Joy Unspeakable…. what could that look like in our lives? What if I made the decision to focus on the things that brought me true joy and nothing else? Wouldn’t life look different then?
The first thing that we need to realize in our journey to find joy is that we are naturally so focused on ourselves that it is impossible to find the joy that the Lord desires for us to experience. When we look at our own weaknesses, our iniquities, our desires, and our needs we naturally become overwhelmed, right?! Many people find themselves frustrated and angry all of the time because prayers haven’t been answered yet and life hasn’t turned out the way they expected it to. In some cases, that frustration and despair is the result of a natural melancholy spirit that some have carried their whole lives, but in every case, the antidote is the magnification of the Lord and minimization of self.
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 Christian life: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…The Lord 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 Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever isLOVELY, 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, that He is with us and for us, and the importance of praying about our worries and keeping our minds focused on the good things of God. We can experience joy when we intentionally praise. David wrote that the study of God’s Word can bring us joy (Psalm 19:8). We experience joy by talking with God in prayer and we experience joy by keeping our focus on godly things rather than on difficult circumstances or discontentment. Look at these amazing examples of Joy in the scriptures:
“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10:34).
And the best illustration of all, “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” (Hebrews 12:2).
Did you notice that scripture tends to speak of joy in the midst of great strife…and that in every situation JOY was a choice in spite of the circumstances that surrounded the people? Maybe the prayer today shouldn’t be for the journey to be over, but for the journey, however hard it may be, to be one that brings glory and honor to He who is worthy as we display the joy that the spirit of the Lord brings.
I am not sure of the details of the journey I am on any more than you may be, but I know that we have been commanded…challenged to: “BE JOYFUL ALWAYS” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). I also know the destination is tied to joy: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
This was a concept and teaching that honestly really took me a while to even wrap my head around. Joy in suffering? I mean can the two really even co-exists? The Message translation says to “…consider it a sheer gift…” First of all the idea of suffering or trials being a “joy” is one thing, but “a gift?” Wow, that’s a stretch isn’t it?!
Hold that thought for a minute…consider what is trying to say. See James uses a Greek phrase that translates as “all joy” or “pure joy.” It’s his way of trying to say "Yeah, I really mean JOY!" Some people try to use the word “happiness” instead but that’s not even close. You’d have to say something more like "mega happy!”
But don’t miss this, “Happiness” is a personal choice state of mind, but James is challenging us to be more unprejudiced in our thinking and not focus on ourselves when he says “consider it pure joy.” You see the problem is that “happiness” paints a picture that many subscribe to…the idea that, as Christians, we get to live a carefree life…filled with upbeat days and nothing short of a great mood, 24/7. This is not what James had in mind. He knows the hardship of trials and the realities of life, so James encourages us to strive for anUNSPEAKABLE JOY during the hours, the days, and even the seasons that we find ourselves in that seem the darkest.
May we be mindful that the journey is not for our Glory or for our gratification, but for His Glory and our Sanctification! Today, I hope you will choose joy…anUNSPEAKABLE JOY!
One of my favorite lines of our new song is also my own personal prayer to our Heavenly Father. I pray it helps you as well when you find yourself in midst of the storms.
“These hands high in the battle…
I believe even in the shadows,
Joy unspeakable is waiting on me…
Gonna trust every word You’ve spoken,
I will have no other hope and…
Joy unspeakable is waiting on me!”