The Joy of the Lord (1)
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of ourfaith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12.1, 2
Strength in sorrow
We should not think of the Christian life as being without grieving and sorrowing. Jesus promised that, in this world, we would have tribulation, and we don’t normally associate tribulation with good times (Jn. 16.33). We travel through a valley of tears, and we expect to know weeping and mourning during our sojourn on this earth.
But we may bear up under all such sorrows if we, like our Lord Jesus, can fix our minds and hearts on the joy that is set before us, in the presence of God and His glory. So great is the joy our Lord Jesus knows at the right hand of the Father, that even the prospect of that joy was sufficient to enable Him to bear up under the greatest trial and suffering imaginable.
That same joy is available to us, and can turn our valley of tears into a journey of joy and rejoicing. Strength to endure through grief and sorrow comes from looking through our trials to our eternal destination, and laying hold on the joy of the Lord to sustain us on our journey.
Joy is the great sustaining affection. As we work to keep our hearts with all diligence, therefore, let us nurture the joy which awaits us in the presence of the Lord, and is ours to possess even now.
Joy in the presence of the Lord
The end of our journey in life is pure, uninterrupted, fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord (Ps. 16.11). The joy we know in the Lord’s presence is the joy He experiences in and of Himself. As we lay hold on the promises of God, we partake of Him, and participate in His love, joy, peace, and all the other fruit and virtues which the Persons of the Deity enjoy continuously together (2 Pet. 1.4).
The ultimate fount of joy is the Lord. From Him, from within His very Being, joy flows continuously, a joy which nothing can take from Him, nothing can obstruct or obscure, and which it pleases Him to share with us. This is pure joy, joy uninterrupted and unbounded, joy that comes from nestling into the very being of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We rejoice to be in the Lord, and we are joyful in Him (Is. 61.10). Whatever may be the outward circumstances of our lives – whether favorable or dire – we may “rejoice in the LORD” and “joy in the God of [our] salvation” (Hab. 3.18). Whenever we come to the Lord in prayer, in His Word, in worship, or in periods of silent reflection sprinkled throughout our day, we may expect to know “exceeding joy” (Ps. 43.4) because of our relationship with Him. As we shelter in Him, resting in the shadow of His redeeming and protecting grace, we rejoice, feel exceedingly glad, and know complete peace (Ps. 63.7).
And we do this here and now, knowing full well that whatever taste of joy is ours in the present, it is but the most meager of hors d'oeuvres before the banquet of joy which is to come.
As we run our race through this valley of tears, fixing our eyes on Jesus and the joy in which He now dwells, we commit ourselves to the Lord and draw near to Him, and He will keep us from stumbling into despair, buoying us with His presence and joy, and pointing us forward to when we will live forever “before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1.24).
Where we are, where He is
Joy is the great sustaining affection of the life of faith. The joy of the Lord is our strength through this valley of tears, both as we anticipate the joy we will know in the eternal presence of the Triune God, and as we experience His joy here and now.
For we know that the God Who isjoy, in Whom is alljoy, is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28.20). He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13.5). We have been seated with Him in the halls of eternal joy and rejoicing (Eph. 2.6), so that we enter the joy of the Lord, knowing His presence with us, where we are, and with Him, where He is.
This is the great privilege and hope of every Christian, and this is what separates believers in Jesus Christ from those who seek the joy for which they have been created anywhere other than in Him. We know the Lord! His Spirit dwells within our hearts! And we have access to the Father by our faith! Thus, the joy of the Lord, that which our heart desires above all else, is available to us now and forever, world without end!
1. What is joy? Do people sometimes mistake happiness for joy? What’s the difference?
2. Why do we say that we may know the joy of the Lord here and now?
3. What are the greatest hindrances keeping you from knowing the joy of the Lord?
Next steps – Preparation: Review the verse for today’s lesson. What does it mean to fix your eyes on Jesus, exalted in glory? How can you begin to practice this more consistently?
T. M. Moore
This is the final part of or 8-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.