Wednesday, July 1
Apostles' Creed Focus
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, he descended to hell.”
“...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Have you ever felt joy in the midst of a time that held little to no happiness? For myself, it was seeing how my best friend handled his father’s death. I was blessed to be able to walk through his beginning processes of grief. Even though the situation was sad and tragic, hope held such a heavy silver-lining. My friend had quite literally beaten every odd when it came to holding onto his faith throughout his life. This showed most when he conducted his own father’s funeral. He had a myriad of things going against him during his childhood and throughout life. Even still, he graduated college, had a firm and foundational relationship with Jesus, and a passionate wish to pursue ministry. My friend handled his father’s passing with an incredible degree of wisdom, and his own testimony was so uplifting. Because of that, I had joy.
So why was there joy in that situation? Why can there be joy in the absence of happiness (although joy can run alongside happiness as well)? This is because joy is something entirely different than happiness. Joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a peace that the Holy Spirit brings to the believer. The temporary feeling of happiness pales in comparison to the everlasting joy that streams from the attitude of the heart.
Hebrews 12 starts by explaining the importance of casting off our sin and focusing on Jesus, but in the second verse we get a great showcase of Jesus’ joy in the face of a situation that would hold no happiness. It speaks of Christ’s joy in enduring the cross, which is worse than any of us can truly wrap our minds around. Even worse than this, is the feeling and understanding of holding the weight of man’s sin on your shoulders, while taking all the justified wrath of God the Father upon yourself. He did all of this with joy, why? Because joy is an attitude of the heart not a feeling derived from circumstances.
When in doubt the actions, emotions, and examples of Jesus can always be trusted. He found joy in the darkest moment of human history before his victory over sin and death was won. We too can find joy in moments that hold the absence of happiness! Where are you struggling to orient your life to see joy today? Even if you’re currently experiencing times of great happiness, are these anchored in joy and hope in God or are they based on fleeting moments of emotion?
God, in you and through you comes the deepest sense of joy available for me. Thank you for providing the example for what joy looks like through your sacrifice on the cross. Please help me anchor my life in things which will bring me everlasting joy, rather than things that only provide momentary happiness. Train my heart to continually have the attitude of joy. Amen.
Verses for Further Reflection
James 1:2-3, Romans 15:13, John 16:22
Although happiness and joy can be present at the same time, happiness is based on material things or events. It could be when a person is given a gift, graduates from college or celebrates a birthday. Joy on the other hand, is from God and it runs much deeper. Joy can be present even during unhappy times. Do you have God’s joy?
What are you worth?
The world ascribes value to what people own - salary, wealth, power, appearance and fame. As a Christian, you are worthy because Jesus is worthy. God’s love has made you important to Him. Without having to prove yourself, you are free to enjoy your life, no matter your circumstances.
What is important to you?
How do you spend your time - reading the Bible, praying, watching TV, playing video games - reveals what is important to you. Reevaluate your actions and then find behaviors that will cause you to grow closer to God. Doing this can be helpful because God is our source of joy.
How big is your God?
When good things happen, you may give God credit for it. When bad things happen, you may feel God has turned His back on you. In Psalms, read how David turned toward God amid crises and was rewarded with joy. Joy comes from knowing God, enjoying what God has done for you, and believing that He constantly cares for you.
Do you want your children to catch your joy?
The best way to teach joy is to demonstrate it. If you are obsessed with keeping dirt out of the house or buying things to fill rooms, your children will notice. In the same way, if His joy permeates your life, they will learn to be joyful through your example.