For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
It is a privilege to serve the Lord in China. In spite of the difficult environment, the blessings have been many. One December, it was a real treat to go high up into some remote mountains, visit a school for village children, and sing Christmas hymns for them. With several friends, some guitars and an accordion, we sang “Joy to the World” and others. Though the children did not understand our English, they sat mesmerized as they watched and heard sounds completely foreign to them.
The officials hosting us did not understand our English either, but they knew we were singing of God’s love. One official (to our surprise) even began to declare to the children that we were there in the name of God, and that “it is clear that Christmas has something to do with peace and happiness!” He told the children that God loved them. We had talked to him before, but we were amazed that he was so affected and blurting these things out before other communist officials!
The Spirit of God was there. This man was clearly touched. The children were delighted. And as we sang, the joy of heaven filled our souls. I knew it showed on our faces. The earth groans waiting for the redemption (Romans 8:22), but it seemed that day as if the mountains and the hills broke forth into shouts of joy!
This illustrates the power of being distinct as a Christian. It is not in words, but in joy. Up on that mountain we were quite separated from the mainstream of the world. And as foreigners in that land, we were obviously separated and distinct from the villagers. But the power came in with our joy as we sang praises to God in their midst.
Some people think that holiness is a somber business. This idea likely comes from associations with others who have been harsh and legalistic. But true holiness must be accompanied with joy. True holiness brings us out with joy and leads us forth with peace. How can it be otherwise? We were made to belong to God. When we abide in our calling and live consecrated lives unto Him, how can we not be happy?
You see, it is the sin and conformity to this world that ties us to the curse. Jesus has freed us from the curse, but we can fall prey to the troubles and problems that result from fallen life on earth. But when we separate ourselves unto God, we rise above all of that. The problems won’t necessarily go away, but this alleviates many struggles and produces happiness. The pursuit of this happiness means endeavoring to come out farther and farther from the ways of the common, and enter more and more into the joy of the Lord.
Where to Find Joy
Romans 15:13 says, Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing… Joy doesn’t just come upon us. It usually doesn’t work just to pray, “God please give me joy.” Joy (as well as peace) comes through believing. It is faith in God and His promises that bring rejoicing. Look at how Isaiah rejoiced believing the truths of salvation and righteousness:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).
The devil wants you to mope and believe, “I’m always going to be down like this.” But even if you are feeling down, you can declare like Isaiah: “I WILL greatly rejoice…my soul SHALL be joyful…”
You actually have joy as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s in there, but it is often suffocated by negative thinking. Focusing on the natural realm and our immediate circumstances can often lead to despair. We should never let it come to that. Joy and peace come through believing.
What do you believe about yourself? Do you believe you are just a “sinner saved by grace” and that you can’t help but fall into the traps of the world? Or do you believe that you have been clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness? As a man thinks, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).
Are you thinking on all the bad news in the world? Or on all the television programs and films that are on? What dominates your mind? Most people don’t really think about what they are thinking about!
But what you are thinking about can either transform you or conform you (Romans 12:1-2). Renewing the mind is key in being joyful. You have to make a choice: will I mope and be sorrowful thinking about all my problems, or will I choose to focus on the good news and promises of God that I find in His Word?
Health-conscious people watch what they eat. Strong spiritual Christians watch what they fill their minds with. Joy and peace comes through believing, but you can’t believe the good things if you’re attention is constantly drawn to the bad.
This doesn’t mean that Christians will always go around with plastic smiles all the time. The world is a battlefield and we have to fight to retain our joy. But during the battles, at the very least, we can think about the age to come, when there will be perfect rest from all our problems.
Nonetheless, God wants to give the victory now. Believe it, be patient, and be joyful: God has not forgotten you, He will see you through, and He has a way of bringing good out of even what the devil meant for bad or what we have messed up.