THE JOY OF THE LORD
Many Christians have been led to expect that Jesus gives the joy of the world. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Are you joyful? What is the basis of your joy? Is it based on something you have? Is it based on something exciting that happened to you? Is it because your grain and wine increased? (Psalm 4:7). If so, beware, because that is building a house on the sand. When the storm comes and the wind blows great will be the fall of your house and your joy.
The basis of our joy must be Christ. Jesus is what makes all the difference between the abundant life and a life of intermittent misery, dejection and occasional happiness. Therefore, our joy must be exclusively in God and in the things of God. The psalmist describes God as “our exceeding joy.” (Psalm 43:4).
When barren Hannah finally had the child she wanted, she did not rejoice in Samuel; she rejoiced in the Lord: “Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.” (1 Samuel 2:1). Indeed, immediately Samuel was weaned, Hannah gave him back to the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord
What are your goals and objectives in life? Moses prayed to God: “Establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17). But the truth, dear Moses, is that God only establishes the work of his own hands. (Psalm 127:1). God cannot establish the work of a man’s hands unless those works are the works of God.
Every work of man will ultimately be destroyed. The people of God are a people who have rested from their own labours. Christ is for them the Lord of the Sabbath, and they have entered into his rest.
Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Paul wrote this even though he was in prison. This is because the man who rejoices only in Christ cannot be discouraged. Neither can he be depressed. Heads or tails he is victorious. If we rejoice in the Lord, we can do so always. The Lord does not change. He is not good today and bad tomorrow. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
However, if we rejoice in anything or in anyone outside of the Lord, we cannot do so always. The joy of the world is transient; it does not last. The same thing that brings us joy today will easily bring us grief tomorrow. The wine and corn will finish. The money might grow wings and fly away. However, the blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22).
Joy of the Lord
The joy of Jesus comes from the steadfast love of God. This makes it immune to changing situations and circumstances. The kingdom dynamic here is to be focussed on the joy ahead, and not on the difficulties of the moment. Accordingly, because of the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2). There is joy that comes from the certainty that every sorrow of the disciple of Jesus will be turned to joy. (John 16:22).
Therefore, he admonishes us to replace our joy with his so that we are not at the mercy of the vagaries of the world. He says: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:11).
Jesus tells us two important things here. He says the essential character of the joy of the Lord is that it endures and is complete. All other joy that people talk about comes and goes and is not fulfilling. The gospel of the kingdom of God is the good news that never becomes bad news. If we have received the Holy Spirit, we have received everything God promised us in this world. It means God has given us himself. He has given us his Son, Jesus. He has given us his eternal life. He has given us his peace and joy. He has given us his word. He has given us his divine nature. Surely, this is more than enough.
Therefore, we should thank God for earthly things, but be careful not to feed our souls on them. We should enjoy the things of this world without setting our heart on them. Our hearts must be reserved for the Lord. We cannot belong to the kingdom of God and still continue to yearn for the things of the world.
Jesus says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
No more sorrow
Jesus also says we are sorrowful because our joy is not full. If your joy were full, there could be no room for sorrow. When we truly appreciate and understand the love of God, deposited in our hearts at the instance of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, we are completely satisfied. We no longer yearn for the vainglories of this world. Jesus says: “No one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.” (John 4:14).
Our redeemer rose from the dead never to die again. In which case, sorrow has been removed from our lives. Isaiah says: “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we ourselves are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Jesus has given us beauty for ashes; the oil of joy for mourning; the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Since he has carried away our grief and sorrows, then we no longer have them or need to carry them. The only thing worth grieving about was our separation from God as a result of our sins. But now Jesus has shown us the way the truth and the life that leads back to God.
Joy of the world
When we really know Christ, the pleasures of this world lose all their charm. But if it is the world we want and prefer, then we should not blame the Lord if we remain unfulfilled. Many Christians have been led to expect that Jesus gives the joy of the world. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The joy of the world is something the gospel is eminently unable to provide. It only provides the joy of the Lord.
Truly, the joy of the world is one big lie. How many wonderful marriages have ended in divorce? How many new cars have ended up wrapped around lampposts? How many beautiful homes have ended up burgled? Therefore the Lord once said to me: “Femi, if you appoint the wrong person or the wrong things, you will be disappointed.”