|Volume 21 Number 6 June 2019||
Joy is a fruit of God the Holy Spirit. Biblical joy has been described as that life-giving fruit bearing sustenance of the Word that flows through us. God expects it to be developed in the lives of Christians. Our joy is not dependent on the absence of trouble; our joy is dependent on the presence of God.
This joy is that deep abiding sense of spiritual fulfillment that no (1) tribulation, (2) trial, (3) test, (4) trouble, (5) turmoil, (6) trauma or (7) tragedy can smother! Since my husband’s death on June 2, 2013, I have become painfully aware of the seven T’s this article will describe. God be glorified and magnified for abundantly blessing me on my journey from mourning to joy.
Some abbreviated definitions from Webster’s are listed for the purposes addressed.
James tells us we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience (James 1:2-3). The patience that biblical joy produces has several definitions. For the focus in this writing, biblical joy produces patience defined as unmistakable tolerance under provocation and strain.
Genesis 39:19-23 records the provocation and strain that Joseph endured at the hands of Potiphar’s lust-filled wife. As a result of her lies, Potiphar put Joseph into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Verses 21-23 record:
But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.
God’s presence was with Joseph during this trouble and trial. His mind was being tested as his mental calmness was subjected to continual distress and anguish! Joseph’s spiritual joy was realized to the fullest when God delivered him to be second in command over all Egypt.
Elisha was an outstanding man of God who on one occasion had warned the king of Israel about the planned attacks of the king of Syria, who was making war against Israel. These warnings were happening frequently, and the king of Syria wanted to know which one of his people was for the king of Israel. One of his servants told him that there was a man of God who was warning the king of Israel. The Syrian king sent horses, chariots and a great army by night to surround the city of Dothan where Elisha was staying (2 Kings 6:8-14). The Bible records in verses 15-16, “And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” From the servant’s point of view, tragedy was imminent! From Elisha’s point of view, a prayer of faith was needed immediately. “And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.’ And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17-18).
To their horror, Elisha lead the blinded Syrians inside Samaria, the capital city of Israel! Elisha then asked the LORD to open their eyes. The king of Israel wanted them killed. Elisha told the king they would not be killed because that was not to be done to captives. Elisha said, “Set food and water before them that they may eat and drink and go to their master” (2 Kings 6:22b). He prepared a great feast for them; they ate and drank. Then, he sent them away, and they went to their master. “So the Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel” (vs. 23b). The presence of God and Elisha’s unwavering faith during the trouble and trauma totally averted potential tragedy! The spiritual joy that was theirs to relish was a blessing beyond measure.
Perhaps Nehemiah would be the one godly man who stands out because of the barrage of obstacles that he had to face and overcome to complete his virtually impossible mission. Nehemiah was among the Jews who were in captivity, and he was the cupbearer to the king of Persia. Concerning the Jews who had escaped, he was told that they were in great distress and reproach. The walls of Jerusalem had been broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire.
Nehemiah 1:4 says, “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah eventually asked the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem, and his request was granted. Nehemiah was in Jerusalem three days and went by night to look at the walls that were broken down and the gates that had been burned. He then went to the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials and others who would do the work (Nehemiah 2:11-16).
Nehemiah’s driving ambition was to rebuild the wall so they would no longer be a reproach (Nehemiah 2:17). Verse 18 reads, “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.” However, from the time of his arrival until the wall was completed, Nehemiah and his workers were met with stiff opposition. They dealt with opposition through ridicule, through the threat of physical attack, through discouragement, through extortion, through compromise, through slander and through treachery (Nehemiah 4-6).
Through Nehemiah’s reliance on God and unwavering faith and trust, the wall was completed in 52 days! Nehemiah 6:16 declares, “And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” Our spiritual joy is not dependent on the absence of trouble, but our joy is dependent upon the presence of God!
Hebrews 12:1-4 could be among the finest in Scripture in the description of the endurance, suffering, shame and hostility that Jesus bore for us. Verses 2-3 speak directly to His joy in this beyond human comprehension and experience. The writer of the book states we are to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
Martel Pace wrote the Truth for Today Commentary—Hebrews, and his insights on these verses should be most seriously contemplated. He wrote:
The original readers of Hebrews were also bearing the brunt of hostility and needed to keep on enduring. Christ “endured” tremendous suffering in order to save their souls and ours, and, in fact, those of all mankind. This deed brought great joy to Him… We can compare Jesus’ suffering to ours in order to learn how to remain steadfast in the face of mockery and shame. Although “despising the shame” and suffering, Christ focused on the greater joy of what He accomplished on the cross… How weary Jesus was after a sleepless night! Imagine the stress of His trials (or at least six interrogations), the lacerations on His back, the constant pain of the crown of thorns mingled with His pity and sorrow for those who did not understand what they were doing. All of this almost overwhelmed Him. Nevertheless, He had the joy of hope set before Him as we do. Christ endured great pain and oppression from ignorant sinners who denied His messiahship. Even so, He willingly accepted what He had to do because He knew what awaited Him. We must remain focused on Jesus, and we must never give up but persevere to the end.
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).