The Joy of the Lord
"Thou art worthy, o Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they were and are created." Revelation 4:11The meaning of all things is bound up in creation, and it is God's joy. This is why we read five times (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21 and 25) that God looked at what He had created, and He found it good. when He had finished all His work of creation, He looked at all of it and found it "very good" (Genesis 1:81).
Now we human beings are uniquely created by God in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26, 28). Therefore as originally created before the fall, and when restored in Christ, we would have joy in all things just as God has. What pleases Him would please us. We would love God's righteousness and law, and hate unrighteousness and lawlessness. Remnants of this original creation joy are ours even now: we have joy in lovely flowers, beautiful scenery, harmonious music, painting, architecture and other human artistic creativity, the strength, energy, beauty, and affection of animals, and many other joys too numerous to mention. As the great Christian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "Beauty will save the world." This is because beauty reflects our Creator Himself Who is shining forth "out of Zion, the perfection of beauty" (Psalm 50:2).
We also still harbor a sense of right or wrong in our hearts and feel pain as abnormal, a thing to be banished or avoided, an evil. If we did not, militant unbelievers and Satan who inspires them could not use the existence of evil and pain as a "problem" to attack God and believers. Satan and unbelievers express the "problem of pain" thus: "If God were all powerful and all good, He would not allow pain to exist. But pain exists. Therefore God is either not all powerful or not all good, or else He does not exist."
Now Satan furiously hates God, us, and our joy. He cannot defeat God, and so he seeks to defeat and destroy us who are created in God's image. He knows God's purpose in creation is God's joy and our joy in and from God, and so he seeks first of all and by all means to blot out that joy. To accomplish this goal he seeks to replace love with lust, peace with war, order with disorder, design with chaos, beauty with ugliness, music with dissonance and noise. Lust, war, disorder, chaos, ugliness, dissonance and noise can never give joy. Satan perverts love of one's country by chauvinism, destroys nations with their national identities created by God by international or "multicultural" empires, and so on. Then he blames God for the "problem of pain" he himself causes, and adds as the final insult to God that because there is pain, God does not exist or else is too remote, hidden and unfeeling to care about His creatures. Satan deceives men into believing that creation did not happen, and that this present world of pain and trouble is all there is and becomes whatever it is at a particular time through eons of atheistic blind, haphazard, materialistic or pantheistic "upward" purposeful, spiritualistic evolution. Atheism and pantheism are mercy the two sides of Satan's counterfeit coin.
It is true that pain and evil are a "problem" for God in the sense that they are abnormal in the world He created. In addition, not only does God care about His creatures, He bears their pain with them: "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old" (Isaiah 63:9). "Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 58:4). awe have not a high priest [Jesus Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Moreover, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, saw from before creation, from all eternity, that man would fall in Eden, and all the untold trouble and pain mans fall would entail, including His own only Son's innocent blood on the cross as the only way possible to redeem mankind. Yet "for the joy set before Him" - His joy and His Father's, for He and the Father are one - Christ bore the agony, shame and death of Calvary, for "it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the captain of their [men's] salvation perfect through suffering" in His Father's good and perfect will (Hebrews 2:10). Along with the cross, the pain, the shame and death God also saw (or foresaw in advance, to speak in human terms, though to God all things are present in His eternal Now), the glory which was to follow. Yes, pain and death are abnormal within the eternal purpose of God, which was, is, and will be His joy (and the creation's in Him, Romans 8:20-28), and which neither Satan nor his demons nor any creature can thwart. Our glad Creator (the name is George MacDonald's) will have His good heart's desire fulfilled at last; "the sufferings of this present time [His and ours] are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:54). Pain and evil are abnormal in God's creation, hence never tolerated, never accepted as a means to accomplish good, and destined for destruction.
On the other hand, pain and evil are normal in Satan's godless world of evolution; in fact, they are evolutionary mechanisms to destroy the "unfit." Because they are normal there, the only way to escape them, as Gautama Buddha saw and stated best, is to escape the world itself (perhaps after endless reincarnations) into nothingness (Nirvana). Without God the Creator, it is joy that is lost and defeated in principle and in the end. How beautiful and liberating in contrast is the Gospel of Christ speaking of God the Creator's love and gift of eternal life and joy with Him in His world restored to its original perfection!
