This challenge jumps out of today’s devotional reading. My first thought is that sin steals my joy. Whenever I tip over by violating the will of God, joy spills out like water from a tipped tumbler and I cannot be filled with it again until I get right/upright with God.
In Sunday’s class, we talked about joy and how the presence of joy is a cure-all for nearly everything. Everyone wants to be happy. We do things that we think will produce that emotion. However, if we are joyful, life’s motivations can change. No longer does that sense of trying to be happy rule everything that we do. When I am joyful, I am free to follow the leading of God’s Spirit without worry or fear of what will happen to me.
The Apostle Paul was in jail, but he practiced what he preached. Jail didn’t rob him of his joy. But jail was not the only thing going on that could have tipped him over. Here is how he describes his situation:
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)All Paul wanted was Christ to be preached and God to be glorified. It didn’t matter to him if it took a stint in jail, or if envious people were glad he was in there. If Christ was preached, he was joyful.
Joy is a fruit of a Spirit-controlled life. Paul wrote that we should rejoice always (Philippians 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16). Since this Holy Spirit joy does not depend on circumstances, Christians can rejoice in all situations, but sometimes things happen and joy vanishes.
The devotional reading offers a list of possible joy-robbers. It includes change, confusion, trials, attacks, unmet desires, conflict, and strained relationships. It said that if these things are successful, then we should cry out like David who said, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12).
I find this interesting because the context of the psalmist’s words was in confession of a specific sin. His joy vanished as he violated the will of God. The Holy Spirit could not fill him if he was filled with selfish desire. It is the same with all believers.
In rereading the above list, I think that the joy-robbers are not those things, but more likely the dependence we put on those things. If I value sameness (and control of my life), then change will upset me. The bottom line that robs me of joy is not so much the change, but lack of trust in God to use those changes that happen to my life for my good.
If I value order (another type of control), then when disorder happens, I lose my happiness because that emotion was not from the Holy Spirit in the first place. He gives joy in all situations. Instead, I was elated about order and being in control. Holy Spirit joy is not about externals.
Unmet desires are a no-brainer. Self wants and self denied is unhappy. While my spiritual self often wants things too, along with those desires is the faith that God will provide in His perfect time.
Strained relationships do not feel good, but I’m more apt to be unhappy because I cannot “make them work” — one more evidence of who is trying to control my life — me instead of trusting God to work things out in His way and time.
Joy happens when all is yielded to God in faith, knowing He is taking care of everything. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), and the apostle James said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). The only way I can do that is by remembering that God has His purposes in all my afflictions.
God never removes my joy; I do it when I fall away from trusting Him and yield to my sinful nature. My biggest joy-robber is me.