The fruit of joy, part 3: Joy in the midst of trials
Jesus, God made manifest in human form in the New Testament, had much to say about joy and gladness. Just as God wanted His people in the Old Testament to have much joy, so did Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus declared in …
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it [and joy] more abundantly.
Although the word it is supplied by the translators, and correctly so; we would all understand that the pronoun it refers back to the word life. Jesus said He came so that we would have life and have life more abundantly (which is obviously referring to eternal life, since we already have mortal life).
But as you turn to John 15, I would submit to you that the abundant life also would include having joy in this life. Because we read in…
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Recall that the setting here in the gospel of John is the night of the Last Supper, just before the betrayal of Jesus and the night before He was crucified. Did Jesus know what would happen in the next few hours and on the next day? Of course He did.
And yet we notice that He says to His disciples that he wants HIS joy to remain in them so that they could be full of joy. Is that a contradiction? How could Jesus have joy when He was fully aware of the excruciating pain that He was about to undergo?
No, it is not a contradiction, but it points out the truth that having joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. Therefore, we are not to wait around until good things happen so that we can be joyful. Just as Jesus did, we too are called to have joy within us at all times. One place this is commanded is in …
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
Evermore means “at all times.” This injunction to Christians is found in numerous other places as well, particularly in the epistle to the Philippians. Nevertheless, we must admit that, for most of us, life does not usually provide an overwhelming majority of causes for celebration and rejoicing.
Life is filled with tensions and anxieties and conflicts and problems galore. One thing after another after another is a common complaint, isn’t it? So how can we have joy in the midst of all that, as we are commanded to do? To answer that, let us discuss four obstacles or impediments to joy.
The first is unconfessed sin in our lives. You see, when we are experiencing true joy, it is because we are connecting with our Creator. He is the source of true joy. And what happens when we have unconfessed sin in our conscience? It breaks that connection or communion with our Father, doesn’t it? If there is a distance between you and God, guess who moved? God tells us in Isaiah 59.
Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Look at Psalm 32. This is a David’s dramatic account of the physical and psychological effects upon himself as he agonized over his sins. He is clearly a man without joy. First, he tells the effects when he was stubbornly refusing to confess.
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
And then let’s go to Psalm 51. This is the psalm David wrote upon his confession of his sin of fornication with Bathsheba.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
If you have ever felt like David did here, where your sin is ever before you, then that alone is a cause for joy because it means that God has not seared your conscience to the point where you can no longer hear anything from God, nor feel the pricks of the Holy Spirit working upon your conscience. David pleads with God:
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
And now notice the result of this conscience-cleansing by God, the forgiveness of sins.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
So when we are no longer finding the joy of salvation present in our daily life, then it is time to search our soul and see if the problem is because of unconfessed sin.
Perhaps it is not an overt sin, but a darkened heart due to anger, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, a critical attitude, an uncaring spirit—you know, all those things that hurt us when someone feels that way about us. We cannot show forth the fruit of joy when it is being blocked by any of those attitudes of the heart. (To be continued.)