Monday, December 12, 2005

Joy!

Most of us can remember the joy we had when we received Christ. Perhaps some will have to make an effort to remember, simply because they no longer have joy.
A friend came to our home in Yokohama, Japan some years ago. He had been my roommate aboard an aircraft carrier, and during our time together he had become a Christian. On this visit he said, “I have that deep inner peace that I belong to Christ, but I don’t have daily victory. I don’t have daily joy.”
Of course something was wrong. It is basic that joy, as well as peace, are results of salvation. Our joy is in our salvation. Jesus promised in John 16:22b:
I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (NIV)
When the seventy returned from their evangelistic itinerary, rejoicing because of the power and authority they had and miracles they had done, Jesus told them their joy was misplaced…
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20 NIV)
We tend to think that circumstances are the primary cause for having joy, but according to the prophet Habakkuk, this is not so:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17, 18 NIV)
Something was wrong with my friend in Yokohama. Whatever it was, he and I knew that it wasn’t circumstances. Joy is a state. It may be an expressive state, but it is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure and joy may be expressed in the same way. For instance, I can sing for joy or I can sing for pleasure. In the first case, singing is the result of the great joy; it bursts out into singing. In the second case, singing is the cause of the pleasure, not the result.
This is true with other forms of expression, such as dancing and laughing. I can sing or dance or laugh for joy, but singing, dancing or laughing will not bring joy. They might bring pleasure, and we might convince ourselves that this is joy or rejoicing.
In the texts quoted earlier we see that joy is directly related to the Lord and His salvation for us. Why then do we sometimes lack joy? We have an explanation in Hebrews 12:11:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)
Discipline comes from God (Hebrews 12:5, 6) because of unconfessed sin in the Christian’s life. But God intends discipline to be momentary. God’s loving discipline yields peace and a right relationship with Him to those who learn and respond to His discipline. If a person does not learn and is not trained by discipline, then the loss of joy continues; discipline is then not momentary and remains the cause for loss of joy. The right response to discipline for sin is the confession and forsaking of sin. Joy then returns.
One of the reasons we had great joy when we received Christ was that our sins were all forgiven. We had become clean after years of accumulated sin. If after our conversion we begin accumulating sins again and do not confess them, then we shall wonder where the joy has gone. We are under chastening, and it is not joyous. To walk in a joyful relationship with Him requires that we be honest with Him. God has promised His faithfulness to forgive and cleanse on one condition:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
When my friend realized that it was a matter of instant confession for daily joy, he confessed his sins, and his joy was restored.
King David had been disciplined for his sin. He had lost his joy. Psalm 51 is a record of his confession; he prays,
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. (Psalm 51:12, 13 NIV)
David knew that he could not teach transgressors, and sinners would not come to the Lord as long as he was without the joy of the Lord’s salvation. Think of those you know who are effective in evangelism. Are they people with joy? Are they people who know all the right answers on the plan of salvation, but who do not seem to rejoice? If we are going to draw water from the well of salvation, let’s do it with joy.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If sin has been confessed and forsaken, and joy is still not present (more of a dry, dusty, maybe-lost-in-the-wilderness-for-40-years kind of life, actually), what then?....

Larry White said...

I rejoice and also have great pleasure in your ministry here. As I have had with the younger Pastor Wilson, whose debt to you is now obvious.