Correcting A Misunderstanding Of Joy

John 16:19-22,

19. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?
20. Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
21. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
22. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

There is a terrible misunderstanding of joy in the modern Apostolic church these days. Let’s all just be honest, up front, and admit it:

We want the big, bold, brash, blow-out service. We want the Spirit to take over and set the preacher on the pew while we get down and celebrate the awesome Presence of God.

This, to us, is joy. And anything less than this is somehow lacking and not quite good enough. It can even get to the point where we start to think something is wrong with us if this type of experience isn’t happening on a regular basis.

Why, we might even try to artificially manufacture such an experience just because, you know, we’re the Pentecostals and that’s just the way we “do our thang…”

But look what Christ said about joy.

Joy comes after sorrow; it does not precede it. Great joy is a product of great suffering. We somehow think that if the Lord would just give us a life of Riley, walk on easy street existence, then, THEN we would know true joy. If only our adversaries gave us a break, if only our mortgage payments decreased, if only the kids never got sick, if only that nasty co-worker would get fired, then, yes, we could sit back and know the joy of the Lord.

Not so.

Read again the words of Psalm 30, from which a fairly popular worship song takes its cue:

Psalm 30,

1. A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David. I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
2. O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
3. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
4. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
5. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
6. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
7. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
8. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
9. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
10. Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
11. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12. To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

There is a time for sorrow and grief. We may even weep. It is at times right and necessary that we do so. But after the weeping comes joy. After the rain comes sunlight.

There is more to be enjoyed after the storm clouds break than there is in never having a single storm pass through your life.

A lot of things can make us happy, but happiness isn’t joy.

An unexpected day off of work can make me happy, but if I do not work for a day, I will not experience the joys of coming home after a long day, taking off the proverbial work boots, kissing my wife and having my children run up to me to say hello and give me hugs.

But you ask, “That’s joy?”

Yes. Knowing that I have been blessed by the Lord to work and make a living and provide for my family is a reward that I cannot ever know unless I am doing it.

Which matters more: having a mid-term exam put off a couple of days because of bad weather (and so, having your entire week thrown off) or taking the test when scheduled and knowing afterward that you aced it (because you studied hard, made thorough efforts to learn the subject, and etc.)?

Happiness says “Put off the test for another time”. Joy says, “I took that test on time and I passed it with flying colors”.

For a long time, I have heard it said that the devil is always trying to rob us of our joy. I’ve probably said it, too. But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe our flesh is robbing us of the opportunity to experience joy because we’re too what? afraid? lazy? weak? comfortable? complacent? To go through the fire, experience the trial, and face the hardship of suffering and deprivation long enough to be able to actually rejoice in anything after the fact?

Remember the words of the Lord. It was needful that He departed. There had to be a time of sorrow. A woman needs must experience the travails of labor or else the arrival of her child after the end of nine long months may end up being a lesser occasion than it ought to be.

I know Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible from which many people don’t receive revelation or inspiration, but it is a necessary book to read from, from time to time. Every one of us who walks with God is going to go through times and experiences similar to the Koheleth (i.e. the Preacher). It’s a fact. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some key verses:

Ecclesiastes 2:24,

24. There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:13,

13. …every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

It is the gift of God and a cause of rejoicing and personal enjoyment when a man has labored hard for his living and well-being. There isn’t an elderly, retired father alive, who, if his heart is right, doesn’t rejoice and smile when he sees his sons working hard and making their way in the world.

Boys need the example of a hard-working father. I know there are times, because of health or other circumstances, when working hard isn’t always possible, in the traditional sense.

But note the following:

Ecclesiastes 9:10,

10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

You’ve only got one life to live. Maybe you are laid off, unemployed, or even injured, but if you can do anything (and do it safely), do it with your might. Let those people in your circle of influence see, that of the things that you are able to do (like pray, love, cherish, and etc.), you do them with relish, with zeal, with passion and compassion. Even the paralyzed man may be able to smile. Even the unemployed man, if he is fit, can shovel his neighbor’s sidewalk (and do a good job of it, too).

(And by the way, Believer, if you are laid off or unemployed but otherwise fit, call up a local pastor and see what you can do to volunteer your time and energy. The Church always needs laborers.)

In ancient days, the following concepts were embraced and believed to be true:

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee (Job 5:17-19).

If you read between the lines, the following facts emerge:

• God Himself is the real source of most suffering
• God Himself is the only real source of healing and restoration
• Deliverance from the Lord is possible, but troubles have to come first
• It’s possible to get to a place in the Lord where no evil touches us, but we have to go through a severe amount of difficulty before we get there.

