Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Enter Thou into the Joy of Thy Lord

The folks at Vitacost, an online vitamin store, sent me a newsletter this week that mentioned a recent study about the value of happiness to one’s health. According to researchers from Columbia University, “people who are enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease than less happy people.” I am sure your reaction to this statement was the same as mine – do we really need a study to tell us this? But in thinking about this further, while we all agree that happiness makes for a better life, how does one actually attain happiness? And once attained, how do we hold on to it?

The Bible has much to say on the subject of happiness or joy. Joy is actually the stronger and more spiritually dynamic of the two emotions because happiness is a response to circumstance, whereas joy is a confidence built on relationship. It may surprise you to know that the word “joy” is mentioned 244 times in the Bible! I believe it is the Lord’s desire that all his creatures attain and remain in a state of joy.

According to John MacArthur, joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is being produced in them by the Holy Spirit because they receive and obey the Word of God while experiencing trials and keeping their hope fixed on the glory which is to come. True joy is an unwavering constant in a Spirit-filled life. It is not produced by a bed of roses experience of tranquility, peace, comfort and safety. It is produced by the presence of God and His Holy Spirit, even if you're sitting in prison waiting for possible news about your execution, as Paul was when he wrote his great letter of joy to the Philippians. Paul had joy as the result of his eternal relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit within him. And because Paul was so near to God, he was full of joy.

Based on this we can conclude that circumstances are not a factor when it comes to experiencing joy. Isn’t this a wonderful truth!? To know for certain that no matter what is going in your life you can still have joy because it is your nearness to God that determines its level - not your bank account, marriage relationship or health status.

Paul was filled with joy in spite of his situation. I truly get this. I understand how you can be unhappy with your circumstances and not be depressed because your heart is filled with joy in your relationship to God. You know deep within that despite the turmoil going on outside that God's there and that He loves you, and that because of His gift of salvation you have no guilt in your conscience before Him. That is true joy, and I might add a joy that the world in all its pleasures simply cannot offer; and it is also a joy that the world cannot take away.

How's the joy in your heart today? If you do not have the joy described above, you can have it today. Right now. It all begins with the Lord and confessing sin to the One who has the power to save and the power to bestow true joy, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation… More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 10:9-10; 5:11).

"I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one,
Lay down Thy head upon my breast.
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting-place,
And he has made me glad."

-Horatius Bonar

No comments: