God is God. His character and His attributes have always existed. God is eternal. God IS! God does things that don’t make sense to us. We don’t understand God. We don’t know His plan. We are befuddled many days by what is going on.
God is a mystery to us. We see dimly as if looking at a foggy mirror. We can see the shape of things but not clearly. We clearly wouldn’t do very much the way God does. Our thoughts and ideas are steeped in our selfish core. We want things our way. We aren’t thinking like God at all.
God doesn’t need our permission or approval. We think He does but that is a lie from Satan. God will do what He wants. God’s way is perfect. How God does things pleases Himself. That is tough for us to get a handle on. God isn’t in the business of bending to do what we want.
Jesus challenges us to understand God, what God wants to do and accept God’s way.
At that time he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.” | Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Luke 10:21–22). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Joy is something we all long for but that often seems difficult to grab hold of. Experiencing joy should be a part of every disciple’s life. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, produced by God’s work in us, and it is part of God’s will for us.
I know that even the most mature of God’s people experience periods of joylessness. For instance:
- Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:11).
- David prayed to be taken away to a place where he would not have to deal with reality (Psalm 55:6–8).
- Elijah, even after defeating 450 prophets of Baal with fire called down from heaven (1 Kings 18:16–46), fled into the desert and asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:3–5).
If these men struggled, how can we experience consistent joy in the discipleship life?
The first thing is to realize that joy is a gift from God. The root word for joy in the Greek is chara, which is closely related with the Greek charis for “grace.” Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gifts of God. Joy comes when we are aware of God’s grace and relish His favor.
It’s evident that one way to experience joy is to focus on God. Rather than dwelling on my difficulties or those things robbing my contentment, I can dwell on God. This is not to say we should deny our discontent or stuff negative emotions. Following the example of many of the psalmists, we can pour out our hearts to God. We can tell Him bluntly all the things that ail us. But then we submit those things to Him, remember who He is, and are happy in Him. Psalms 3, 13, 18, 43, and 103 are good examples.
The book of Philippians has much to say about joy, even though Paul wrote the epistle from prison. Philippians 4:4–8 gives some guidelines for experiencing joy in the discipleship life:
“Rejoice in the Master always. I will say it again: Rejoice! . . . The Master is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in the Messiah Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Here we see the importance of praising God, remembering that He is near, praying about our worries, and keeping our minds focused on the good things of God. I can experience joy when I intentionally praise.
David wrote that the study of God’s Word can bring us joy.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:8).
We experience joy by communing with God through prayer. And we experience joy by keeping our focus on godly things rather than on difficult circumstances or discontentment.
Jesus also gave some instructions regarding joy. In John 15 He talked about abiding in Him and obeying Him. He said,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9–11).
One of the keys to joy is living in obedience to God.
Another way to experience joy in the disciple’s life is through community. God gave Elijah rest and then sent a man, Elisha, to help him. We, too, need friends that we can share our hurts and pains with.
Hebrews 10:19–25 says:
“Brothers and sisters . . . let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Because of the grace of God, I know we can approach God confidently in prayer. We know we are cleansed of our sin. And we are joined into a new community, a family of believers.
With our fellow believers, we hold firm to our faith, trusting in the character of God. We also encourage one another. the disciples do not belong to this world.
We long to be with God, finally restored to our original design. Life can be lonely and discouraging. Others help remind us of truth, carry our burdens with us, and strengthen us to continue on.
Joy is meant to be a hallmark of the discipleship life. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a gift of God. I best receive this gift when I focus on the truth of who God is, commune with Him through prayer, and rely on the community of believers He has provided.