Jesus said to His disciples: “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8
From grief to joy, from few to many, the church of Jesus Christ has marched forward inexorably from the first Resurrection Sunday to today. What explains her exponential explosion around the globe in a vibrant, undaunted existence, though her enemies have predicted her demise again and again over the centuries and tirelessly colluded with devils to destroy her? Jesus gives this answer: the church is fueled by joy! No amount of grief and sadness can remove the joy of the believer in the Lord and the irrepressible hope of eternal salvation found in Him. Tomorrow, we focus on the grief and glory of the cross, and three days beyond we rejoice in the joy and victorious hope of the empty tomb and living Savior.
Last week the onerous pall of sadness in Andreas Lubitz heart and mind drove him to take the lives of 149 fellow passengers of all ages to a terrifying death in the French Alps; a vicious mass murder fueled by depressive bleakness guided by the schemes of the arch-enemy of our souls. Lubitz represents the miserable “hopes of the world unacquainted with the joy of the Lord. It is in actuality an utter absence of hope based in misery and sadness when unmoved by the message of the cross and the empty tomb. The power of the resurrection to those who are dying is a myth perpetuated by blinding scales on their eyes, whose eventual and sudden removal will bring wailing and mourning unheard since humanity began when He is revealed to the eyes of the whole world (Revelation 1:7).
But we, sojourners of faith, are fueled by a glorious, divine joy which no one can take away. Even in the midst of temporary grief the joy of your salvation shines through and remains. What is striking about the Church, whom God bought with His own blood (Acts 20:28), is that it is characterized by uncommon joy which fuels her stalwart soldiers who persevere in service to their King. This is not only the story of the first disciples’ experience after Jesus ascended; it is the unmistakable story of the church through the centuries. Grief we experience temporarily, joy is permanent.
Jesus set the example for joy to fuel your life and calling. “For the joy that was set before Him He endured……(Hebrews 12:2). Consequently, it is for you to fix your eyes on Him. Which means, as an example, tomorrow surveying the cross and its story; Sunday morning being awakened with first thoughts of the reason for joy: He is risen! He is risen indeed! This is why you get up every morning; it is what sees you through pain and tears; it is the spark and mainstay of your courage; it is the never finished oil and flour in your jug, like the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7); it is your motivation for all things worthy of doing in your life. It is the medicine for your broken heart, the balm which heals paralyzing sadness, the witness of life to a dying world, the quickening of all hope.
If the evening news portrays the nature of this world in city after city after city, how can any who care about their family and their neighbors ever go to bed in peace? There are many, obviously, who live in denial and illusion and think only of themselves; their neighbors’ plight is not on their radar (read Psalm 73). There is no joy in a world devoid of the God of all mercies; but His Son has penetrated this darkness and cut the bonds of the power of sin. You clearly see sin’s power in the devastation of “incurable disease, the march of drug and other “unbreakable addictions, “un-mendable human relationships, and above all seeing and living life as though the Creator God and His laws do not exist.
If you as a professing Christian do not feel you know and experience joy in your life in the midst of this cultural quicksand, you must fix your eyes on Jesus, who is, not you, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-13). Joy will not be in your life otherwise. There is not enough money or treasures in the world to afford to buy such fuel as lasting as genuine joy. You couldn’t possess it if it were not free. Relish the source of joy for your life this Sunday in the risen One; rest in His promise that no one can take away your joy. Your joy lives and so will you.
“Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art, and thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart, satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need, compasseth me round with blessings; thine is love indeed. Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art; I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.
(3rd verse of Jean Sophia Pigott’s hymn, “Jesus I Am Resting, Resting, 1876)
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