Monday, January 6, 2014
A keen observer once said, “You Christians seem to have a religion that makes you miserable. You handle your Christianity like a man with a headache -- he does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it.”
That startling statement gives a person reason for serious pondering! It sent me to the Word of God via a commentary and I was awestruck when I clustered the OT joy pearls together. Reference is made to trees singing together (1 Chr. 16:33). Job speaks of the morning stars singing together and causing the sons of God to shout for joy (Job 38:7). God causes the dawn and the sunset to shout for joy (Psa. 65:8). Meadows and flocks sing for joy (Psa. 65:12). Mountains shout for joy at the name of their Father God (Psa. 69:12). Rivers clap their hands (Psa. 98:8). The Psalmist admonishes all the earth to shout and sing praises of joy (Psa. 98:4). Did you know that? I had never thought it through. Now that I have, it boggles my mind.
One big question loomed up, i.e., if the Lord God uses inanimate objects to sing and shout for joy, what is wrong with Christians (myself included) who so often seemingly have nothing to rejoice about? Why don’t we exude the joy of the Lord all the time? Yes, when children stray; when separation occurs; when we are jobless; when a loved one dies; when our cat is lost; when a tire goes flat? Certainly we are people with emotions. Is that the only reason? Could it be that our focus is misplaced?
Perhaps one of the first verses that comes to mind when we think of joy is James 1:2, which stands as a conundrum until we give it serious and biblical application. Certainly, we don’t rejoice because we are in a comfort zone. We ought to look to God’s purpose for allowing affliction rather than to the affliction itself. When we set our mind on Christ, the answers to all things come together. He immediately whispers (or shouts) the assurance that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. It is then that I can assuredly sing , as does all the earth, “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art.”
Let’s further look into James chapter one and verse two. What are the benefits /graces/blessings of suffering? Psychology may instruct us to be calm under our troubles, but God tells us to rejoice knowing that they come from a loving and not furious God. Even Job testified, “Happy is the man whom God correcteth” (Job 5:17). God, in His expressions of love, has other blessings in correction. “I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake you, nor relax my hold upon you--assuredly not” ( cf. Heb. 13:5). Faith comes from focus on the promises of our heavenly Father.
The trial of faith works patience (v.3). “The trying of one grace produces another; and the more the suffering graces of a Christian are exercised, the stronger [the Christian] grow[s].” When has patience had its perfect work? “When we bear all that God appoints, as long as He appoints, and with a humble obedient eye to Him, and when we not only bear troubles, but rejoice in them, then patience has its perfect work.” It is then that we shall be perfect and entire and wanting nothing (v.4). That spells J-O-Y. May we work towards its perfection in 2014.