The Dead Seriousness of Joy in Christ


I just don’t get it, but I’m working at it. By the grace of the Holy Spirit’s illumination I pray I’ll one day see the depth of the dead sobriety and paramount importance of joy in Christ. Joy is more of an overwhelming doctrine than most of us have expanded our minds to search out in Scripture. Here’s my primary text as I sit here in my dusty room in Afghanistan: “Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm,” 2 Corinthians 1:24. Other verses come quickly to mind like Nehemiah 8:10 and 1 Peter 1:8, but in 2 Corinthians there, why does Paul speak about his work as a work, “…for their joy…”?  He could’ve said it any number of ways we know would’ve been correct. He could’ve spoken of his desires for them to be rooted, grounded, assured, knowledgeable, etc. of their faith. He does that elsewhere to many churches, but here he speaks of joy. He speaks of his “labor” for it. Fascinating! Paul had a joy that allowed songs in prison, Acts 16:25; he knew what he wanted them to have.

     The bottom line is that joy simply must abide in the believer as Christ Himself must abide in the believer. It is a joy mingled and diluted by sins within and sins without, that’s for sure, but it is absolutely nonetheless an abiding joy that comes from knowing and savoring the eternal God. We are blessed to mourn as those who know the truth, yes, and we are also called to be joyful. There is a time for both under heaven; in heaven there will only be time for one, and therefore the eternal one is the principal of the two. I dare liken it to the receipt of an inheritance of limitless earthly fortune. If you knew that tonight all your bills or “worries” were covered and you could do what you wanted for the rest of your life you’d probably be pretty happy. Now, while flirting with blasphemy by comparison, consider that the Christian is as assured of such as that for eternity. Perhaps that’s just another way of approaching the whys of this joy. It’s knowing that eternity is settled in an unshakeable joy! Eternity is covered. You’re free! Now, I’m a man generally inclined to depression. I am melancholy by nature. I know the fate of most I know or love, Ecclesiastes 1:18. Many days I simply want something “else” in life. Part of this is sin some days, but part of it is also evidence that this world is no longer my home. Though this is me, God maintains in me through faith a joy that at times refreshes my soul like standing without body armor in front of a cranked air conditioner after a 17 hour convoy on the streets of Iraq in an up-armored HMMWV with no air conditioning in August. Even though it is challenged I have a joy that perseveres. I digress.

     I heard a sermon recently about the man Mephibosheth. The story of this man is a tremendous picture for us of the kindness and forgiveness of God. It’s found around 2 Samuel 9. He was paralyzed, poor (living in someone else’s house) scared, cut off and outcast. He was in fear of his execution by the not-too-long-before appointed king, David. Long story short, instead of David killing this man, as was sinfully customary, he extended kindness. After finding this son of Jonathan, “David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” 2 Samuel 9:7. Instead of just pardoning this crippled man, David did this. Friends, there are so many parallels between what we see between the forgiveness of David to Mephibosheth and us with God that I dare not attempt to outline them lest I get no sleep tonight. Ok, just one quick— just like Mephibosheth was sought out and then received by David in David’s home for the sake of David’s love for Jonathan, so we too are sought out and welcomed to the table of the King of kings for the sake of Christ and the love between the Father and the Son. We are the crippled, scared, cut off opponents of God yet He brought us to His table. If we are regular attendees to the table of the Lord this joy of knowing Him must abide in us. If it does not it’s either that we’ve no place at this table, or because we are simply unaccustomed to the ways of the host.

     Joy measures our esteem of doctrine. Joy in Christ encompasses our hope and undergirds it with a witness that cannot be silenced. I pray to become more like Christ. I think most Christians do. I want joy to be that which I too am fixed upon on the other side of what God has called me to. “Looking unto 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 sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Hebrews 12:2. Joy in Christ is no accident. Sometimes, in fact perhaps even most times, we must literally fight for it. It is no accident when some men are unshakably joyous in Christ. These are they who’ve cultivated that joy. They have planted the seeds of God’s word. They have prayed to the Lord of all manner of harvest to increase it. They have found God true. They have found the joy of Christ.

Psalm 126:6.

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