy flows from having something worthwhile. Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, we have noted previously, considered everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus (vs8). All his physical privileged background, his solid spiritual standing – all these are counted as ‘rubbish’. What Paul is saying is effectively ” I have lost a great deal, but l have gained more. What I gained is something supremely worth having, that which is glorious and that will grow, deepen, and become richer to all eternity.
Fourth, joy flows from giving something worth giving. We have seen how joyful mothers are when they can cook and work to give their children nutritious food and togetherness as a family. Christians can give something special and of great worth – to share the gospel and the knowledge of Christ with others.
Joy in God is to be ours always as God’s children, irrespective of the circumstances and the negative worldly people around us.