Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member
I have a friend at the ministry and sometimes we get into interesting discussions. Half the time they are by email because we work in different departments. But the discussions are sometimes fun, challenging, and filled with disagreements (we laugh about that and say we will always “agree to disagree” when needed). So the other day, we started discussing JOY and what it meant for us as God’s people to have it. So my friend emailed me and asked for my thoughts on the subject. So here is what I emailed back.
First of all I thought we needed to define the word joy. When you look up the word joy in the dictionary, you come up with the following definition: “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (Websters Dictionary).” That isn’t a bad definition, but if you read it carefully you will see that it is pretty much tied into our circumstances. If things are going well, if we have a good day, if we get the new job then we feel joy. But Scripture has a little different definition. Here is the definition I found in Ungers Bible Dictionary: “Joy is a delight of the mind arising from the consideration of a present or assured possession of a future good.” Do you see the difference? Biblical joy looks to the future, not the present.
Maybe a couple of passages will help explain this. Two of my two favorite passages in the Bible regarding this are Acts 20:22-24 and Hebrews 12:1-3. Let’s look at Acts 20:
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with JOY, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
This passage always challenges my heart. Here was Paul on his way to Jerusalem. God, through the Spirit told Paul that nothing but trials and hardship awaited him. Not really happy news, is it? But Paul didn’t hold on too tightly to his life. His attitude was that none of these things move me. I just want to preach the Gospel and finish my race with joy. There was nothing Paul could see in his life that would be considered fun or happy. But Paul could still have joy. Why? Because he knew how it would end. He would be with the Lord and many people would be with him because of the sacrifices Paul made. I can’t fathom that kind of life, but I would sure like to.
One more passage, Hebrews 12:1-3:
12 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Of course, Jesus is the supreme example of a life of joy. In this passage it says He “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” The cross certainly was not going to be a fun or happy experience, and Jesus knew that. He knew there would be pain, suffering and, worst of all, a total separation from the Father. Yet Jesus could have joy because he knew the end. Satan would be defeated, the veil of the temple would be rent symbolizing that man now could have victory in Christ and total access to the Father. In other words, it was all worth for Jesus. And whatever we face, it should be worth it for us too.
We are weak people. But our Lord can give us the strength and courage to follow Him with all our hearts. Hebrews 12:2 tells the way to keep going is to fix our eyes on Jesus. That is the only way for us to keep going without growing weary and losing heart. I pray God will encourage our hearts during these trying times.