“Christian joy is not a giddy, superficial happiness that can be devastated by illness, economic difficulties, broken relationships, or the countless other vicissitudes and disappointments of life. Instead, it flows from the deep, unshakable confidence that God is eternally in control of every aspect of life for the good of His beloved children – a confidence rooted in the knowledge of His Word. God’s character, the saving work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, divine providence, spiritual blessings, the promise of future glory, answered prayer and Christian fellowship all cause the believer to rejoice.” – John MacArthur
One thing I admire about MacArthur’s personality and ministry is that he is consistent. Week in and week out he stands up at Grace Church, and simply preaches the Word. His church has remained a powerful church for over 50 years, and they haven’t conformed to the culture in any way. I admire that he has remained in ministry as long as he has, because statistics don’t bode well for pastors. Statistics say 1 out of every 10 pastors actually retire a pastor. Why could this be, and how have men like MacArthur made it so far in ministry?
One thing common in men like MacArthur, Sproul, J.C. Ryle, or Spurgeon is that they all have a firm grip and conviction when it comes to the sovereignty of God. These men have endured all the trials that come with pastoral ministry, and they have made it to the end of their lives in good spiritual health, and even more amazing, joyfully. Which leads me to ponder, why does a firm conviction about the absolute sovereignty of God bring about so much stability, and joy?
The Bible teaches clearly that God is ultimately the final decision maker in all aspects of this world, and that should bring His children peace. When we know that He is weaving everything together for the good of His people, and the glory of His name, we can endure difficult things not only well, but joyfully. Because we know who is the primary cause of these things. Without the Spirit of Christ, you cannot endure suffering in joy. If you are not a Christian, you may have moments of rejoicing due to the common grace of God, but when the sun stops shining on you, and the rain comes, there is no longer a smile. For the Christian, the sun can shine, and there is a smile. When the rain comes, through the tears we can smile as well. Why? Because we know the Lord has made them both, He is sovereign over both. If you despise the One who brings you the sun, you will surely despise Him when the rain begins to pour.
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” – Ecclesiastes 7:14
In prosperity, be joyful. In the day of adversity, understand this is from the Lord as well. So, knowing that He is sovereign over both produces that stable joy. We know that these trials are making us more dependent on Him, refining our faith, weaning us off of the world, making us more like the Son, or taking us home to be with the Son. Trials produce all of those things, and because of that we can rejoice in them.
Only Christians get to experience the amazingly unshakeable, non-circumstantial, Holy Spirit produced joy in pain or prosperity. Christians are sorrowful in trials, yes, but always rejoicing. No dichotomy, simultaneous sorrow, and joy. This is the power of God manifest in a person, when they can smile and say God is good, when tragic circumstances befall them.
Smile through your tears Christian, the same Lord who loved you in your glory days, is the same Lord who holds you in your adverse days.
I desire to be like the men of old. I do not want to be a trendy, flash-in-the pan pastor. Those men do not last. I desire to be one who is consistent, because I’m consistently looking at Christ. I’m growing daily in my understanding that joy, and peace, comes from keeping my eyes on Him. I keep my eyes on Him, by setting my heart to read His word. And I am to read His word so that I behold more of His attributes. A knowledge of God, rooted in His word, will give us great stability, joy, and endurance. Stability, joy, and endurance will be valuable possessions on this narrow way.
When we know who He is, we know who we are, and this leads us to trust the greatness of His sovereign plan. Then all we can do is look, and hold tightly to Him along our pilgrimage.
Lord, thank you for the joy that is produced, when we keep our eyes on You.