How do you feel when you hear the Hallelujah chorus? Does it sound joyful to you? We assume Handle must have been overflowing with joy in order to write that fine piece of music and I’m sure that is true. However his joy didn’t come from circumstances for his health and his finances had reached the lowest possible place at that time. His right side was paralyzed, he was threatened with debtors prison because he couldn’t pay his bills and he was fighting depression. But when he got his eyes off himself and onto God he was filled with so much joy it overflowed into his masterpiece. Handle was a man of deep faith in God. While writing the Hallelujah chorus a servant hadn’t heard from him in some time so he quietly entered Handel’s room to find him sitting at his desk with tears streaming down his cheeks. He looked up and said, “I saw all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” Now that will bring joy no matter the circumstances!
True joy is not something we can whip up on our own, especially when conditions are unfavorable. Anyone can be happy when life is doing well, but to have joy when things are falling apart is a gift of God. It is a fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Joy isn’t easy to describe. In the Old Testament there are 27 different words that are used for some aspect of joy. Suffice it to say, though, that joy is an attitude of mind that flows from peace and hope when our focus is on God and His faithfulness. Perhaps it could be said that joy is the outflow of a foundation of peace. So joy isn’t dependent on circumstance. In fact, often it is negative circumstances that cause us to turn more closely to God and thus find joy in Him alone (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:12-13). Always remember that joy is a gift of God’s grace. It comes from His Spirit. In the Greek the word for joy and the word for grace come from the same root meaning “rejoice.” This is not by chance. The “joy of the Lord” is not something we have naturally in our own strength and power; it comes by His grace.
So how does this apply? Well, if the roof is leaking and you can’t get someone to fix it, move your chair! In other words, if things are tough and you’re getting down under it all, change your attitude. Focus on God and His faithfulness and He will produce the fruit of joy in you by His Spirit. When we focus on Jesus’ words only then does God promise that our joy will be full and complete (John 15:11). God knows that circumstances will not always make us happy (John 16:33) but that He will give joy despite it all (Psalm 30:5). Remember Peter and Silas in prison after being unfairly whipped. It’s midnight in a dark, filthy dungeon and they are locked in stocks with their bodies screaming in pain. Sow hat do they do? They sing! (Acts 16:22-25) That’s what God’s joy within is like – no matter what is happening in life God’s joy is greater than any situation we may find ourselves in. But, like Peter when he walked on water but started to sink when he looked at the waves, we too must keep our eyes only on Jesus.
James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Do you tend to look at circumstances around you and get discouraged? Is your glass half empty instead of half full? Take a moment to get your eyes on Jesus by writing down a list of times and ways in which He has been faithful to you. Trust Him to be so in your present situation.
Does your joy depend on how well your life and ministry are going, or do you depend on God to fill you with His joy each day?
Select one of the verses above to meditate on all day. Whenever circumstances start to get to you remember the verse. When God gives you His joy thank him for it.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)