#MeditationMonday – Out of the abundance of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks.
At the start of this year, we examined 12 instructions given to us from I Thessalonians 5:12-22. We decided to implement these instructions by doing at least one of them each month. Following our list, the instruction for July is to:
Always Be Joyful – Rejoicing.
No matter where you are in the world I’m sure it isn’t 100% free of violent crime and death. There’s always that minimum of 0.1% suffering affecting someone’s life somewhere. Right now, I’m in a West-African country known as Nigeria, which for the past 3 years,
and increasingly in the last two months has been stricken with A LOT of killings – be it through civilian disputes, terrorist attacks, or unfortunate accidents; the past two months in Nigeria have been a hell of suffering for many many people.
In a time where many are trending “Pray for Nigeria”, “This is Nigeria” on social media or protesting
(aka mumbling and grumbling) somewhere on the street, I want to call us to something different. This something, is I Thessalonians 5:16 – Always rejoice/be joyful.
Once again, I tell you these instructions for 2018 are no accident. They have been useful and timely for each month, which is why I believe that the instruction “always be joyful” is no accident for this month either.
Now, what does always be joyful actually mean?
to rejoice; to show great joy or delight.
People when faced with a circumstance that has made them weak or fainthearted, will definitely find it hard to express great joy in such moments. Now, don’t get me wrong. This instruction is by no means asking us to delight or find pleasure in terrible circumstances (unless it’s persecution for the sake of the gospel, see Matthew 5:11–12 and 1 Peter 4:12–16) but to delight i.e. find pleasure in God and His promises, which restore life and bring hope TO our circumstances.
In fact, the amplified version of this verse reads — Rejoice always and [delight in your faith]. When all we’re surrounded with is death and suffering, we must look to our faith, not away from it. An even simpler translation [ERV] reads: Always be full of joy. This is significant because we may not always be happy, but we can always be joyful.
Happiness is an event-driven or circumstance based pleasure.
Joy is gladness regardless of event or circumstance.
From these two definitions, we see that happiness is fleeting and described in terms of pleasure, while joy remains whether pleasure is present or not. Therefore, to be joyful, which is the will of God; is to find pleasure in Him and His promises.
In a fallen world stricken with death and suffering, the way to keep your joy full is to focus on God’s promises of which there are MANY! We can find God’s promises in the Bible – His Word to us.
The first and greatest one is the promise of salvation:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation.
– Psalm 13:5 & Psalm 35:9 [ESV]
Here are other verses in the bible which speak of God’s promises in which we can rejoice and meditate on to keep our joy full:
[Psalm 31:7] – I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy and steadfast love because You have seen my affliction, You have taken note of my life’s distresses [AMP]
[Psalm 19:8] – The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. [NASB]
[Romans 5:2-3] – Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [ESV]
[Romans 5:11] – More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. [ESV]
Imagine that your joy is a mug that’s filled with water to the middle.
The jug is filled to the middle because we know that there is a joy waiting to be experienced by the Christian when Jesus comes. And depending on your perspective, it can look half-full or half-empty. We all know the drill. To the optimist, its half-full, to the pessimist, its half-empty. The lesson is: wherever you are when that shocking thing intended to take your joy gets to your ears via TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter or some other form of Social Media, I want you to picture that mug and say to yourself: My joy will remain full.
Is it possible to truly be joy-full in the face of death and suffering? Why would God even ask such a command of us, knowing that the world is fallen and full of sin! Because, as I’ve been saying over and over! To always be joyful, we must cast our focus away from our circumstances to His promises.
So before, you choose any other emotion, choose joy, because that is the eternal perspective. Before you bash that leader on Twitter or start a riot in your city, remember that joy can still be yours if you cast your focus on the promises of God.
The joy of our faith, the joy of salvation should always be our starting point. With that in hand, let compassion flow, along with a righteous anger and a desire for justice. Let those things guide how we react to what we hear, knowing that we (1) hold fast to a God who has promised to rid this world of death and suffering, (2) trust that He will make good on that promise and (3) continually hope to partake of this promise when it is fulfilled.
In the coming months, we’ll see how the command to be joyful no matter the circumstance, spills over into our next two instructions for August and September (pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances) because of Philippians 4:4-6 which gives us a more practical explanation of HOW to be joyful in the Lord: through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. We will be looking at this in more depth next month, so keep an eye out for that.
Grace & Peace!