Evangelicals & Joy
Happiness is a Warm Puppy is the title of a book written by Charles Schultz. Schultz, as many of you would know, is the creator of the Peanut cartoon. Though we have an explosion of social media platforms like Facebook it has been demonstrated in the UK the issue of loneliness is on the rise. The enlightened Evangelical has no problem understanding why this to be the case. Happiness is elusive and temporal because we live in a fallen world that suppresses the knowledge and existence of their creator.
What Schultz was attempting to convey was that the acquisition of happiness is simple. Yet, in the final analysis Evangelicals come to realize nothing could be further from the truth. In a twinkling of an eye life can change dramatically. You can be riding the waves of ecstasy one second and be brought to the brink of despair the very next, literally. All it takes is a phone call or knock at the door.
I remember vividly a phone call I received when I was beginning my Army career. I was on leave in Atlanta, celebrating the Labor Day weekend, when I received a phone call from my girlfriend at the time. She was assigned the arduous task of informing me my mother had passed away that day. Even today, some thirty some odd years later, there still remains no happiness whatsoever. But, by the grace of God, I can declare TODAY faithfully there is legitimate JOY. Why? Because I believe in the same God that Abraham believed when he said, “Shall not the Judge of the Earth do what is just” (Genesis 18:25) or the God Job believed in when he exclaimed, “Though He slay me, I will hope in him; (Job 13:15).
Evangelicals, who actually read their Bibles and pay attention to what is being preached, if indeed Biblical preaching is being administered, come to realize the Bible is absent of any promise of happiness in this life nor the life to come. No, what the Bible promises is something more profound and more satisfying to the human soul: JOY!
Happiness has a direct relationship to happen stance. If the Cubs win I am happy, if they don’t, well, you know the rest. JOY, on the other hand, cannot be marred by trivialities such as a sporting event. I repent of the time I walked around sulking because the Cubs lost their opportunity to go to the World Series after being up 3 games to 1 in 2003. It hit me I was probably taking the defeat more profoundly than some of the players. They were making millions of dollars yet I was acting like the game had a direct bearing on my life when at the end of the day it is ONLY a game (at least that is what I keep trying to tell myself) Baby steps! Baby steps!
Yet, one can rightly ask, “What is JOY?” JOY is the settled disposition of an emotional state toward life wrought by God’s marvelous provision. John Piper writes, “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
Thus, while JOY will NEVER be realized perfectly in the human dimension it is nonetheless the orientation of the authentic Evangelical experience. As John MacArthur says, “it’s the direction not the perfection” of the Evangelical’s life.
So, properly understood, an Evangelicals can and should always have JOY. Because of what Christ has secured via His victory at Calvary. Enmity between God and the Evangelical no longer exists and the Evangelical is now completely justified. The Evangelical is already seated in “heavenly places” (Ephesian 2:6) and is no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1). He knows no one can justly bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33).
Much that takes place day-by-day does not produce happiness, yet each event is uniquely ordained to result in one ultimate act: God’s glory. Though it difficult to grasp at the precise time everything that happens in time and space redounds to God’s glory. God’s glory is the highest good humans can ever experience.
This does not mean Evangelicals should regard evil as good. Evil is real and will one day be vanquished to a place called Hell. Evangelicals vehemently reject the Christian Scientist worldview. Christian Scientology is neither Christian nor Science. JOY is a reality that can and IS experienced in the here and now as opposed to a distant “pie in the sky” hope. Joy is trusting that God has a purpose in mind that corresponds to conforming Evangelicals into the very image of His Dear Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
It is only when Evangelicals accepts the cheap counterfeit from Satan that we wrongly pursue what only happiness fails to offer. Satan’s offer is grounded in a false foundation while what God offers is based upon His very character. It is as Joseph said, “What Satan meant for evil God meant for good. (Genesis 50:20)”
Unlike the false prophet Joel Osteen’s blasphemous promise of Our Best Life Now, Evangelicals will ONLY experience unmitigated JOY in heaven. Yet, day-by-day Evangelicals can and DO experience more and more of God’s joy. Remember, JOY is a settled disposition of an emotional state toward life because of what God has wrought in the human heart. JOY, like ALL of God’s glorious provisions, are given graciously: repentance, faith, etc. etc.
I freely acknowledge I do NOT always experience happiness. The Cubs recently lost three games in a row. They lost both games I traveled to Houston to watch with my son who traveled from Virginia so we could attend. Of course, there are events more profound that take place but I trust you get my gist. Yet, the more I stay in God’s Word and assemble with God’s people and rest in God’s promises the more I find the Spirit enabled resolve to rest in God’s JOY, regardless of what takes place in time and space.
Sometimes the external realities do not get any better but my inner man is still able to experience Biblical Joy. That is something that is hard to describe but those who are experiencing genuine JOY in the Lord are able to identify with me even those I find myself incapable of adequately articulating my thoughts.
Yet, I write because I know there are MANY Evangelicals who NEVER come to the place of JOY. Some of it is due to the inept teaching within their church. Some is due to the reality the professing Evangelical has NEVER been regenerated and yet still sometimes it is due to the lack of maturity from the Evangelical. Regardless, it is tragic and avoidable but Jesus Christ stands today to say to all those who would yet approach Him with fear and trembling. He says even today, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
Regardless of the cause of the negative possession of JOY it is a blight on the collective church but NEVER with God Himself. I pray that all who would read this blog would examine themselves to first see if there are in the faith. If that pursuit is favorable to then pursue JOY in the Lord. This pursuit will NOT be devoid of heartache and pain. Loved ones will still perish, some will be saved, while some will not. Babies will still be aborted, tragedies will still take place. There will be still be poor (they will even be among us when Christ reigns from Jerusalem in the Millennium Kingdom) and there will be injustices in the land. I will watch the Cubs tonight and potentially go to bed “unhappy” but, Lord willing, I will arise tomorrow morning rejoicing in the Lord because it will be a day He has made and I will be glad and rejoice in it. Regardless of the next moment’s outcome I write as one who is learning through the crucibles of life to possess genuine JOY. Not perfect or endless uninterrupted JOY but day-by-day JOY that comes ONLY from the ministry of the Third Person of the Trinity!!!!!
I welcome your feedback and comments. I encourage you, if you are blessed by this blog to spread the word so more people are edified. If and when that happens, it will only be a derivative act as the result of the very God of God, Light of Light and Potentate of the Universe being Glorified. I know Him only because of the revelation of His dear son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
I exhort all to attend your local churches tomorrow and praise Jesus Christ because, who knows: It may our last chance.
Keep your hands to the plow and serve for an Audience of One!