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Friday, January 8, 2010

The Necessity of Joy

Joy is most needed when things are tough.

Paul prays that the Colossians may be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. . . .” (Col. 1:11). Here, endurance and patience go hand in hand with joy. Peter, too, speaks of a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (I Pet. 1:9). This joy comes with grievous trials and testing, as if by fire (v.7). And Nehemiah’s famous admonition to his people that “The joy of the Lord is your strength” was delivered to a weeping people, spiritually broken upon the reading of the law.

These passages tell us something about joy. For one thing, it isn’t natural. It’s not happiness or glee or giddiness. It is supernatural: the joy of the Lord, a deep rejoicing which affirms that he is King of all, Lord of all circumstances, and deliverer of his people. We rejoice because our hope goes beyond our circumstances, not because things are going well. For another thing, joy always takes the long view—the eternal perspective. Our lives are God’s instruments in light of His plans for eternity. If we truly believe this, we have joy.

Although Christmas is over and the new year has begun, it is worth remembering that the advent of God incarnate to deliver his people is what makes an eternal perspective—joy itself—possible. He came to deliver his people; not just from Egypt, not just from Babylon, but from death itself—forever. The baby born in the manger IS the “good news of great joy for all people.” We rejoice in that supernatural gift! We sing praises to God; we eat and drink and give gifts in joyful celebration. And we do all this, despite knowing that this innocent baby will one day suffer the humiliation and death that we deserve. The joy of Christmas is that very inexpressible joy, filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

~ Mike Schutt, Professor at Regent University School of Law, and Director of the Institute for Christian Legal Studies

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