One of my favorite moments in the Ellerslie Advanced Training is our Saturday Evening Reflections. Several times throughout the semester, students gather and share a reflection on an attribute of God. I’ve slowly been gathering some that have stood out to me in hopes to share them with you. While the student doesn’t want to be credited, this is a tremendous reflection on the joy of the Lord.
God’s attributes are unchanging and eternal, for He is unchanging and eternal.
His love and peace and patience are all a part of His nature—who He is and what He does. His care for order and righteousness, His hatred toward sin, and His justice is unchanging and eternal. God will never come to a point where He starts liking sin, nor will He ever come to the point where He starts to dislike righteousness.
God does not change.
For example, when His word says that He is love, we can know that He is still love, and that He does not change in His love. I would like to propose that it is the same with His joy.
God’s joy is unchanging, and unending.
As children of God we have access to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We have access unto the love, peace, and patience of God; the hatred toward sin, and the love for righteousness. And yes, even His joy.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
We have joy because He has joy. Indeed, in His Word we are even commanded to rejoice in the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
And I would like to propose that we are commanded to rejoice always because it is His nature to rejoice always; not half of the time, not 99% of the time, but always.
The greek word here for always, is “Pantote” meaning: at all times, always, ever, every, evermore.
So why are we to rejoice always? Because He rejoices always. But I believe that we also have something more to rejoice about. I don’t believe we should beat ourselves into some sort of self-made effort in order to rejoice always because, we ought to rejoice. It is a command, and to disobey, is to disobey God. However, it is not to go without saying that we have so much to rejoice in. For Paul to say “rejoice always” in his letter is ridiculous to the carnal mind. However, when you realize how big, how endless, how awesome, how glorious our perfect God is, it’s not so ridiculous anymore. We can rejoice always, because with God, there is always something to rejoice about. Always.
The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish. (Proverbs 10:28)
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22)
In these verses, we can see that we have a reason for joy, and a wonderful reason at that! We have the Word of Truth as said in Jeremiah. The Word of Truth is Jesus Christ Himself as said in John. And Jesus is the hope of the righteous as said in Proverbs. In that hope, we rejoice. For we are so undeserving of what He has given us, and yet He still made a way!
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. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5)
And so we rejoice, for the hope which is Jesus Christ.
Not a wishful thinking, but a firm, confidence in who He is.
We are to know Christ more and more, in a more intimate way. So in our intimacy with Him, we have now become confident in who He is, and in that, we know that He does not lie, and that He will not change. So we can stand firm in the fact that He will come in His glory to put an end to all injustice, one day, and right now.
In fact, the victory has already been won!
What a time we live in! We can rest assured that Jesus already came to put to death the deeds of the flesh and all the forces of darkness. And we can rest assured that Jesus can come now into our lives to put to death the deeds of the flesh, and through us all the forces of darkness. And we can also rest assured that one day, soon, He will come and put to death the deeds of the flesh and all the forces of darkness. So don’t tell me that there is nothing to rejoice in!! He is so good and so mighty!!
Indeed trials come, but they are only for a moment, for this too shall pass. But to tell the truth, those trials bring joy themselves. For in those trials we know that Christ will be glorified, if we only let Him do His work; if we only showcase Christ in and through the way we handle those situation, as we ought to handle every single situation.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
The trials we face also builds our character, as seen in this verse. God Himself is refining and sanctifying us. We take it all out of order: complaining and despairing when trials come, shaking our fists at God, and then we lose sight of God when things are going well and we have good days.
At all times in all circumstances we ought to get down on our hands and knees and pour out our hearts in thanksgiving to God for such a wonderful blessing! No matter the circumstance, it is all to be done with rejoicing for He is so good!
As said in one of the verses from the hymn Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
Soul, then know, thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin, and fear, and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven canst thou repine?
To wrap up, I have one more point I want to touch on, and that is this: that the world in all its splendor and glory can never come close to even comparing with our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
This world tries to tell us that there is only joy in what the world has to offer. Christians, according to the world, are dry, dusty, boring old people, who have no joy, and when they do, it is only because they are actually enjoying the spoils of this world, which makes them hypocrites. And at that point they should just give up this whole Jesus thing, because it’s doing nothing for them.
That is an interesting point right?
Interesting to come to that conclusion, for it unfortunately describes much of the church today.
However, it is not about us, it is about Him!
And I will not stand for the ways of this world. And it does not matter if I look like an utter fool, for the glory is Christ’s. And I must in everything make Him the focus, and the center of life. Indeed, my very life, Itself! And then, and I mean only then, will I find joy.
Joy that lasts forever.
Joy that is not conditional.
Sure happiness comes and goes, but joy is not something that changes according to the circumstances. Jesus came humbly to this earth.
- The king of the universe born in a stable of animals and placed in the trough where the animals ate.
- He was considered an illegitimate child by probably most people, because of the circumstances of His birth.
- He was often ridiculed.
- He had to obey His earthly parents.
- He was tempted.
- He had to bear the demands of a large crowd of, pressing, desperate people.
- He had disciples that often didn’t seem to get it.
- He had many, many people who didn’t believe, despite His countless miracles.
- He was betrayed by a friend.
- He was spat upon, beaten, mocked, blasphemed, and led to death of the worst kind.
- He bore our sins, which we should have paid for.
- And He even had to bear the forsaking of the Father Himself, His closest companion!
He had all the reason to give up and despair. But He chose to do it with joy, for He knew what He was doing—He was doing the will of the Father, and that of reconciling man to God once again!
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
How often we look to the world to satisfy, when there is absolutely nothing that can satisfy but full devotion to our Lord.
C.S. Lewis says it well,
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
And as Charles Spurgeon said,
I bear my testimony that there is no joy to be found in all this world like that of sweet communion with Christ. I would barter all else there is of heaven for that. Indeed, that is heaven. As for the harps of gold and the streets like clear glass and the songs of seraphs and the shouts of the redeemed, one could very well give all these up, counting them as a drop in a bucket, if we might forever live in fellowship and communion with Jesus.
Before I leave, I have two more things to say: we do not see our Lord. However, in a way, we have seen Him. For He has opened our eyes to who He is. And although the world will think we are crazy for believing in a God we cannot see, we know that He is true. And we know that He is worthy of it all.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8)
And remember this, that His joy is unconditional. We have access through Him to the fullness of who He is, including His joy. Though times seem bad, He is faithful, and in that we can rejoice!
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)