Joy is not hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. The belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life. However joy is the result of finding the source of real pleasure, in the Lord, (in who He is and in what He has done) the only One who can bring true genuine lasting joy in life no matter what.
Joy is recognising and acting on God’s steadfast love and faithfulness for us in the past, present and future.
1). Joy Because Of God’s Faithfulness In The Past
The people of God knew great joy when God gave them victory over their enemies. Eg.,
i). Under King Jehoshaphat. 2 Ch 20:1 “After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites (from Mt Seir) came against Jehoshaphat for battle…. 14 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel … 15 And he said, “… ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. … 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ , “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22 And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. AND 2 Chron 20:27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies.” An amazing God using amazing strategies to win an amazing victory. And the people were so grateful.
ii). David won a victory over the Philistines. 1Sam 18:6 “As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.” It’s a great occasion for joy when the Lord gives us victory over our enemies as a sign of His steadfast love and faithfulness to us. He loves us with steadfast love. He is faithful. We can rejoice in His steadfast love and faithfulness. (It is interesting that the “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” of God appear together in 39 verses in the Old Testament.)
iii). 2010. Something happened that I had never seen before and have never seen since. A mind-blowing experience in the Cathedral in Sydney on the night of the 50th Anniversary of the Healing Service in the Cathedral. We were celebrating 50 years of God’s blessing, and praising God for the thousands of people over those years who had experienced the love of God in physical, spiritual and emotional healing. Some present had been there for many of those 50 years with wonderful memories of the healings they had experienced and had seen others experience.
In the sermon I recounted some stories of wonderful healings during that time and then I said, “The Healing Ministry is not about Jim Glennon (its Founder), nor about Jim Holbeck (me as the Leader 1988-2006), nor about the new Leader, Chris. It’s all about Him!” (As I pointed skywards). The Cathedral erupted. There was spontaneous release of joy and praise from all over the Cathedral; shouts of ‘Halleluia’, ‘Praise the Lord’ and hands all over the Cathedral raised in praise; people clapping and people punching the air in praise and thanksgiving. This spontaneous eruption lasted about 2 minutes or so. When it ceased as suddenly as it began, I lowered my raised hand with my index finger still pointing to the sky and finished the sermon. Later a bishop who had been invited to the service came forward to pronounce the Blessing. Before he did so, he announced to the congregation, “That’s the most fun I’ve ever had in this Cathedral!” Joy was tangible that evening. God was praised and glorified. His people were blessed with a deep joy.
It reminded me of the incident in Jesus’ life in Luke 19:37 when Jesus was entering Jerusalem, “the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” However as we know, there are always party-poopers who want to stamp out what they see to be excesses, “39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus’ reply indicated that God must be praised and if humans hadn’t done it on that occasion the stones would have cried out in praise, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Lk 19:40.
God must be praised. If the people hadn’t praised Him that night, one felt that the inanimate bricks which had witnessed God’s steadfast love and faithfulness and power for 50 years would have cried out in praise. It was a glory moment I’ll never forget. The Joy was tangible for the rest of the evening. It was as though God had visited His people and we were glad!
2). Joy Because Of God’s Faithfulness In The Present
In The Good Times
Psalm 4:7. We can have joy even when we live in humble circumstances. Psa 4:7 “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Deep joy despite having little rather than shallow frivolity in having excess).
Prov 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.
Prov 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.
Ps 16:8-11. When we have experienced His guidance and blessing. Psa 16:8 “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” AND v. 11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Sometimes we go through difficult times but they lead to great blessings. I was preaching at St Stephen’s Coorparoo in Brisbane shortly after I had been ordained. I quoted from the passage in John 16:20-21 where Jesus told His disciples that He was about to leave them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” His disciples would experience great pain when Jesus left them, but they would later rejoice when they knew His death and resurrection and ascension had brought them such blessing. Great pain followed by great joy! At the end of the service a woman came up to me, eyeballed me and said, “You’ve never had a baby have you?” I had to admit that I hadn’t. But I knew of many women who had testified to the truth of Jesus’words. The joy of holding a new born bundle of joy can lessen painful memories.
In Difficult Times
Ps 51:10-12. David, in despair over the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, turned to God. Psa 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation… ..” He knew he was out of fellowship with God and longed to experience the joy of his salvation once again. He wanted to be forgiven. He wanted to be changed. He wanted a clean heart.
Isa 12:6. Isaiah encouraged the people of Jerusalem to rejoice in God’s presence. Isa 12:6 “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (We need to Practice His Presence! How often do we talk about God as though He were not in the room with us.) In Mat 18:19-20. Jesus reminded us, Mat 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This is the whole basis of every Healing service, the presence of Jesus with His people. And His provision for their need in the previous verse, Mat 18:19 “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” The twofold promise of His Presence and His Provision for His people when they gather together in His name.
Habbakuk 3:17-18. Joy and rejoicing in times of material hardship such as in famine or drought. Hab 3:17 “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 YET I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Instead of focussing on our meagre provisions we should focus on our Provider, Jehovah Jireh with gratitude for what we have!)
Jas 1:2-4. When undergoing various trials we can praise Him because handled correctly they help to strengthen us. James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. James 1:2-4. Perhaps it is true that often there is no gain without some pain.
Luk 6:22-23. We can rejoice when facing insults and persecution, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Rejected by the world but loved by God!
3). Joy Because Of God’s Faithfulness In The Future
Ps 30:5. God can change us overnight when things are tough, Psa 30:5 “… Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Handing things over to God brings peace and the joy of knowing that He is in control.
Jn 17:5, 17. Jesus in His High Priestly prayer in Joh 17:5 as He prepared to face the cross, prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” AND Joh 17:13 “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (ie., “They will eventually recognise that my death was not a senseless defeat. Rather they will see it as a great victory and the cause for sharing in My joy.”)
Heb 12:2. When Jesus was facing rejection, mocking and certain death, He didn’t focus on His difficulties. He focussed on the joy that lay before Him after His death and resurrection and ascension. Heb 12:2 “Jesus …, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When we are going through difficulties in life we need to have our focus on the Lord who does “work all things together for good for those who love Him”. Rom 8:28.
4). Joy At All Times. The Fruit Of The Spirit
St Paul reminds us that joy can be our constant companion no matter what the circumstances may be. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit he described in Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.” Joy is a manifestation of the life of Christ in us by His Spirit in the good times and the bad times. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
That’s why we can share His love, His joy and His peace as we pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18), to be filled with the life of Christ. To be filled with His love, His joy and His peace.
Blog No.200. Jim Holbeck. Preached in Trinity Church Port Macquarie and also posted on Sunday 23rd November 2016