The Joy of the Lord
Article taken from: Fatherly Talk – The Joy of the Lord
In exegetical teaching through the book of Philippians, which is a book of New Testament joy (Greek words ‘chairo’ and ‘chara’ as expressed by Paul writing from prison, I saw more clearly the place of joy in the Christian life (the sermons are available free online in the Singapore cathedral of glory site – 8 sermons in all with notes from Philippians 2 onwards). Paul spoke of the joy of faith (Philippians 1:25) and called the Philippians his joy and crown (Philippians 4:1). We do know that this joy is spiritual and supernatural and not from ourselves. It is the joy of Jesus in us and can be at different levels, the highest being full (John 15:11). It is as real as and more important than food or drink (Romans 14:17). It is the result of our believing and faith; believing fills us with joy and peace which crushes Satan underneath us (Romans 15:13; 16:20). Joy is something which we cannot quite express with words and it is the strength through which Jesus underwent the cross successfully (1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 12:2).
The fact is that many Christians have a measure of peace through forgiveness of sins but not many Christians seem to have joy. All of us are greatly loved by God our father but yet this joy of the Lord promised to us by Jesus is not sufficiently demonstrated by many Christians. There are several attributes to the joy of the Lord that we need to know:
1. It is not dependent on outward circumstances
When we are persecuted, hated, reviled, cast out as evil, and excluded by those who are against Christ, then we are exhorted by Jesus to rejoice and even leap for joy! (Luke 6:22-23). This joy is demonstrated in the apostles rejoicing and counting themselves worthy to bear the sufferings and shame of Christ even though they had just had a physical beating for preaching the Christ (Acts 5:40-41). The apostles Paul and Silas were beaten with rods, many stripes were put on them, thrown into prison and their feet put in stocks, yet they could rejoice and sing hymns to God (Acts 16:23-24). Paul was imprisoned, facing a death sentence (but knowing that God will deliver him as his ministry was not over yet), yet he wrote one of the most joy-filled epistles to the churches; the book of Philippians. He constantly exhorted everyone to rejoice in the Lord, and again rejoice (Philippians 4:4). He speaks about being poured out as a drink offering unto the Lord for the sacrifice and service of the faith, yet he was glad and rejoice with them all and urges the church to rejoice with him (Philippians 2:17-18).
There is something lacking in modern Christianity when the joy of Christians are only dependent on their outward circumstances – success, ease, comfort, provision, etc. God will always provide for all of us as we seek Him first and His righteousness but we must have a joy and peace which is higher and greater than circumstances; that which is completely unaffected by the changing scenery of our daily lives. Many Christians are not like the New Testament Christians of the Bible, instead they are like the mixed multitudes of Israel who complain at the slightest inconveniences or lack or delay; expecting to be fed hand and mouth by the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is something fundamentally wrong with modern Christianity if we produce a softie bunch of Christians who cannot even bear the inconvenience of a delayed bus let alone physical persecution because of the faith.
2. It is not our joy but the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ in us
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke of His joy remaining in us and causing our joy to be full (John 15:11). In His prayer at Gethsemane for all of us, Jesus prayed that His joy might be fulfilled in us (John 17:13). It is possible to be filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit because this joy is not ours but the joy of the Lord that is imparted into us (Acts 13:52). This imparted joy is the result of God filling us through our believing and trust in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). One of the key marks of one who is filled with the Holy Spirit is joy, joy and joy. We are exhorted to be filled with the Holy Spirit speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts (Ephesians 5:18-19). Joy is also the result of being filled with the word of Christ, also resulting in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs causing us to sing with grace in our hearts (Colossians 3:16). Anyone claiming to be either filled with the Spirit or filled with the Word of God would have to demonstrate joy in their lives. It is the hallmark of a Spirit-filled and Word-filled Christian.
Knowing that it is not our own joy but the joy of the Lord that gives us true joy, should make it easier for many Christians. It is a matter of reception and impartation rather than a question of achievement and earning merits with God. Joy is received and imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Joy. Lacking joy in our lives is lacking the very presence of the Holy Spirit. In the presence of God, there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). If we are truly in the presence of God or God’s presence fills us, joy is the obvious and natural and spiritual result. This is not to say that there aren’t times when we weep and intercede for the lost, or feel compassion with tears for those we minister to. There will be such times but even then undergirding the tears and intercessions will be a sense of joy knowing that God』s love is flowing through us to others. At times this joy is like a fountain bursting forth, at times this joy is flowing in streams of tears for others in love. At all times it is the joy unspeakable and full of glory that comes from the very presence of God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:8).
3. Joy is the strength of sustaining our life, ministry, vocation and walk with God
The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Someone ably put it in this manner, that if the devil can』t steal our joy, then the devil can』t steal our goods. Indeed, Adam and Eve lost their joy first before they lost their lives to physical death and physical lack and needs. Fear and sorrow came into their lives when they fell away from God (Genesis 3:10, 16, 19). If you think carefully, joy is also the antidote for fear (besides love). We are not speaking of outward merriment or laughter alone in which people try to calm their fears or anxieties with merriment. We are speaking of a genuine heart-felt, Holy Spirit inspired and imparted joy that comes from the Lord. Such joy that God gives leaves NO room for fear. Paul and Silas were not afraid of beatings, stripes or imprisonment when they were rejoicing in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25). The apostles were not afraid of persecution completely ignoring the warnings to stop preaching Christ (Acts 5:40-42). Jesus experienced the joy of the Lord and went forth to the cross for us. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2). The Macedonian Christians, through the empowerment of the joy of the Lord, overcame the poverty mentality and gave abundantly. They were in a great trial of affliction and in deep poverty, yet through the abundance of joy they gave liberally and broke the spirit of poverty that tried to rob them of the joy of serving God and enjoying themselves in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:1-3). God indeed loves a cheerful giver for he or she is one who is unafraid and completely trust in God (2 Corinthians 9:5-8). Indeed, God causes abundance unto them for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).
The secret of having this supernatural joy that is imparted and not earned or merited, that is not our joy but the joy of the Lord that He allows us to experience and identify with Him and His presence, is love. For when we love the Lord greatly, we will experience great joy. And when we love others greatly, we will experience great joy. Peter speaks of a joy so great that it is beyond comprehension and unspeakable – something more to be experienced than it is to be rationalized. He says clearly that this joy comes to us because we love the Lord Jesus even though we might not have seen Him (1 Peter 1:8). Yes, this joy comes through love – loving God first and then loving people. The apostle Paul wrote of his great love that he felt for the Corinthian Christians and in speaking of love, spoke of the joy that he felt for them (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).
Yes, yes, yes. The joy that we can experience from God is directly proportional to the love we have for God and the love we have for people. The greater love we have for God, the greater our joy will be. The greater our love for people, the greater our joy can be. The only reason that many Christians do not have joy is that they do not love God or people in the same manner and level in which Jesus has exhorted us to do so. Think about this. Have not the greatest experience of joy been when you had shown loved to your loved ones or to those whom you have felt great compassion? When was the happiest time in your life? Was it not when you were with loved ones and when you were showing love and tender compassions? And the experience of great joy in the Lord and His presence, was it not when you were greatly in loved with the Lord, perhaps telling Him of how much you loved Him or just spending time with Him because you desired Him and love Him with all your hearts? Great love produces great joy. To have more joy, we need to increase in our capacity to love. For the same capacity to experience love is the same equal capacity to experience the joy of the Lord.
Grow in love, dearly beloved, and you will indeed grow to know and experience this wonderful joy of the Lord.
In Christ Jesus
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