JOY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
JOY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT. Rejoicing In Real Things.
“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom 14:17 NASB
One of the things we have as our duty, we Children of God, is to learn to value things properly. We must look at things from the real perspective. There is a real side to life.
The easy and natural perspective is that which the world around us dictates, but we must be transformed from that angle as it is the false side to things. We must renew our minds as Paul admonished in Rom 12. The renewal of the mind implies we change our perspective of things. We must alter the way we judge the value and meaning of things. For example, the man with plenty money and shiny garments (clothes, cars, etc.) is the rich man of the world, but the Lord said such a one may just be poor. This can easily be seen from His comments about the church of the Laodecians.
“ “Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked , 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself… Rev 3:17-18 NASB” “
The man with a very visible ministry, who is on TV and radio, and who superintends over a very large congregation of people is judged as a successful minister in our worldly view of today, but Paul said, not so fast!
“So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. When the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.” 1 Cor 4:5 NLT
So we see that there is a common perspective to things, and there is the one that is real. We must keep learning to see things from the real side – the divine perspective.
My focus at this time is concerning the sources of our joy. What are the things we rejoice in? What are the things which make us happy? As a matter of fact, we must train ourselves concerning our emotional response to things in life. If you give a child a new toy, he is very happy. An adult gets a promotion at work, and he is very happy. Or he or she gets some adult toys like a new car, a latest gadget or designer dress. These are things that are natural to rejoice in, but we must learn the things of spiritual maturity and train ourselves to rejoice in the things that are real.
Many of the things we most often rejoice in are things that though they appear good yet the Lord is saying they are not worthy of such rejoicing. The interesting part is that some of these things may even appear spiritual, unlike the toys and natural acquisitions I earlier mentioned, yet the Lord says they are not worth the joy derived from them. Let us take an example from the life of the Apostles of Jesus.
There was a time He sent them out to go and minister the word and the power of God to people. Their missions were quite successful, and they returned with a load of testimonies. So powerful was the manifestation of the Spirit that even demons were cast out by them in the name of Jesus (bear in mind that casting out of demons was a new thing at that time). For this reason they were full of rejoicing at how they were able to handle the power of God. I can imagine them thinking of how powerful and anointed as ministers they had become. The Lord however interrupted their rejoicing and explained to them they were rejoicing in what was not the main thing demonstrated.
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." Luke 10:20 NASB
Spiritual power? Not worthy of such plenty rejoicing!
Have you ever been to testimony meetings in churches? Our main testimonies tend to be about how we got a new job, a new house or promotion at work. We rejoice at the addition of babies and such things. Please don’t get me wrong; these are very good things of life which the Lord Himself blesses us with, and for which He expects us to be grateful, but we must learn that they are not the things that our God and Father expects us to place our joys in mainly. The things that bring you the greatest joys are the things you will drive yourself towards achieving and acquiring; this, I believe, is one major reason why the Lord wants us to take joy in the things that are the real things to pursue.
So what have you been rejoicing in?
Let me point something out; every occurrence or activity in life has two sides to it. There is the side which is seen (manifested or visible side) and there is the side that does not appear. I borrowed the expressions from the KJV expression of Heb. 11:3.
“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
The part or side seen is a result of the side that do not appear, and it is the latter that matters. That is the one that should determine our joy. The manifestation of divine power in the life of those disciples that the Lord sent out was good, but that was only the side seen. This visible manifestation was a result of the fact that their names were written in heaven, and that should have been the real cause of their joy. The unseen side was more important and is to be the target of our lives.
The cars, houses, babies born to us, and promotions in ministry are good, but they are not to be the sources of our real joy. The invisible attributes of the believer are the things we should be pursuing.
[After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness… and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom 14:17
What was Paul saying here? Our testimonies should not be focused on the things we get externally; they are not the primary things God is doing in our lives. In whatever we do, the Lord is building in us righteousness, faith, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Note that he qualified that joy for us. It is not the joy from the things around, but a kind of joy that comes from having the right spirit and contemplating the things that are real. We rejoice when we see things that have real eternal value.
Let us take an example.
Imagine you are in church, and during the time for testimonies, somebody comes up smiling and telling about how he lost his job the previous week, that since then he has had to learn to just trust God and not be worried. You are likely to keep waiting, waiting for him to get to the good part where the Lord just gave him a better job. Hey, the fellow ends the testimony and goes back to his seat! He was smiling all through and looked genuinely happy. What is going on?
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3
To rejoice when you have challenges that test your faith is the will of God. There should be more rejoicing in your heart when your faith is thus tested than when you have a promotion. The things that are real in life are invisible. Faith is developed when there is testing, and faith is real, it is the gold of the spirit.
Look at the example of the early disciples. They got arrested, got whipped and disgraced publicly for preaching the gospel. What was their response?
“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Acts 5:41 NASB
I guess they remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, when He blessed “Blessed are you when men persecute you for my name’s sake.”
Have you ever learned a new truth from the Word of God and the very knowledge made you so joyful you could hardly sleep? Have you spent a huge sum of money on a book or forgone a business deal to attend a teaching meeting and you were so happy you did even though that did cost you a huge sum in lost opportunity? Don’t worry, you are not crazy; it is the will of God.
“I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil.” Ps 119:162
A good word for ‘spoil’ is breakthrough. Another word is treasure. NLT uses the expression, great treasure. I rejoice at the discovery and imbibing of the Word of God; it is as if I just made a lot of money and gotten a gift of the latest Benz car.
