There is a crisis of credibility within the church today. An element of the “abundant life” Jesus offers us is missing from all too many Christian’s lives, and that scarcity is hurting our witness. The missing element is “joy.” An old preacher once said that the Christian life should be “one long shout of joy.” I believe that to be true, but I also believe most Christians are not rejoicing.
Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is a changeable emotion based on circumstances. Joy is an inner attitude of gladness based on the assurance that a sovereign God is firmly in control of our lives and circumstances. Paul the missionary evangelist described in Romans 5:1-5 a number of reasons for having continual joy. In his own life there was enough suffering to make joy unlikely, yet he was joyful. The same possibility is available to us, but many Christians live joyless lives. They may have high morals and appear to be committed to Christ yet look and act as though they were weaned on lemon juice. Even the most glum and gloomy Christian can become joyous by remembering some vital things about what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives.
We can rejoice over what God has already brought to pass in us. The very words of Paul begin with the fact that he has justified us. He has declared us right and made us right in his sight by crediting the perfection of his Son to us when we trust him as Lord. Given the depth of our sin that is a staggering reality.
He has given us peace. Because we now have, through Jesus, peace with God, we can also have his peace in our hearts and peace in our relationships with others. In a world marked by high octane anxiety and “throwaway relationships” that is a priceless offer. He also offers us “access to his grace.” That implies his enabling for whatever we encounter in life. Reflecting on that alone should make us glad inside.
We can also rejoice in what God will do in our lives. We have, the apostle says, “hope of glory.” “Hope” does not mean wishful thinking but confident assurance that we have eternal life through faith in Christ. Having dealt with literally hundreds of dying people I have noted that, at best, many of them are unsure of their eternal life with Jesus. Many think they cannot know for sure. They believe they will have to wait until they die to know where they will wind up. The Bible’s assurance is that we can be sure of heaven which should surely produce inner gladness and joy.
We can also rejoice over what he is doing in our lives, and that is using possible tools and circumstance to make us more spiritually mature, more like his Son, the Lord Jesus. Among God’s best tools for remaking us? Sufferings and our response to them. Paul’s word “tribulation” means “squeezing.” These squeezings produce “endurance” and endurance produces “character.” Character gives us another injection of “hope,” which here means the assurance that with God’s help we have endured many trials in our lives and we know we can do it again. Who would not be able to rejoice thinking of all that? Yet many Christians are like an old mattress, fine on both ends but sagging in the middle. We know God has forgiven us of our past sins. We know we have heaven in our future. But it is in the present we sag.
Let us go back often and review the abundance of our blessings and our assurance because of the grace of God and the work of Christ. If we never get over the miracle of our salvation we will have about us the joy necessary to have a winsome spirit and a more powerful testimony for Jesus. A sad and empty world longs to see real joy!
In Christ, Pastor Simms