I have often heard the knock made against “easy-believism”, i.e. the idea that somehow mere mental assent is all God requires of us in order to save us. Basically it’s a divorce of love and obedience from grace and faith.

But sometimes, if we are honest, we also have a similar form of easy-believism. While we may fully embrace the need for loving God and obeying Him in all things (which DOES NOT make us legalists), we nevertheless tend to want the easy way out when it comes to experiencing God’s greatest glory.

Come on, God! I obeyed Acts 2:38! I’m a child of the King! Now gimme, gimme, gimme!

Friend, it doesn’t work that way. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It needs to be cultivated. It takes time to flourish. Adverse conditions and challenges must be faced first.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ must be served in joy.

Romans 14:17-18,

17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

Do you see it? Verse 18 reads “in these things“. In righteousness, peace, and joy a man, if he wishes to be acceptable to God and approved of men, must serve Christ.

One cannot simply say they are serving Christ if they are not doing so joyfully. Down-trodden, sullen, grumbling, rote obedience because of a “have-to” mentality is not the right approach. God doesn’t accept such service.

So here we have an entire movement of people, men and women, who make their boast in the Lord and title themselves the People of the Name, who can only serve God joyfully as long as He makes life easy for them, keeps them from all pain and suffering, never allows anything bad to happen to them, and makes sure every time they have a church service, He puts the preacher in his place and takes over and causes an old-fashioned Pentecostal “blow-out”.

Is it any wonder how shallow and worthless these kinds of meetings have become? Have you been to a conference or convention lately? It’s mostly hoop-la and shenanigans. Manufactured moves of the “Spirit” by a bunch of un-anointed, non-inundated with the life-giving Presence of the God, doing the same old, same old because it’s culturally acceptable to “make a joyful noise” and “shout with the voice of triumph” even when no joy is present and no triumph has been achieved.

You know, it’s not really winning if you were never in any real danger of losing.

But find a group of saints who have been tried in the fire, who have suffered and lost, who have experienced deprivation and peril, who know the agonies of despair, who have been troubled on all sides and stood faithful, even in the midst of persecution and malediction, who, when they get together, can still lift their voices, still raise their hands, still sing and dance before the Lord, declaring God is great and greatly to be praised, even when He wounds them and makes them sore, even when He chastises and afflicts them, then, THEN, you will find people who know the joy of the LORD.

But those so-called “saints”, who are comfortable, who sit at ease, who lay back to soak it in, who have learned to be idle, and won’t lift a finger for anyone besides themselves, who, for all intents and purposes, are nothing more than a bunch of Sodomic Pharisees (See and compare Ezekiel 16:49 with Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46), are never going to experience the real joy of God, of the “unspeakable” variety, which is “full of glory”. You know, the kind of joy that no one can take away.

I leave with this thought.

The Lord Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, suffering the shame and humiliation that came with tasting death for every man (Hebrews 12:2 and Hebrews 2:9). In Isaiah 50:6-7, we are told in a prophecy that the Messiah set his “face like a flint“, willingly allowing Himself to be physically attacked, scourged, beaten, and mauled, even to the point of having His beard violently pulled off His face.

When it came time to face down the threat, Jesus stood firm. He was resolute. He knew who and what He was: the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He knew the mission and putting His flesh into subjection, surrendered to the will of His Father, a will that included torture, reproach, physical and spiritual agony, and death.

And He did so for the joy that was set before Him. Jesus knew that after all the suffering and agony, He was going to ascend to the Father and sit down at God’s right hand. He knew that if He just stayed faithful and obeyed all that the Spirit urged Him to do, that there was going to come a time when all things, including the very empire that had Him killed, was going to find itself under His feet (Psalm 110:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:25). Jesus knew He was the God-ordained Ruler of the Universe, the veritable Son of the Most High, and nothing, not even death, could separate Him from the love the Father had for Him. In fact, Jesus knew that it was through death (and the resurrection that followed) that His place on the throne of God was to be eternally secured.

What about us?

What are we willing to endure? Do we have a cross like unto the Lord’s? Is it getting heavy? Does it cause you pain? Do you think your cross is going to require more of you than you can reasonably give? Is the cross you’re carrying designed to kill you or not? Do you carry it around for fun? For show? Or is that cross literally, albeit spiritually, around your neck to prove to you, to the world, and even to God Himself, that for the joy set before you, you will willingly endure whatever you have to in this life, so that you, with Christ, can sit in your Father’s throne, and rule and reign with the Savior for ever?

I sincerely hope you know the answer to that question, because everything, including your joy, depends upon it.

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~ by votivesoul on 03/06/2014.

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