Monday, February 21, 2011

The Choice To Rejoice

    We referenced last week the prophet's determination to rejoice in God regardless of circumstance, condition or situation.
    "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
     Habbbakuk made a choice to rejoice, a choice of devotion.  First, he knew his Lord's devotion to his best interest, and the interest of Israel.  Then he followed in the Divine wake of love by determining to trust God despite the loss of every earthly basis of joy. The prophet knew the Lord's heart well enough to be deeply convinced that "His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31).  Thus, if God had suspended provision to Israel, Habakkuk knew that love had to be the reason, the love of chastening perhaps, but love nonetheless.  He therefore chose to rejoice upon the basis of God's loving care for His people, and the desire to love Him in devoted response.
    When we trust the Lord Jesus Christ, we are loving Him no less than if we were giving our body to be burned for His glory.  "Faith... worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).  True faith is the fruit of love, God's love leading and enabling us.  It is also an act of love for Him.  Especially when everything in our humanity screams or whispers that we should doubt, fear, resent and disbelieve, the choice to rejoice involves self sacrificial devotion received by our Heavenly Father as a cherished gift of love from our hearts to His.  Again, "faith... worketh by love."  He receives all the glory for such expression because apart from His indwelling Spirit, we cannot truly love Him (Romans 5:5).  Nevertheless, deep in the hearts of born again believers is a freedom of determination whereby our love for God is a self sacrificial act of personal liberty rather than the programmed mindlessness of an automaton.  "I will love Thee, o Lord my strength!" declared the Psalmist who well knew both his utter dependence on God, and his privileged freedom and capacity to love God (Psalm 18:1).
     Our Lord is present enough, powerful enough, wise enough and loving enough to enable joy where there should seemingly be no joy.  Thus He commands, "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).  Implicit in the command is the promise of our Lord's transcendent ability to enable the choice to rejoice not only on the highest summit of blessing, but in the lowest valley of loss.  We must believe that such capacity is possible, and we must understand that true faith is a primary means of loving God.  Indeed, when we join Habakkuk - "I will joy in the God of my salvation" - when the fields are barren and the flocks are cut off, the love of God and love for God bless His heart and our own with a rejoicing beyond words...
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
(I Peter 1:6-8)

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