So how do we know if we have true, biblical joy?
I recently started a Bible Study guide on the books of Thessalonians and this week, in the first chapter of I Thessalonians, I came across this verse:
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit (v.6)
Hmmm…the word joy pops up so much more in scripture now that I’m thinking about it for this month! It reminds me of getting a new car. You don’t really think about how many cars there are like yours until you have one. Then all of a sudden, your color and make of car are everywhere!
But back to the topic at hand–
My eyes then fell to the Bible Study guide notes. And this is what it said:
–See Romans 14:17. Joy in the midst of suffering evidenced the reality of their salvation, which included the indwelling Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19)
Joy in the midst of suffering evidenced the reality of their salvation.
And I thought about the last few times I have suffered. I cringed as I realized that I probably didn’t show a whole lot of joy. And then I thought of the big things in life that were really hard. I may have come around to joy, but I don’t think I would have been accepting the praise of Paul over how I showed the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the phrase “Holy Spirit” is the key here. As I have been focusing on joy this month, I realize that I have spent most of my life trying to concoct this holy joy on my own. And so I work hard to act like I have joy and peace — because that’s what we Christians do– but haven’t always felt that way on the inside.
But I am starting to wonder about that.
Yesterday, as I was listening to a radio program, I heard the testimony of a woman who was very tempted to have an affair. She and her husband were missionaries and she fell in love with another man. She talked about how she allowed herself to think things that eventually turned into the fruit of betrayal. While the affair never went into physical betrayal, she got herself so involved emotionally that she wrestled greatly with the thought of turning her back on her husband and walking away.
But here is why I am telling you this: When she talked about making the decision to stay with her husband and to walk away from the potential affair, her heart (never follow your heart! Jeremiah 17:9) urged her to go with the other man. It took everything in her being to go against her feelings. But she did it. And, eventually, this woman felt love for her husband again and the marriage was able to heal.
What does that have to do with biblical joy? I think we have a choice to make. And our feelings will not always be ahead of that choice, but will often come afterwards.
The joy of the Holy Spirit isn’t something we always feel immediately in affliction. But if we are given the gift of it during our time of trial, we know it is not of our own making, but purely the mercy of God. And the verse in I Thessalonians showed me that this joy is one of the evidences of our salvation.
That is a sobering thought, isn’t it? Have you shown evidence of your faith during your last trial? Let’s obey and let the Holy Spirit do the work of giving us the feelings that go with the obedience.
–As I read over what I just wrote, it feels a bit disconnected. Like maybe I tried to stuff too much into one post. But this post is full of all I am learning this month and I am not sure what to leave out, so I am going to just leave it as it is. I hope that it is possible for you to at least walk away with a tidbit or two, even if the whole thing only makes sense to me! ~Leslie