I remember once during internship after graduating; I had just taken delivery of a Study Bible which I had desired for a long time. It was about my first ‘worldly’ possession which I was acquiring after school. I was getting some water from the front of our block of flats when a colleague of mine approached. He saw the way I was beaming all over and how I was so joyful. Jerry (that’s his name) inquired what was making me so happy. I told him I just got my Bible.
What? That is all?
‘Ok, how much did that cost you?’ He wanted to know.
Three hundred naira!
At that time you could get a decent Bible for less than thirty naira, and our monthly salary then was just about three times the cost of this ‘big’ one, and we were not even getting all of it yet. The young man looked at me, and said in pidgin, “I beg no vex for me o, but e be like say you done begin crase,” which being interpreted means, “Pardon me while I say this; but I think you have lost your mind!” I had a very good laugh.
The young man could not understand why I would spend so much of the money I did not have to acquire a Study Bible and be so glad I did.
“I rejoice at that Word as one who finds great spoil.”
Remember I mentioned that the disciples must have remembered that the Lord described it as a blessed thing to be persecuted for His name’s sake. Now the word ‘blessed’ brings me to another example of a source of joy.
Once a young man came to me and wanted me to help him solve an issue he was having. He had noticed that in recent times when he would give out money and stuff like that he would feel very happy. This worried him a bit. I asked whether he brags on it or uses those acts of righteousness as bargaining chips with God in prayer, and he said he didn’t. I said to him in other words, “Congrats, you just got saved.” Those were not my words exactly but I was telling him simply that he was practising real Christianity. He had learnt to rejoice in giving.
“…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' “ Acts 20:35 NASB
Most people rejoice more in receiving, in acquiring and in purchasing than in giving. No, we Christians rejoice more in giving, because the Lord Jesus said it is more blessed to do that. I heard the story of a sister who was given the chance to share her testimony. She said she used to hear of people who gave huge sums as offerings and gifts to causes, and she always desired to give like that. Her testimony was that the previous week God made it possible and she was able to give something like a hundred thousand naira. It was a great sum then, at least to her, and she rejoiced that she broke the sound-barrier. I challenge you too to break the sound-barrier of your giving. Not for personal gain of seed-sowing for an intended harvest, but just be able to rejoice in good works.
Really, think about it: If you called up a friend and informed him or her of an opportunity to make some money easy, such a one would consider you a true friend, right? Of course most people would think you are a real dear. But how do you think that person would feel if your call was to let them know of a need that arose in somebody’s life or the life of a ministry, and that you felt they had the resources to contribute something substantial to meeting that need? Well, the Lord Jesus said a true Christian should have more joy in the latter news than the former.
'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
O, being a disciple of Christ and a child of God really makes us different.
Let us consider the things which Paul used to rejoice in among the people of the churches he founded. His joy and gratitude to God was always about their increase in faith, increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, love for one another, for their endurance in the midst of trials and such qualities as do-not-appear. They are invisible things but which are the things called pure gold. Examine his introductory greetings in the letters to the churches of the Romans, Ephesians, Colossians and Thessalonians. The people were also doing well in business, were getting married and were having children, but he seemed to have overlooked to mention those things as the source of his joyful thanksgiving to God. The reason was that he knew how to rejoice in the things that really mattered.
See, those outward things are not the things that God is doing in your life. They are just the manifestations of His love and care for you. The real thing God is doing in your life is that He is building in you the Christ-like nature. He is developing spiritual character in you until, like Paul would say, Christ is formed in you.
This Christ in you, is the hope of glory. He is the ‘all’ of everything that you can ever wish for in life.
Your main joy therefore must be that Christ is being formed in you.
You must rejoice in the spiritual dealings in your life. You must rejoice in the fact that your faith is being purified like gold. This is why it is possible to rejoice in the midst of challenges. Many people will rather testify of how God gave then a big government contract and how through that they made a huge chunk of money. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it is a greater testimony to have lost that contract because you refused to bribe anybody. It is a testimony far exceeding that of making money when you stood with God in your convictions even in the face of financial loss. It is called the purification of your faith. Rejoice in that.
In all my adult (i.e. post-graduation) life, I think the most joyful season was one of the leanest ones, financially speaking, too. It was shortly after my national youth service; I was unable to pick up a job for about 8 months, but those 8 months were the most glorious in my life. I learnt and learnt and learnt. I was studying the word of God every time and the Holy Spirit gave me insight; that season I will not exchange for millions of dollars, houses or aeroplanes. It was a glorious season.
Every true testimony, even of material blessings, must show the demonstration of faith and the faithfulness of God. It must never stop with the fact that we have got something material. It is not just the deliverance experienced that we rejoice in; we rather much more rejoice in the lessons of God learned in it. Every testimony must glorify the word of God and the faithfulness of God. His word is to be exalted (Ps 138:2). That means that He is not just interested in us saying, ‘Praise God, Glory to God’. His real glory is in the word that is demonstrated, that word that became flesh in our lives. Testimonies are not just story telling; they are for true rejoicing in spiritual things. Material things all pass away, even when they are given by God; we are to rejoice in that which is eternal. The dealings of God produce in us something eternal.
Their purpose (i.e. the trials of your life) is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed. You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him. 1 Peter 1:7-9 TEV
Don’t forget; your strength is directed at the thing that gives you joy. So rejoice in the things that matter.
You can rejoice when you are broke!
You can rejoice when people are laughing at you.
It all depends on what you are looking at.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:17-5:1