As we begin a new year, many of us are putting together New Year’s resolutions for 2009. If that is you, you probably have felt the pressures of such commitments already — and maybe you’ve already slipped and fell. I am not against New Year’s resolutions, but I am distraught at the failure rates of such endeavors. I do want to address some areas where we all need to set up goals for our spiritual walks in light of how 2008 turned out.
For most Christians, happyness (also known as “happiness”) is difficult to come by when we go through trials of various kinds, as it is usually seen as a feeling of pleasure based on circumstances. Joy, however, should be a calm delight in the person and character of God in spite of and despite the circumstances we are in. That may sound wonderful, but our experiences in life tell us how difficult it is to find true joy. Believe you me, it was difficult to find happyness and joy in 2008. But let us heed God’s word from apostle James:
Count it all joy [χαρά], my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
It is obvious that it is very difficult to see the sufferings we go through as joy (or happiness for that matter). All people go through suffering in life continually; it’s as certain as death and taxes. However, James’ point is that we need to count it — the different kinds of trials that God brings into our lives — as joy. The whole experience and the entire circumstance, we must “consider it an opportunity for great joy” (NLT). For while unbelievers may look and see the situation as an opportunity for cursing God and running away from him, we must use the trials we face as a chance to glorify God and help others see joy through similar situations.
Similarly, it is obvious why we often don’t desire God. We find little joy in our walk with the Lord when we don’t see enough reasons to be glad, and thus sometimes we turn away from him and walk our own separate path. Lord have mercy if we ever find ourselves on this kind of path to destruction. The Scriptures continually remind us that while joy is the gift of God, it is also something that we must labor to attain as sons of our heavenly Father: “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12). Joy is something we must fight for, especially in times when we don’t desire God. And if we feel like we often don’t desire God as a person, then we need to fight more diligently to see our trials as an opportunity for great joy! Consider Hebrews 12:1-2 :
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy [χαρά] that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Spirit-inspired writer of Hebrews calls us to do 2 things — necessities for joy on the road marked with suffering: (1) strip off every sin that hinders and entangles us; (2) run with perseverance the race God has set before us. Oh how often do we flee towards sin and temptation when the going gets tough, instead of fleeing from those useless things which slows us down and trips us up! Oh how often are we lazy and give up so quickly when life throws us a lemon! We must persevere and endure, because there is a great reward in and at the end of this difficult path: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the object of our joy! Continue reading