“I Can’t Rejoice Under These Circumstances!” 5/29/2020
I read this from a technical commentary once in comment on I Thessalonians 5: 16-19. ( Tyndale New Testament Commentary)
“ ‘Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is the God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ The injunction to ‘rejoice always’ is at first sight a little surprising coming from one who had had to suffer as much, and as continually as had Paul. But he had learned that affliction and deep joy may go together and that he could rejoice in tribulation. So he could counsel perpetual rejoicing even to a church which was suffering so greatly. Few things about the New Testament are more remarkable than this continual stress on joy. Our information about the early church indicates that, from an outward point of view, there was little that could cause rejoicing. But they were ‘in Christ’ and because they were in Him they had learned the truth of His words, ‘ your joy no man takes away.’ New Testament Christianity is permeated with the spirit of holy joy, and there is no reason why 20th century ( now 21 century) Christianity should not have the same joyfulness. “
When you meet a Christian who stays joyful most of the time you know you have met a man or woman who has had to choose joy over self-pity, and who knows something greater than their immediate pain. They know how to retain joy. In other words, you have met a man or woman who has chosen the good part from out of the midst of suffering. They retain what is theirs; against all odds.
I met a pastor who was the shepherd of a church in Hollywood, California. He was an older gentleman and I was only 20 when we met. We were on a youth music trip. I played in the band. The whole group of us went to his church on a Sunday morning.
I had never met anybody quite like him in my life, up to that point. As we were leaving the church, he took a bit of time to meet me and ask me a few questions about plans I may have for the future. It was like he could read my soul, but it did not seem judgmental or invasive at all.
Our youth director told me later that the man had been married a long, long time. I was to be married late that fall, 1974. It was truly as if one joyfully seasoned life; his life, a life closer to glory, was crossing paths with a new ship on the ocean on its maiden voyage.
He was so interested in me. Of course, who does not like being the center of the conversation! Wow, I don’t remember asking him anything about his life. But that is a pastor’s life.
He said one incredible thing to me as I was walking away. I had assumed the conversation was over. What he said seemed so unrelated to anything he had said up to that point. I was so taken aback that I had no response. It felt like time froze. I truly don’t think he planned on saying it. I think the Lord gave him these words just for me. He said, “Jimmy; don’t let anything steal your joy.” I did not respond. Other people swarmed around him, waiting to blessed as I had been, yet I did not know to what extent he had touched my life in Christ by that statement.
Our youth director told us later why we went to that church on that day. He said, “The pastor’s wife has terminal cancer and she will not live out the next few months.”
I had been a Christian less than a year and was very fearless in my zeal for the Lord and my witness. No way to stop this train! But I have to tell you; his statement rocked me. It is surprising how fears emerge in you, though you thought you had buried them.
Though Jesus can do anything as Lord of all, I sometimes wonder if certain things might happen to me; certain bad things, and will I then, perhaps give up following Him? I have always known that He is the one holding me up and not me doing the sustaining. “What if this ( fill in the blank) happens; what will I do then!” Fear always comes in undefined lines so as to keep you a prisoner to the nebulous for as long as possible. It is wielded as a tool of Satan to make one dread the unknown and drain the advancing glory of God.
How could this pastor be at all interested in my life when he had so much on his plate! He has learned deep lesson on how to deal with fear. I found out that such fears that surfaced that day in my heart are not the exclusive property of young people, but older people as well. Older people who forget things easily, I assume? When I dwell on such questions of ” What if ? ” I feel joy slipping away. Let me add to that for clarification if I may. When I dwell on it, to the exclusion of the past record of God’s faithfulness, I lose joy.
I do see a pattern in my life. The longer I walk with the Lord the more I see how He ‘continues’ to be my Savior. Not just one time; not just for eternal life, but for this life also. His continued intercession on my behalf, brings joy because He lives in joy.
What is it this year that seems a mountain you cannot climb?
Before you answer that you might look at the other years, and years, and years you felt you were going under; and you did not, because God is faithful! I don’t know how He does it , but He restores our joy time and again.
I don’t have to earn it, or beg for it. I am His child and it is mine at all times. Joy is not actually a thing , separated from its source. It is as the air He breaths out upon me. It is part of who He is.
Don’t let anything or anybody steal your joy. Now, that I have lived fairly long in this life, that voice from that past conversation, is truly calling like never before. Deep once called out to young and shallow. But now, it is deep calling to deep. I get it now.
II Corinthians 6:10
“ as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.”
Acts 16: 25
“ But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; “
“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” JWP