For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17) As Christians our joy should be “full.” We should have “joy unspeakable”. So why are so many Christians living short of that promise? Many of us look for that joy sometime in the distant future when we leave this earth by either rapture or death. We think our lot in life is to suffer and live in misery waiting on the promise. Some believers substitute the true joy of the Lord with self-righteousness or false humility, getting a fake joy out of their performances. Even this doesn’t last; they soon can’t keep the performance up and fall into shame and guilt. Others give up completely and turn to the world and fulfill lusts that bring only temporary happiness and never joy. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus found joy in what was “set before him”, joy that allowed him to suffer on the cross. What was that joy? I believe it was the salvation of the world- saving of lost souls, the reconciling of all back to the Father. Only one thing could have kept him from receiving that joy, and that would have been giving in to his flesh. Satan tempted Jesus to do just that, a way contrary to God’s plan, but Jesus refused. We too have to crucify our flesh. We talk about how the Jews, the Centurions, Rome and even ourselves, killed Jesus. All are true. However, Jesus performed the TRUE Crucifixion (of his flesh) in the Garden… before a soldier ever touched a spike. He cried out to the Father in his hour of flesh sweating blood in his battle! In the end, HE crucified his flesh by saying, “not my will, Father, but yours.” Jesus received his joy! He chose to receive it! We do the crucifying, with God’s strength and help, and God gives us the joy! That joy is in conquering sin in our lives and leading others to Jesus. If Jesus’ joy was in the saving of souls, shouldn’t ours be too? Time is winding down. Can’t you feel how it is flying by! Are you crucifying your flesh, ridding your life of sin? Are you feeding your spirit with The Word? Are you building yourself up with your heavenly language? When the “shaking” begins, will you be able to stand? Are you “planting, watering and harvesting” souls? True revival is a heart hot on fire, in love, with God. But it is also the burning desire to see others come to the Father. Revival won’t happen without both. Where is your heart today?
Heb 12:1-27 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”
Why do we as humans try to add to the work of Christ? Or why do we want to keep dragging Him back to the cross to re-crucify Him, as if the one time wasn’t enough? Charles Spurgeon says, “There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in Him alone.” Jesus Himself declared, “And the one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true: It is finished!” (Rev 21:5-6) Jesus told John to even write it down, so that he would always remember and so that we would have these words forever! John shows us again in John 19:30 the scene of the cross stating, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” What God Himself has declared as FINISHED, can we declare incomplete? Sometimes I think we must all be crazy! How patient the Father is. God gave me a picture of my frustrated efforts in the past. When I had been calling out to Jesus to ‘DO SOMETHING’. It was a half comical movie of a woman with the emaciated version of Christ (the way the old renaissance paintings portray Him, skinny and weak). He was lying on the ground, with the white loin cloth, rolling His eyes to heaven, while this woman had Him by the wrist, dragging Him back to the cross. In her other hand she held a big spike! I had to laugh and said, ‘how stupid”! Then God showed me her face! Yep, it was me! I didn’t even have to ask Him to explain. I got it. I know I am not the only one…admit it we’ve all been there at least once. But I am DETERMINED not to “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame”. (Heb 6:6 NKJV) The work of the cross is not incomplete. We do not have to ‘earn it’! There is no work that we can do that is greater than what He already did! Jesus is not a man that He should lie! HE SAID IT IS FINISHED! Stand on that!
I had to ask myself today, “Do I have joy in my life?” Not happiness, which is a fickle friend, but that inner joy in my spirit. You know the joy that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. My honest answer is “not as often as I should”, and some days, (especially lately, as our family is going through a trail), I have to admit, “not very often.” It is so easy to allow the mundane experiences of our lives, or the frustrating circumstances chase away our joy. But, if joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then how does that happen? I believe it is when we lose our gratitude. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, especially if those around us are hurting. Or to simply lose patience with our dreams because they seem so slow in coming.
Even in the midst of hard situations, we can maintain a thankful heart. Sometimes we get stuck in the ‘thank-you-for” rut where we rattle off our tiny list, you know the same one every time. Mine includes, hubby, kids, grandkids, food I eat, house, cars and Church, or pretty close. That just shows we are either in a hurry, or can’t see past our nose. When we slow down and make the effort to be thankful, we can see so many things, people, places that touch our lives. A few examples: a babies smile, doesn’t even have to by your baby, any baby smiling, the smell of lilacs on a damp spring morning. Then there are those things that we really aren’t too thankful for. This category is hard for me, shoveling snow, giving the dog a bath, dealing with that one person who rubs me the wrong way. Yes, we need to be thankful for those things. God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and part of that plan is for us to work hard, love people, be a witness at our jobs.
It seems like the last few months, my family has been under it. Most due to some poor choices of one family member and the rest either come along with the territory, or just because we have a real enemy. So though it’s been tough, I have still been able to find joy in the middle of it all. If I was a spiritual superhero, I could say I held onto my joy the whole time, but sadly I am not. I can say that I know right were to find it. Because in all truthfulness, despite what I said earlier, nothing can chase or steal our joy away. We lay it down, sometimes absentmindedly, like a spare pair of reading glasses. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasured for evermore.” We find our joy in the presence of God. Simple really. Sometimes we willingly lay down our joy to trade it for fleeting happiness or satisfaction. Usually that comes out of willful sin, which includes harboring bitterness, and nursing un-forgiveness. We lay down our joy when we disobey God.
How do we hold on to our joy? By being thankful, a heart full of gratitude. When we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, His promises, His goodness, and remember those who have gone before us, we can keep that unspeakable joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-3 “therefor, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrances and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of he throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and love heart.”