Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I’m sitting here at Scott Air Force Base listening to The Cathedrals sing the awe inspiring song of hope: We Shall See Jesus. Songs like this serve to remind us of the hope we have as believers of something better to come. That something, of course, is eternity with Jesus. It will be an eternity without pain, without suffering, without sickness, without sin, and praise be to God, without death! With such an awesome future that awaits us as believers, why then do most believers fail to experience ongoing, deep abiding joy?
The pain and suffering of our lives encompasses a myriad of possibilities. Cancer. Calamity. Conflict. Sadness. Death. These are all normal aspects of our existence here. It is the things we must deal with on our way to heaven. God knows this, yet over and over again He admonishes us to have joy. This raises a legitimate question: Is it possible to experience biblical joy in the midst of pain, suffering and sadness? Numerous times throughout the scriptures we are commanded to rejoice. Even Paul, who wrote many of his letters from prison and whose own letters include an autobiographical description of his own pain and suffering, said over and over to rejoice. In Philippians 2:18, he wrote, “I urge you, rejoice.” In the next chapter he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord” (3:1). Yet again, in the next chapter (4:4) he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Obviously, this is the word of the Lord!
So what’s the secret? I believe the key is found in Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, constant in prayer.” Here Paul tells us to do three things which I believe is at the very core of experiencing joy, even in the midst of pain, suffering and sadness. Notice he says, “Rejoice in hope.” Don’t miss this: Our joy is rooted in our hope! This hope is, as the writer of Hebrews says, “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (6:19). In Colossians 1:27, Paul described it as, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Romans 8:18 ties it all together: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We have the sure hope of glory. Therefore, we can have joy right now, even in the midst of suffering, because one day it will all fade into glory when Christ’s face we finally see. What a hope! Therefore, “Rejoice in hope.”
Secondly, he tells us to, “be patient in tribulation.” This is possible, if I understand the hope that is mine in Jesus Christ. Even the writer of Hebrews said this is, “a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered” (6:19-20). Finally, he tells us to be, “constant in prayer.” If I am to “rejoice in hope,” and “be patient in tribulation,” then I must be a person of prayer. I must give priority to my relationship with God, even when I do not like or understand what is going on in my life. I must be a person of deep and committed prayer. There is a mystery here. When I fight for joy, through rejoicing in hope, patiently enduring tribulation and constantly praying, God does what only God can do. He brings about the joy of the Lord through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit in my life. To God be the glory!
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). This passage teaches us three principles that should be true of every follower of Jesus Christ. We are to rejoice evermore, always be in an attitude of prayer, and be ever thankful. This seems like a tall order, which is true. Equally true is what it is: The Word of the Lord!
Our rejoicing, praying and thanksgiving are not to be limited to unique and special occasions or even a special day. It is to be the ongoing pattern and practice of our lives. Rejoice always means to rejoice and keep on rejoicing. Pray without ceasing means to pray and keep on praying. To be thankful in everything means to be thankful in everything. And I mean in everything! “Impossible,” you say? You are right. Apart from Jesus Christ, having an ongoing attitude of rejoicing, praying and thanksgiving is impossible. But in Christ, all things are possible. Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Through Him, that is Christ, I can rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything…even in the midst of suffering and sadness.
The question then, is how do we do these things? The obvious answer is not in our own strength and energy. Notice Paul said it was “through Him” that he could do all these things. I believe the key is where our focus lies. The author of Hebrews says we are to “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (12:2). Therefore, when our focus is fixed on Jesus, we can rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. We rejoice in three things: (1) The Lord, (2) the gospel, and (3) the spiritual growth of others, including our own spiritual growth. Philippians 3:1 tells us to rejoice in the Lord. Acts 13:48 teaches us to rejoice in the gospel, particularly as it spreads throughout the world. 3 John 4 admonishes us to rejoice as others grow spiritually. Likewise, we should rejoice in our own personal spiritual growth. A quick reading through Paul’s letters and we discover he was a man of prayer. In fact, we could say he prayed always. It wasn’t that he was constantly offering up words of prayer. The key was he was always in an attitude of prayer. He recognized he was ever in God’s presence so he always maintained an attitude of prayer. In the passage, “pray without ceasing,” the Greek word used is where we get our English word for hacking cough. Paul prayed thus for the Thessalonians and others. Finally, we are told, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It means in every circumstance. This is a tall order. But when we recognize that God is sovereign, that He orders the events of our lives and that He is in the process of making us more like Christ and perfecting our faith, “so that,” as James says, “you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4), thankfulness flows a little more easily. God wants to perfect our faith and teach us to trust Him. The only way He can do that is to take whatever measure of faith we have and stretch it. The only way He can do that is through testing it. Often times, the only way He can do that is through leading us into and through some very difficult and painful circumstances. Do I really and truly believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do? Well, the only place I discover the answer to these questions is in the midst of difficulty and suffering.
So then, regardless of our circumstances, no matter what the Lord in His wisdom sends our way, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Joyfully, full of hope (Romans 8:24-25), in the confidence of faith (Hebrews 11:1), we live, we breathe, we rejoice, we pray, we give thanks! When the trials of life come my way, I reflect on God’s Word and the song that reminds me, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ; One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase, so bravely run the race till we see Christ.”
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