In the Holy Bible, in the first chapter of the Book of James, verses 2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
So here “pure joy” should be our attitude when facing challenges in life, because we know God gives us those trials to test our faith and to develop the virtue of perseverance in our character? Looks like without perseverance we cannot mature in our Christian character. Hence, here “pure joy” is seen as an attitude of the mind and heart? More easily said than done, I guess. But this is not really the “pure joy” we are seeking for in this website. We do not want just an attitude of the mind and heart but the state of it.
I remember when I was in college there was a motivational poster on the wall of a friend’s house and it said, “They can, because they think they can.” It showed a picture of a great bird soaring in the sky. So, if we apply that to our search for “pure joy”, we can say, “If I think of going through these challenges in my life as ‘pure joy’ because these difficulties will perfect my character, then the experience will truly become ‘pure joy!’ ” That requires lots of mental and emotional strength, and more often than not, it becomes just wishful thinking. Nike’s “Just do it!” catchphrase becomes just that – a cliche! But hey, here’s a clue. The word of God says:
Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (King James Version)
It says being in the presence of the Lord brings fullness of joy! Yes, our praying, reading and proclaiming the promises of God in the Bible and singing praises to Him, that is spending time in His presence and it does bring joy to our hearts! And what are those pleasures at His right hand? When we meditate on the word of God we get revelations that truly bring joy to our hearts and we fall in love with God even more, and gain more understanding of our world and our circumstances, and in turn, a new zest and inspiration for life. Thus, let us not neglect spending time in the Presence of the Lord!
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
Our trials can sometimes be physical illness, relationship problems, financial difficulties, struggles over work or school, failure even in parenting (if we are parents and have children who are straying away from the path we have trained them into), and so on. But these “mountains” become molehills when we spend time in the Presence of our God – the One who is always bigger and greater than any “mountain” we can ever imagine. Nothing is impossible with Him! With the Lord who is our Fortress, our Wisdom, our Shield, our ever-present Help in trouble and Deliverer, we become more than conquerors, we are able to scale the highest walls, climb the steepest heights, and even cross waters on dry land. Thus, part of the pleasures at God’s right hand are His answers to our prayers, because He promised He would: “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24b) There again, joy!
Furthermore, when we are grieving because of our sad circumstances and struggles, the joy in God’s presence gives us strength. For the word of God says in Nehemiah 8:10c, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” In fact, just having an understanding of our circumstances in the light of His word gives us joy. “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.” (Nehemiah 8:8) “Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” (Nehemiah 8:12)
When we focus on our loving and faithful Covenant-keeping God and Father, our hope is renewed. Oh, it is so easy to get distracted by the waves of circumstances and the overwhelming winds of doubt, unbelief and negative suggestions. But when we escape to our hiding place and spend time with God, our hopes are renewed and we are once again ready to soar like the bird in that poster I mentioned above. By the time we leave our prayer closet, our God-radar has been tuned up, our vision cleared up, and we come out running and soaring in His joy and strength!
(Isaiah 40, King James Version)
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31 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.
Our trials push us to seek an audience with the King to help us in our time of need. We get joy by simply waiting and being in His presence, and if we continue in His presence He carries us through our trials and gives us the victory, which results to even more joy!
But much as we spend time with God everyday, we must not neglect our bodies – the temple of the living God, and our indisposable hardware. We also must make sure we do not neglect our duties in terms of work, school, house chores, while also having good sleep, some exercise, even relaxation time. In fact, I find that a most relaxed atmosphere is the best place for me to meditate on God’s word and I am able to get more from my reading and meditation when I slip into that “closet” to spend time with God. I am one who works at home and I sometimes get out of my house just to have my special “meeting time” with God. Being totally cut off from the phone ringing, the kettle boiling or the sight of laundry crying out to be folded, makes a big difference in the quality of time I spend with God. If you haven’t done so, try doing it at least once a week, and you might discover the awesome wonders it can do to your spiritual life!
That is the reason why we have the Sabbath. God had told us to rest on the seventh day of the week, or any day at least once in a week. Even ministers in certain denominations get a Sabbatical Leave every seventh year that they are in service. Usually they would go on holiday to a secluded and quiet place or attend school in another country but with a very light academic load. I believe we do get spiritual refreshment when we respect the Sabbath rest God had ordained for us. He is the one who made us, so, we better follow the Manufacturer’s operating instructions!
Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Leviticus 23:3 “ ‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.’ “
All Scripture references are from the 1984 New International Version, unless otherwise specified. Emphases in bold letters are mine.