Biblical joy, as presently experienced by believers in a fallen world, constitutes not only the most wondrous of gifts, but also the most monumental of challenges.
"Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Written from a Roman prison, the Apostle Paul beckons born again believers to a joy in the Lord Jesus Christ that transcends circumstance, situation, and condition. Moreover, he testifies of the Savior's capacity to fill our hearts when our lives would seem to be emptied of the requirements of joyfulness - "I have learned in whatsoever state I am in therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11). From a venue of such loss, Paul confessed his discovery of a Christ so present, so powerful, and so lovingly involved in the hearts of trusting believers that He can reveal the joy of His heart whenever, wherever, and however.
What does this mean in practical reality and the outworking of such grace? James illuminates us regarding this vital spiritual matter.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2).
Note that James does not command that we "feel" it all joy. He rather calls us to a determination of the heart and mind, or a consideration of faith whereby we believe that the Christ whom Paul discovered as the source of contentment is the same Christ whom can still and fill our hearts whenever, wherever, and however. Do we believe this about Him, regardless of how we may feel emotionally and physically? Is He that willing and able to be the transcendent joy of our hearts? Is the Lord Jesus who He declared Himself to be, and can He do for us what He promised He can do? These are the questions of joy, the answers of which primarily involve not how we feel, but Who we know.
Christ, conviction, and emotion constitute joy as defined by Scripture. We must never reverse the order in our understanding of Truth. God is our joy. He calls us to believe, to "count it all joy." As we trust Him, He manifests such gladness in the depths of our being even when our surface emotional state, as it were, ripples with sorrow and consternation. "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" declared the Apostle of the concurrent sadness and joyfulness often known by believers as we affirm Christ as our joy on glorious summits and in dark valleys (II Corinthians 6:10). We shall not be disappointed as we join David in his determination of faith…
"I will go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy."
Tomorrow: concurrent joy and sorrow in born again believers
Weekly Memory Verse
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.