Thursday, January 14, 2010

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy"

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy"

by Jerry Finneman

In the early days of my experience as a Seventh-day Adventist I read material by E.J. Waggoner concerning the joy God experience when one sinner repents. This was an entirely new thought to me because of my distorted thoughts about God. Like many of Judea in Christ's day and even more Christians today, I believed God was more tyrant than Savior. To think that God would sing over one lost sinner, even though found, was beyond my comprehension.

Waggoner joined three thoughts together and painted a verbal picture of God that I shall never forget. That picture was/is of God rejoicing with singing over sinners saved by His marvelous grace. The first passage Waggoner used was from the trilogy of Luke 15 which contains three vivid illustrations of God's interest in sinners. Here we reflect on the picture of God's song of rejoicing over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10, 24). The second thought was Neh 8:10, which says that "the joy of the Lord is your strength." The third thought was Zeph 3:17, concerning God's song of rejoicing.

In reference to Luke 15, I quote Elder Waggoner: "People read it as though it said that there is rejoicing among the angels of God when a sinner repents. That is no doubt true; for if 'all the sons of God shouted for joy' when the world was first created, we may be sure that they have no less joy when a new creation appears; but what the text says is that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. That indicates that it is God Himself who manifests and leads in the joy. He is as genuinely glad at heart as are the man and the woman who recover the lost sheep and the lost coin.

"What a glorious thought that even here and now we can add to the joy of heaven, and that, even if we cannot sing a note, we may increase the music of heaven! Every saved sinner adds to the harmonies of heaven a note that no angel could ever produce. Thus it is that 'the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord' is made known through the church unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Eph. iii. 10, 11. Who would forego the pleasure of making the heart of God glad, and of hearing Him sing for joy?

In the next paragraph Waggoner referenced two passages concerning the joy of the Lord: "This joy of the Lord is our strength. Neh. viii. 10. 'The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.' Zeph. iii. 17. This is the joy of His salvation. His joy is the joy of a mighty One in His own strength, the joyful contemplation of His own work, just as when on the seventh day He rested from all His work, and delighted Himself with the sight of the perfection of the work which His hands had made. He rests in His love, and in it we may also rest, and rejoice and be glad for ever in that which He creates."[1]

Never does the Lord call men and women to the rack of torture, whether physical or mental. To be continually longing for something, and to be fighting against that longing, is torture. So the last thing that we should even think of doing, is to deprive anyone of any real pleasure or enjoyment. We are to point them to the fountain of all joy. We are to bring "good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people" (Luke 2:10). From this we are to hold out to people the gospel as a way of life that's full of the joy of the Lord. In God's presence there is fullness of joy. The person who loves the Lord finds life a joy; not a burden. The "joy of the Lord" is his strength.

While it is true in 2 Cor 11:24-33 Paul catalogued his extraordinary perils and experiences of hardship, in another place he calls these things but a "light affliction" (2 Cor 4:17). Paul's letters are full of courage and of joy in spite of trials and tribulations. Some of his most powerful letters of encouragement were written while he was in Rome's prison dungeon. He knew personally that the strength of his life was the joy of the presence of the Lord.

So, is it not the time to be cheerful when trouble threatens? Jesus frequently said to His disciples, "Be of good cheer" when their lives were in danger or they were in trouble of one sort or another. Cheerfulness, joyfulness in God, is most needed in times of distress. There is nothing more glorious in this world than to be permitted to witness for Jesus, even though in bonds. The apostles, after they had been thrust into prison, and beaten, departed from the council "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."

There is no trouble that frightens Christ from us. Are we willing for His presence to abide with us? If so, there is no trouble, no peril, no hardship in which we may not "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."

Consequently we can say, with Christ: "The Lord God will help me; therefore I shall not be confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near who justifies me" (Isa l. 7, 8). And again we can say, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me" (Micah 7:8).

The joy of the Lord is the strength of our life (Neh. 8:10). Let us not tell our friends and neighbors, in countenance or in speech, that the Christian life is a doleful one. However, it makes no sense in our telling them that it is a good life, if the joy and peace of it are not seen in the telling of it, and are not manifested in the life.

Consider, too, how it must grieve the heart of God to hear so much murmuring and complaining, by His people, where there is so much cause for praise and thanksgiving. Let none of us have any part in such a chorus of bitterness, and thus bring pain to the heart of our heavenly Father in heaven. Instead, let us repent and contemplate the song of our Singing Savior: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph 3:17). And then one day in the not too distant future we shall, in heaven, "unite in the Father's song of rejoicing" (COL 207).

[1] E.J. Waggoner, "English Present Truth," Oct 11, 1900. (See similar thoughts in "The Signs of the Times," July 21, 1890).