Monday, July 18, 2022
1 Peter 1:6-9 “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are filled with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
Fourteen years ago my life was deeply affected by the birth of a little girl. This girl has had a huge impact on literally hundreds or even thousands of people around the world. Her birth defect was the instrument God used to touch many people’s lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She taught us many lessons about faith. Her life has been used to show us all the reality of what Peter says in today’s Scripture passage. I wonder if her dad knew the significance of the middle name he chose for her, and how the truth of that word would be revealed in his life? Her middle name is Joy.
If the only source of joy was the cultural and circumstantial reality of happiness, we would all be extremely depressed. Happiness is not joy. Happiness is an emotion that responds to positive input. When things go right, we are happy. When things go bad, we are sad. But joy isn’t an emotion. Joy is capable of producing emotion, but joy is not emotion. Joy is the product of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Savior. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Our relationship with Christ is eternal, being kept secure by the power of God. Therefore, joy is permanent, not contingent upon circumstances. But I wonder how many times we have really experienced the inexpressible joy spoken of in Scripture?
It actually happens to me quite often. You can tell when I’m experiencing it by the uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. It happens most often when I’m thinking about, speaking on, or looking at the subject of salvation. Several weeks ago I broke down during a worship service while we were singing the song, “My Jesus, I love Thee.” I was overwhelmed with an inexpressible joy that caused my mouth to stop working and my eyes to start pumping. I was filled with the joy of my salvation.
I remember when the miracle girl’s dad graduated from the leadership training program we have at our church. He sat in that weekly class for two-and-a-half years. I watched him grow in his faith through the last year of the class as we processed his daughter’s life and circumstances. We shed tears. But those tears came from a different motivation as the year went by. I watched her dad cry when the discussion turned to the wonder of God’s grace. I cried with him as we considered the people who had come to salvation – people who had seen his faith as he went through seemingly insurmountable circumstances with the joy of the Lord as his strength. I watched as the inexpressible joy of salvation overwhelmed his heartache. He was not always happy, but the joy of the Lord was evident.
Life is tough. Most of the time it just plain stinks. The economy is going down the tubes. Our jobs are threatened. Our families are stressed. Friends have forsaken us. Words we have said have been used against us. Our cars and boats break down. Our retirement funds are being wiped out. Where do we turn to find any relief from the heartache?
Let me remind you that your relief is not found in happiness. If you are unhappy, it is probably because your focus is on the condition of your circumstances and not the condition of your heart. It’s necessary to go through these trials, so that God can test and strengthen our faith. The trials are tests of trust. The tough times are portals to praise. And the joy that you will experience when you begin to praise Him for your salvation is not even the fullness of joy. Peter says there is more wonderful joy ahead. Every trial brings greater joy, until one day all trials will be gone, and we will experience the fullness of joy in the presence of our Lord.
So the next time a circumstance robs you of happiness, remember that in Christ nothing can steal your joy. It just takes a change of perspective. Rise above your clouds and be thrilled with the glory of the Son. He has saved you, and you are His forever. Culture and circumstances can change but they can’t diminish the glory of Jesus who is our joy. Christ is unchangeable, and you can’t change that. Christ is your constant. Rejoice – and let the joy of your salvation become inexpressible.