If there is any Christian who exemplified experiencing joy in difficult circumstances, it was the apostle Paul. Any of us who are familiar with the New Testament know that Paul experienced great suffering and that he both practiced and taught living with the joy of the Lord in the midst of it.
But what we don’t always readily connect to Paul’s joy is his fervency to declare the gospel. It was because Paul’s own spirit was filled with joy and with a focus on the Lord that he had the strength to preach the gospel to others when he was suffering. This is shown clearly in 1 Thessalonians 2 (a passage I preached from last Sunday). As Paul recounted his “entrance in unto you” for the Thessalonian church, he reminded them that he had come to them directly from Philippi where he “had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated.” That suffering included being publicly whipped and jailed. And his response included praising God at midnight and seeing the jailer saved (Acts 16:22–25).
Experiencing joy in our lives is important for many reasons. But one of these reasons is that our joy—or lack of it—impacts our witness—or lack of it. If you and I do not have the joy of the Lord, we will not faithfully declare the gospel to others.If you and I do not have the joy of the Lord, we will not faithfully declare the gospel to others. Click To Tweet
How did Paul, how have other Christians through the ages found victory and stayed on point for Jesus? How have they remained faithful in their witness even while enduring suffering for the sake of the gospel? They knew the joy of the Lord.
Joy isn’t the absence of suffering. It isn’t even the absence of tears or sorrow (2 Corinthians 6:10). It is the strength of the Lord that enables us to focus on Christ in the midst of these things (Nehemiah 8:10).
So how do we experience this joy?
1. Choose to trust God.
We must make a conscious choice to trust God with our specific burdens. This choice is clearer to us when we remember the trustworthy character and promises of God.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
2. Choose to wait on the Lord.
The problems of life don’t usually resolve in a month or a semester. Some things just take time. But when you are in that waiting time, don’t run from God—run to God. Seek Him, and He will renew your strength.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
3. Choose to depend on His grace.
God makes His all-sufficient grace available to us. Receive it, and rely on His power in your weakness.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
4. Choose joy.
James told suffering believers to “count it all joy” when they would experience trials.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (James 1:2)
That phrase count it means “to consider, to account.” It tells us to intentionally decide for joy. Why? Because we know that God is going to bring spiritual maturity in our lives through joy.
5. Choose growth.
Don’t allow these times to be seasons when you stagnate in your Christian life. Ask the Lord to grow you through this time. As Him to bring about spiritual maturity as you trust in and wait upon Him.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3–4)
All five of these choices require God’s grace. But none of them happen automatically. We must, enabled by the grace of God, choose to respond by trusting in God, waiting on Him, depending on His grace, counting our trials joy, and growing in the Lord.
As we experience the joy of the Lord in difficulty, we will also find a greater desire to declare the gospel of Christ to others.