Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Joy Transcends Happiness

A few years before my father died he gave his tools to my brother Mike and I. My dad was someone who could fix nearly anything. And, when something needed fixing, he had a lot of patience as he slowly analyzed the situation. Now I have half his tools with less than half of his ability. I do not inwardly experience what dad did when faced with a mechanical problem. I do not feel the inner workings of his mind. I do not have his patience and confidence. Thus, in this area, I do not personally relate to much of what my father experienced. If only he could have given me not only his tools but also his heart and mind!
There are things God wants to give us that are nothing less than His own heart and mind. One such thing is His joy. What do you think God experiences when He has joy? What goes on in His heart and mind? Surely, whatever it is, it transcends earthly pleasure and happiness. If only God could give us His joy! The truth is that He can. And He does. Jesus said, in John 15:11, ”I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” You and I can have the joy of Jesus. This means we can experience what He experiences in His spirit when He rejoices. Something of God’s inner workings are imparted, given, to us. (See also John 17:13) Nothing less than the same joy Jesus knows is known by us. What is such joy like?
C.S. Lewis’s autobiography was called Surprised By Joy. What Lewis experienced as joy could not be expressed in common words, so he found an uncommon word to attempt to describe it. Lewis used a German word, sehnsucht, to convey the meaning of joy. Sehnsucht means “longing.” What does this mean? Let me explain it this way.
Christian joy is a fruit that is produced from the tree of hope. Christian hope comes from the promises of God. Hope is the eager expectation of better things to come (Hebrews 6:9-11). As a child there were times when my parents gave me a promise of a future event, like a vacation, that filled me with joy. There was, for me, more joy in the longing for the promised thing than there was in things I already possessed. Joy is a recurring stab of longing that nothing in this world will satisfy. It is a desire for God and heaven that God himself has built into the human race, though many of us in our fallenness fail to grasp its message. Lewis called it 'joy' because in the longing, itself, there is greater delight than in any of this world's pleasures.
The joy of Jesus is not of this world. Nothing in this world will give us this joy. Only Jesus can. That this joy is truly other-worldly is evidenced by the fact that it not only endures in the midst of suffering, it even flourishes. Paul, in Romans 5:3, writes what seems like an oxymoron: “We rejoice in our sufferings.” Paul again, in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, writes: “You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” And in 2 Corinthians 8:2 Paul commends the Macedonian Christians who, in the middle of “a severe test of affliction,” overflowed with joy. Happiness comes and goes with life’s circumstances. Christian joy grows in all circumstances. How is this possible?
It is possible if Jesus gives us His joy. Hebrews 12:2 reads, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Here are two things you can do to enter into the joy of the Lord: 1) meditate on the eternal, unchanging promises of God that grow the tree of hope; and 2) cry out to God to produce the fruit of His joy in your heart.
Blessings,Pastor John Piippo