March 27, 2011
All of us at different times suffer all kinds of trials. Tonight I want to encourage you.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
This verse is written to a church suffering intense persecution, but the basis behind the joy is for all Christians anywhere:
#1- Christian joy is rooted in God’s love for us and not in our circumstances
Whom having not seen, ye love;
Now we know that we love Him because He first loved us (I Jn. 4:19). What greater joy is there than that? We still haven’t seen Him, but He’s poured out His love into our hearts so that we love Him, and no trial can ever take that away!
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).
Whatever you’re going through tonight, you need to remember that our Lord’s love for you is the source of your joy.
#2- Christian joy is in faith of better things to come and not what we see now
in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing,
We know that one day we’ll see Him and all these trials we face now will seem like light and momentary afflictions. We believe that He has an inheritance for us that He’s promised to us, and we believe He’s able to keep it for us (II Tim. 1:12).
And so whatever happens we find joy in all things:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places (Hab. 3:17-19).
#3- Christian joy knows that He causes all things to work together for our good
yet believing, ye rejoice
These Christians in Peter’s letter were going through a lot yet they were able to rejoice. They knew they were loved by God and they had a hope for the future. But they could also rejoice knowing that God had promised to use every single thing that happened to them to conform them to the image of Christ.
Listen, this is enough for rejoicing: you know Him! And if you know Him then you know He works for your good as a Father works for His children.
#4- Christian joy may not be understood by natural means
with joy unspeakable
This makes me think of the peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7). The joy is indescribable. I think that means that it’s beyond beyond what’s natural. The natural man rejoices when there’s food to eat, but Christians know there’s more to life than food—even if they’re starving to death!
The Christians in the letter had no reason to be joyous by the world’s standards—they were outlaws and outcasts. They were hunted and persecuted and deprived of basic liberties. Yet they found joy in the Lord!
#5- Christian joy is real joy
and full of glory
Now, the word for “glory” is a verb. It means “to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance.”
In other words, our joy isn’t something fake or shallow. The joy we have is a real joy, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, with root in God’s love. If God’s love for us is eternal and changeless, then our true Christian joy is just as eternal and changeless!
We may not always feel the emotion, but we know that as He lives and as He lives in us, so we have joy. In closing I want to share a hymn with you written by a woman named Anne Steele:
She lived in England from 1716-1778. Her father was a Baptist preacher for 60 years. Her mother died when she was 3 years old, and when she was 19 she suffered a severe injury to her hip, rendering her an invalid for most of her life. When she was 21, she was engaged to Robert Elscourt, but the day before the wedding he was drowned while bathing in a river! She never was married, and assisted her father in his pastoral labors for her whole life, although for the last 9 years of her life, she was never able to leave her bed. Still in spite of all of this her disposition was described as “cheerful and helpful” and her life as one of “unaffected humility, warm benevolence, sincere friendship, and genuine devotion.”