Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Christian Joy

Written by Rev. G. Procee
In our day many people question the validity of the Christian faith. They claim that the Christian faith is not applicable to their lives. We live in a modern age of rapid technological developments and the Bible was written in a different age, during an agrarian society. The Bible and the Christian faith, therefore, are no longer valid for us, they claim.

Nothing, however, is less true than this view. The truth is that the Bible and the Christian faith are most applicable, also to us in our society. This validity is demonstrated by the fact that God's Word gives us answers to the deep cravings of the human heart, regardless of which age we live in.

The Christian Faith Gives Joy
One of the great needs of man is joy. There is nothing that can give as much true joy as the Christian faith. There are ample Scripture texts to undergird this statement. One only needs to consider the fruits of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22: ÒBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.Ó

The Holy Spirit works joy in the heart. After his baptism, the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 continues his way rejoicing. There can even be joy in the midst of hardships and sufferings. In 1 Peter 1 we read of Christians undergoing trials and afflictions; yet believing in Him, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Joy Belongs to Christian Experience
Joy belongs to genuine Christian experience. This joy is not something reserved for a few, special, highly privileged ones among God's people. This joy is belongs to genuine Christian faith. It cannot be otherwise, because joy belongs to the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is not split up into specific segments as if one Christian receives love, another meekness and still another joy. No, this fruit of the Spirit is characterized by all these manifestations. Christians all have one faith, one hope, and one love. And they all have one joy.

Of course, we understand that in the Christian life not all God's children have the same amount of love and hope. Neither do they all have the same depth of joy. There are different measures of these graces. Neither are we to think that a child of God is always filled with joy. Sad days are also experienced in the life of a child of God. Afflictions and trials cause a child of God to be downcast and concerned. Then joy fades away. We read about Elijah under a juniper tree, David among the Philistines, Paul with a thorn in his flesh, and JesusÕ disciples in a storm. But when the Lord comes and shines through the gloomy darkness, He again gives the light of His joy in their souls.

What is this Joy?
What does it mean when God works joy in the soul? This joy is a joy in God. It is a joy in what the Lord does, has done and what He still will do. This joy is rooted in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is this joy because of the redemption the Lord Jesus has accomplished and it involves the anticipation of the future glory the Lord has in store for His people.

This joy is accompanied with peace. Where this joy is, there is peace in the heart and rest in God. It is also connected with hope; there is hope in what the Lord will do. This joy is also coupled with love; there is a deep love to the Lord for His goodness bestowed upon sinners The Lord delivers from the dominion of the devil and from the guilt that can at times consume the soul. The Lord delivers from a vain and useless life. He restrains peopleÕs lives so they become focused on God's will for them. All these things bring out much love to the Lord and give deep joy in Him.

This joy is a real and soul-satisfying joy. Nothing can satisfy the soul except the Lord Jesus Christ. His joy fills the heart completely. Such people become totally absorbed by the goodness of the Lord. When their hearts are lifted up to God, they are raised above the smiles and frowns of this world and the circumstances of life. Then they confess: ÒHe is my Rock and my Fortress.Ó

All the joys of this world cannot be compared to the joy of the Lord. To use an example: if you would light all the candles of the world, that light still cannot be compared to the brightness of the sun. The light of the sun casts out all shadows. That is who the Lord is for His people. His joy is the very best. It is deeper than the joy a husband may have for his wife. It is a foretaste of heavenly joy and cannot be compared to the joy of temporal things. William Plumer writes: ÒThings of sense cannot give such delight as the things of religion. It would be a calamity if any thing on earth was equal to the joys above.Ó

1 Peter 1:8 describes this joy as Òjoy unspeakable.Ó No one can express the depths of this joy in human terms. Can one explain the love that exists between a man and a woman? Much less one can explain the ChristianÕs joy in the Lord. It is a joy that is experienced and tasted rather than that it can be explained and analyzed.

1 Peter 1:8 also describes this joy as being Òfull of glory.Ó It is a glorious joyÑliterally, a joy immersed in glory. It is covered with glory. There is a heavenly glow of glory in this joy. At times this can be clearly seen in the lives of His people. When they may stand in the liberty of the children of God and taste His goodness and peace in their hearts, their hearts overflow with love to Him. He gives them joy unspeakable, full of glory.

Joy During Trials
This joy can cause the sickbed of a child of God to be surrounded with a glow of happiness. At times one can clearly see that the glory of GodÕs goodness is with such a person. The love of Christ fills his soul and then it doesnÕt matter any more what happens to him, for the Lord is with him and will make all things well. He will lead His child into glory and now they already have a foretaste of that blessed future with the Lord. Even though this joy is already full of glory now, this joy cannot be compared to the fullness of joy the Lord will give them when He will take them into everlasting glory.

This joy shows the validity of the Christian faith. It causes outsiders to be attracted to the Lord and His service. This joy, worked by the Spirit, demonstrates the vital power and inner strength of Christianity.

True Joy is in Christ Alone
Do we know this joy? The question is not whether you always experience the fullness of joy, because that is reserved for heaven. But do we know something of this joy? This joy flows from a life in Christ and is bound up in communion with Him. Luther says in his commentary to the Galatians: ÒWhere Christ is truly seen, there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord.Ó If we know the Lord Jesus as Lord and Saviour of our lives, we will also know something of this all-surpassing joy. But if this joy is foreign to us, we must ask ourselves the question whether we truly know Christ and His salvation, since the Spirit of Christ works love and joy in the hearts of God's people.

The Lord still grants this grace of joy in the hearts of those who humbly bow before Him. He is still willing to give Himself to poor sinners. Look unto Jesus!

If you have known this joy in your heart, but now you are downcast and it seems as if all is dark within, flee to this Saviour. Call upon Him! Plead His righteousness and hope in Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will restore to you the joy of His salvation. Why? Because God Òhas appointed Him [Jesus] to give those who mourn in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.Ó

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