Many mornings, in my personal devotions, I go to John Piper's Solid Joys app on my iPad. He is one of my favorite theologians, though we don't see totally eye-to-eye on the theological concept of election. I highly recommend this resource to you for your mobile device. His daily offerings there are what I'd call a highly nutritional snack for your day, whenever you pop in. Recently, I read one of his posts on the topic of joy; it sort of flipped me on my head.
I realized I had a bit of a misconception about joy.
What I knew to be true (and still know):
1. Joy is NOT the same as happiness. The former is based on the foundational promises of God. The latter is situational. Both are wonderful, but the former is indispensable.
2. Joy is the inheritance of every believer in Jesus Christ as Savior. It is one of God's precious gifts to His children.
So far, so good, right?
Here's where my misconception came in, though.
I always believed that if I experienced an absence of joy in my life that this indicated some spiritual deficit on my part. In other words, if joy was not "automatic" in my life, it was my fault.
Have any of the rest of you believers ever believed that? I'd love to hear your comments on this blog page, with your thoughts....
That misinterpretation, though sincere, is a trick of Satan's to lessen our effectiveness. He loves to beat us to a bloody pulp with this lie.
Now, wait - - - sometimes, there IS abiding sin in a Christian's heart, and in that case such sin needs to be attacked, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Exposed, confessed, repented of, turned from, walked away from, left behind. Repeat, repeat, repeat (in some cases, for habitual sin). This is a description of the Christian "going to war" over sin in his/her own life. Pulling it up like a nasty weed. Tossing it out. You get the picture.
But, there are also times when there is no known sin, and in fact, this scenario can occur when a Christian is in the heat of a battle, joy just seems to have fled the scene. After all, for example, the spiritual weeding I described above is not what I call "fun" or a joyful experience. It's more like plucking out a stray hair, repeatedly. Ugh! James, the half-brother of Jesus, knew about this, and wrote of it in James 1:2-3. He opened his book with this truth; he must have felt it was critically important!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
James 1:2 (ESV)
Going deeper, what I learned from John Piper on this topic is this: as Christians, despite the fact that joy is our inheritance from our Savior, it is not enough to regard it as joy (as James said). We must at times FIGHT LIKE HECK for it.
Dr. Piper calls it "fighting like a justified sinner".1 What does that mean?
Well, in all honesty, I've not read his book. (You may want to investigate his book, referenced in the Sources section of this post. I plan to.) But, I predict he means that we are to fight for joy as one who knows it already belongs to him/her and that we are sure to win the battle to receive it again.
IF joy is our promised inheritance, not only in eternity, but also in the "here and now" (yes!) ...
IF God always keeps His promises (yes!) ...
THEN (yes!), we can fight for joy with confidence that God will restore it in His perfect timing.
Sometimes, as we walk through prolonged battles in our resplendent walk, it takes time. As we walk faithfully, and fight fiercely, we must simultaneously wait on God patiently.
Allright, so Christian People! Let's gird ourselves with the Ephesians 6 armor, meditate on God's promises, and plunge into the fight for our joy today. Are you ready? Set? GO!
8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV)
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)
17Though 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,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
This is the day that Lord Jehovah has made; come, we will leap for joy and rejoice in him!
Psalm 118:24 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
1 Piper, John. When I Don't Desire GOD: How to Fight for Joy. Crossway Books, 2013.