I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. — John 15:11
Remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh-books? For Eeyore, no matter what amazing circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. For Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, he never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore while wishing we could have the outlook of Tigger — two quite extreme viewpoints of life.
The biblical brand of joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it strolling through life in ignorant bliss; rather, it is to be found in facing each day’s ups and downs through the contentment Christ offers.
KEY QUESTION: What gives us true happiness and contentment in life?
The first order of business is to identify the difference between joy and happiness. For many folks today, being happy is fully dependent on whether life is “all good.” If someone asks, “Rate your life right now on a scale of 1 to 10,” often the number given is based on the number of problems present. Happiness slides up and down the scale, based on the perception of negative issues going on at the time. Problems rise; happiness goes south. Troubles begin to go away; the happy scale starts to climb. Joy, however, is not dependent on circumstances, and, in fact, ironically, can become strongest when trouble comes. The psalmist reminds us of the reality of joy that comes when we rest in God’s presence:
You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. — Psalm 16:11
KEY IDEA: Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.
Joy has more to do with remaining in the presence of Jesus than with avoiding problems and struggles in our lives. Harkening back to John 15, we know that joy is always available to us when we remain in Christ, through whatever life brings. Let these statements guide you to see how true joy differs from mere happiness.
- Happiness is a state of mind, while joy is a mind-set.
- Happiness comes and goes, while joy can be constant.
- Happiness is dependent, while joy is independent.
- Happiness is conditional, while joy is unconditional.
The apostle Paul had learned the secret to the joy found in Jesus:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13
James drives home the definition of joy in the kingdom of God as having nothing to do with eliminating negative outward circumstances, but rather with embracing them as opportunities to strengthen faith and gain resolve:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4
Note the end result of choosing eternal joy — being mature and complete in Christ. Joy becomes the fuel for the believer on this road to maturity. Only Jesus can make our lives flourish in the midst of trouble. In him, joy is strengthened when life is challenging.
And finally, there is a source of deep joy available from an intimate place of serving Jesus.
Take a look at his teaching in Luke 15:3-7:
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Joy comes when the lost are found! When we join Jesus in His work by sharing and seeing people come to Him, we can be a part of the heavenly celebration right here and right now.
It Is Well – Streams in the Desert – December 3
- 20213 Dec
Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).
Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”
And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.
Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher
Isaiah 53:4-6 4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53 contains some of the most detailed and rich prophecies concerning the Messiah. The most comforting are those in our passage for today. Man’s greatest infirmity is sin. His greatest sorrow is his estrangement from God. Jesus took that upon Himself while He was on the cross. We cannot comprehend the horror of the sins of the world, but Jesus could. He still took it on for us. Even in the process of dying for man, men cursed, mocked, and insulted Him. They implied that He deserved it for being a liar. Still He went through with it, to the end.
Why was He pierced? For our transgressions! Why was He crushed? For our iniquities! Don’t pass that over without making it personal. The only way we could have peace with God is for someone to pay the sin debt we owed. Someone had to be punished for the rebellion against God and all His goodness. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.
How could we be healed from this disease of sin that so permeates our nature? By His wounds we are healed! Every one of us is like a dumb sheep that wonders away from the Shepherd that cares and looks after us. We wonder off into the dangerous areas in which we can be attacked and devoured by the Wolf. If we were caught and killed, it would serve us right, for we have refused to follow our loving Shepherd. Yet the LORD laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.
Consider: How grateful, how thankful, how forever indebted we are to Him!
Consolation in Christ
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.” Philippians 2:1
Suggested Further Reading: John 16:7-15
The Holy Spirit, during the present dispensation, is revealed to us as the Comforter. It is the Spirit’s business to console and cheer the hearts of God’s people. He does convince of sin; he does illuminate and instruct; but still the main part of his business lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. Whatever the Holy Spirit may not be, he is evermore the Comforter to the church; and this age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by-and-by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Now, mark you, as the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Christ is the comfort. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If I may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled today by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. If we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of the Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the comfort.
For meditation: Many of the errors taught about God the Holy Spirit would come to nothing if God’s people understood the Scriptural teaching on the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity. May the Holy Spirit help us to grow in the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3).