11 July 2014 by Adeline Lum CM –
It doesn’t take one long to realize that believing in Christ does not guarantee a smooth ride in this life. But Jesus told us before that we will have troubles in this world. (1 Peter 4:12, John 16:33)
Sometimes even, the life of a believer appears to be harder than pre-believers due to the different Christ-like lifestyles, whereby some of us are undergoing persecution. (2 Tim 3:12, John 15:18)
Therefore, to put it simply, while we are not exempted from troubles in life, we are called to always rejoice in the Lord. (Phil 4:4)
With that said, the false assumption which hinder our joy as believers in Christ is that we will only experience joy in a trouble-free life.
This is an impractical belief because most of us can agree that this kind of trouble-free period usually does not last very long… before another problem pops up. With that said, it is not very wise to wait for a problem to be over before one decides to become joyful.
So, how do we always rejoice?
BEING JOYFUL IS A CHOICE
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
The NIV version uses the word ‘consider’, while the KJV and most other versions use the word ‘count.’
The meaning of ‘consider’ according to Merriam-Webster is to think about (something or someone) carefully especially in order to make a choice or decision.
The meaning of ‘count’ according to Merriam-Webster is to record as of an opinion or persuasion.
Both words suggest a deliberate choice of a person to consider or count trials as all joy.
Before I continue; my apologies and empathy for brothers and sisters-in-Christ who are currently undergoing severe trials and challenges; this article is not written to sugarcoat or undermine your pain, but to really point out that we do have POWER of choice over our emotions.
And this power of choice is powerful, especially when we continue to choose to believe that what the Bible says about God is true, despite our trials in life! God is good. He loves us. And He is faithful in walking with us through this.
WE HAVE REASONS TO BE JOYFUL
A baseless optimism may also be misunderstood as naivety. But as believers in Christ, we have all the reasons to be joyful.
In James 1:2-4, we are joyous because we know that troubles and trials produces endurance. And when the work of endurance is finished, we will be perfect and complete. In other words, through troubles, we end up lacking nothing!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Hence, like the muscles that go through wear and tear during endurance exercise, our faith in God grows bigger and stronger every time we go through a trials or troubles. We begin to see our circumstances based on God, not God based on our circumstances. This renewed perspective gives us strength.
1 Peter 1:3-6 also tells us another reason to rejoice.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. IN ALL THIS you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Pet 1:3-6)
So, here’s another reason to rejoice. We have a REAL, living hope to look forward to at the end of life, which is meeting the person Jesus Christ face-to-face. Because of our belief in Him, we have an eternal inheritance kept in Heaven for us!
This concept of eternity is hard to grasp especially for those of us who are still young. In our instantaneous culture, eternity or even seeing ourselves in grey hair can be far, far away.
But don’t be mistaken.
To the young people: your years ahead are not a reason to waste your life away on things that do not matter. Make the right choice so that you will not regret in the future. Every choice we make now affect your future and even your eternal destiny.
Hence, think for a moment.
What is the one thing you can take away from this world when you die? Can we leave this world with the monuments, statues, awards, properties, cars, and toys? When did we last glance at the name carved at the bottom of a monument in a park or anywhere in this world?
The answer is we can bring nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (1 Tim 6:7)
Hence, do not be unwise. Everything in this world perishes over time. It is a passing world. (1 John 2:17)
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
The things that matter in this world are only three imperishable, unchanging, and hidden things that remain even when this world passes away. They are: God, the Word of God, and the souls of people.
Hence, while we are in this world, it makes sense to equip ourselves with God’s everlasting word and win souls for the Kingdom of God. ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.’ (Prov 11:30)
But to balance this worldview, we are called to be stewards of our resources (i.e., time, money) for God’s Kingdom. Hence, be wise—don’t get too attached to the things of this world that you are afraid of losing them, but be good managers of everything you have.
HOW TO HAVE JOY IN CHRIST?
Now that we know we have reasons and can choose to be joyful, how do we keep ourselves in the joy in the Lord? Let us look at the three passages below.
We can keep ourselves in the joy by trusting in the hope offered by God. (Romans 15:13)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)
These passages are very interesting because Paul has coupled ‘joy’ with ‘peace’ together. If we look at Phil 4:4-7, we can also see that Paul spoke about ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ in the same line of thought.
What does this tell us? We cannot have a joyful person who has anxiety in his or her heart. In other words, anxiety is the biggest thief of the joy we could have in the Lord.
Phil 4 tells us to ward off anxiety through prayer and petition for every situation with thanksgiving.
Another way to attain peace is to focus our thoughts on whatever that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, to find peace. (Phil 4:8-9)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)
It’s also interesting to ponder what we should focus our thoughts to, if there’s really nothing in our situation to be joyful about. When I look at all these characteristics in Phil 4 above—true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy—I find myself looking at our beautiful Jesus because He has all these qualities!
Hence, when we direct our attention to Jesus instead of our problem, we focus on looking upward instead of looking downward at our problem. We look at how big Jesus is instead of how big our problem is. And slowly, our hearts will be changed from one that mourns and complains to one that sings praises and harvests joy in our Lord Jesus Christ. There are always reasons to rejoice when we turn our eyes to Jesus.
Also, the good news is that we are able to be JOYFUL all the time because we have the Holy Spirit in us that will help guide us through all trials and troubles in life. This is something all of us as believers in Christ can feel, every moment, and every day of our life. Isn’t that wonderful?
This is because when we walk with the Spirit, we would reap the benefits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)
In conclusion, as we look through the Scripture, we discover God desires for us to be joyful in Him. In fact, we bring the greatest glory to God when we show the highest satisfaction in Him.
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