Make the Choice to Rejoice
Do you think that people who know you would describe you as a joyful person? I guess you could answer that question by thinking about what joy is and whether or not you show it. I assert that laughter is a sound of joy, so another way to measure your joy is by how much you laugh, or at least by how much you smile, for a smile is a mini-laugh, a manifestation of joy held in your heart (Prov. 15:13).
As has been said, joy is “an inside job” or, as per the July/August 2008 Sower on The Fruit of the Spirit, “an inner effervescence or bubbling.” That makes it much different than “happiness,” which, by definition, is dependent upon circumstances. The root of the word “happy” is “hap,” which means “one’s luck or lot; an occurrence, happening, or accident.”
For most people, life, both present and future, is a giant maybe, as in perhaps. Perhaps I’ll win the lottery, and if I do, I’ll be happy. Oh no, I had a mishap, my dog ate the winning lottery ticket! In today’s crazy world, it seems that the majority of people are un-happy, and that is because their thinking is conditioned by circumstances rather than by the truth of God’s Word. No matter what happens, circumstances need not extinguish your joy.
True joy comes from within, and it is up to you. You can make the choice to rejoice. Joy is rooted in your knowing the truth about who God is, who Jesus Christ is, and who you are in Christ because of what he did for you. In large part, it is also based upon your absolute assurance of your future destiny. As Jesus is our supreme example, let us consider how he dealt with the worst of circumstances, not allowing them to steal his joy. The following verses hold a great key:
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(2) 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.
(3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The Joy Set Before Us
The “…race marked out for us…” is what God has set forth for us to do, and we are to do it with the same passion and compassion Jesus had as he obeyed his Father, even if we must follow him into harm’s way. What will sustain us is, of course, his abiding presence, but also that which sustained him: the joy set before us. The Cross, that is, all the agony Jesus went through in the last days of his life, was the ultimate trauma a human could face. How vivid did his vision of the joy have to be to carry him through the horror of the Cross? How did Jesus conquer it? He resolutely focused upon and trusted the promises God had given him: that he would get to raise all believers to everlasting life, destroy all evil, and be King of a new and perfect world.
As Christians, each of us has great joy set before us: the Lord Jesus will come to rescue us from this fallen world, reward us for our service to him, and return with us to destroy evil on the earth, where we will help him rule for a thousand years. After that he will create a new heaven and earth, Paradise regained, where we will live forever with all believers of all time. Given our Father’s infinite resourcefulness and love, surely it will be beyond what we can now imagine (Eph. 3:20).
Why does Scripture exhort us to “consider” Jesus? The Greek word thus translated indicates a depth of thought, a reflection, a counting and recounting. One reason we should consider Jesus is because he is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), God’s ultimate revelation of Himself. Anyone who wants to know God can do so by looking at Jesus, who perfectly reflected His heart to the world.  The following verses make that clear:
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
(18) But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
(19) For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”
(20) For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
(21) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
(22) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit [spirit] in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Just Say “YES!”
Those are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. When we focus on the risen Lord Jesus Christ and trust him, life is no longer a giant MAYBE. It becomes an even more giant YES! Verse 22 tells us that the gift of holy spirit is our guarantee that all God’s promises about our future will come true. The Greek word translated “deposit” is arrabon, which means a “token,” a “down-payment,” like “earnest” money is put down on a house. It is used in two other places in the Bible, both in the Church Epistles. Ephesians 1:14 says that the holy spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until our future redemption. 2 Corinthians 5:5 says this spirit is the guarantee of our new body that the Lord Jesus will give us at his appearing, when our salvation is consummated. In fact, that new body is the “house” on which Jesus has put a down-payment.
Now, you and I are living between the Grave and the Glory, between the Cross and the Coming, between the Empty Tomb and the Everlasting Triumph. As we look back to Jesus’ victory over death and his finished work on our behalf, and look forward to the guarantee of our future victory, we are anchored on resurrection ground. As we look back to “It is finished” and ahead to his glorious appearing, we can live in the now by living in the “YES!” We do that by saying “YES!” to God moment-by-moment, knowing that He will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us.
Spirit & Truth Fellowship International’s vision statement is: Building an Enduring Work of Truth. As those who by God’s grace understand the Sacred Secret and other little known biblical truths vital to everyday life, we are re-building the wall of truth that religious tradition has torn down. If we are going to build an enduring work of truth, we ourselves must endure whatever opposition the Enemy throws at us, just like Jesus did. To do so, we must have a clear vision of the joy that is set before us. As the following verses show, our joy is directly proportional to our understanding of what God’s Word says about who we are and what we are doing.
(8) They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
(9) Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
(10) Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
(11) The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”
(12) Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Finding Joy in Service
Remember what it was like when you first heard the Word of God set forth accurately. The lights came on. The veil was lifted. Your heart burned within you. A weight was lifted off your shoulders. The problems in your life didn’t seem as overwhelming. And you were excited about telling others the Good News. Do you know a verse that says we cannot maintain that mindset throughout our Christian lives? I guess it could even become more and more real, don’t you think? As someone once said, “a merry heart is a holiday.”
There is also joy in realizing what you are a part of as someone partaking of the resources and activities available through Spirit & Truth Fellowship International and sharing them with others. Together, we are a growing worldwide movement that is vividly making known the truth of God’s Word. Even if you are isolated geographically from others who believe like you do, you are not alone. We know people like you all over the world. Just keep sowing the good seed of the Word into your own heart and taking advantage of opportunities to share it with others. That is how we will “connect the dots” and develop a network of thriving local fellowships.
We can see that joy is based upon believing truth. How many people do you meet who know the Word of God that you know? Millions of people are unsaved, and millions of Christians are unsure of their salvation, which greatly dilutes their joy. What should we do about that? Jesus said that if one is to find his true life, he must “lose it” in service to others. That means that reaching out to others is the best way to develop great joy. There are a myriad of ways to reach out, and the Lord Jesus will lead you in his personal curriculum of growth for you. I daresay that his vision of you is far greater than your vision of yourself.
The Lord’s vision for you includes your standing before him at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and his rewarding you for your service in his Name. He longs for an intimate walk with you now so that he can lavish great rewards upon you then. “Royalties,” as it were. Remember, you are a part of his Body, and as such his heart beats with yours, moment by moment. As per Galatians 6:9 and 10 and Ephesians 5:16, he will help you make the most of each moment of opportunity that comes your way, and as you sow, you will reap.
(10) God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
(11) We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.
(12) We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Our love for God is directly proportional to our understanding of what He has done for us by way of His Son. We show our love for our Father and our Lord by helping people. In verse 11, “making our hope sure” means to lay up future rewards by our labor of love for others in this life. Those rewards are the inheritance of which verse 12 speaks.
Yes, we live in a war zone, and life is filled with the horrors of war. Amidst it all, however, we are to shine as lights, manifesting the heart of our Savior. Jesus always said “YES!” to His Father, and that is how he prevailed in every situation. Let us walk with him through this dark world, and let our “YES!” resound in the hearts and lives of those we touch with the joy of the Lord.
 The written Word of God and the Living Word of God (Jesus Christ) are always in agreement. Thus, any verse of Scripture that is not in concert with the character and life of Jesus is not being understood correctly, and must be re-evaluated. This is an important key in resolving “difficult” verses.