No, the meaning, purpose, and end of creation is not nothingness as the deliverer from pain and evil. It is God's joy, our joy, the joy of the whole creation (Romans 8:21), and Jesus Christ is the Deliverer, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Many Scriptures confirm this, such as Zephaniah 3:17: "The LORD your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save; He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Or see Isaiah 62:4-5 where God tells His people, `You will be called Hephzibah ["my delight is in her"] and your land Beulah ["married"]... as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." See Matthew 25:21, 23 (after the Parable of the Talents): "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."
We learn how to enter into His joy by our loving, faithful service here and now. Our joy here and now is from Him: "The joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). His joy is the strength of His people even in the midst of pain and trouble. I was drawn to the God and Christ of the Bible by the deep and genuine joy in tribulation of my father. He was crippled in World War I, stopped from working in his profession for twelve years under the Nazis because his wife, my mother, was born Jewish, and his eyesight gradually deteriorated. Yet he was always joyful, and daily read his Bible, saying this book and its Lord gave him his joy; and I could not gainsay it. The other person whose constant joy and kindness in the midst of trouble impressed me was Miss Thalheimer, a woman crippled by arthritis living near me in a big rooming house. When I asked her how she could always be so cheerful, she pointed to a picture of Jesus and said, "He does it!" Eventually, after nearly twenty years of wandering through the desert of godless atheistic and pantheistic philosophy, I recognized that it had no answer to pain, evil and the meaning of life itself, except nothingness by way of suicide. Then I sought to know this God of my father and Miss Thalheimer, the true and living God `Who gives joy and peace of heart in tribulation and knows our very thoughts, and He answered me. He Himself and His joy has been my strength ever since, through the rebellion of a son, the untimely death of a loving husband, the death of our seventh child by miscarriage, the birth of our eighth child with Downs' Syndrome, the tragic breakup of a dear daughter's marriage, and lesser assorted troubles we all face almost daily In honor of our loving and caring heavenly Father I add that my Downs' Syndrome daughter, whose birth I had considered the worst and most feared trial that might ever befall me, has become one of my greatest blessings and is a joy to all who know her because unfeigned love and joy - His love and joy - simply shine out of her She also often prays with tears for others, and we know of at least one dear brother who came to the Lord through her Truly this particular "problem of pain" is overcome and eclipsed by His joy!
His joy has been there from eternity: "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love... according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephes. 1:4ff). It will last through eternity for Him and us: "And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes ... Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:4-5). His people "shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures" (Psalm 36:8).
I repeat, the joy is His joy! His joy in us is the answer to Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper: "These things have I spoken that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). "I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves" (John 17:13). Jesus Himself endured the cross "for the joy set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2). Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). One of our Lord's very names is "Joy"; when He brings back the captivity of His people and cleanses them, He says, "And it shall be to me a name of joy" (Jeremiah 33:9). His joy is our joy: "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. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:2-3). "The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD" (Isaiah 29:19).
How do we share His joy and draw others to Him? Again, His joy is our strength, and He draws others to Himself through us. Christopher Dawson, a fine Christian historian, has written that "A Christian has only to be in order to change the world, for in that act of being, there is contained all the mystery of supernatural life."
We must not fake joy, for others will notice, and though pain is overcome by our Lord's joy, it is real, just as the cross was real: "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2). We must not give others false joy or comfort, that is, joy or comfort which would compromise His joy and will and therefore not be true, lasting, pure joy at all: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10). We must "speak the truth in love" (Ephes. 4:15).
We must not base our human relationships on our "rights," but on humility in Christ: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8). Remember our Lord washing His disciples' feet the evening of Gethsemane. 1 Peter 5:1-5 reminds us that we all should be "clothed with humility."
Our very greatest witness can well be our joy, that is, His joy in us in tribulation: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:5). We are looking forward to joy in eternity in His presence: "You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11; Act 2:28). His joy is our joy, shines out to others, and is the meaning of everything, to be fulfilled through all eternity What, then, is the good news we proclaim to our fellow men in word and our lives moment by moment? It is based upon creation: God made us in His own image and likeness and wanted us for His joy - which is our joy too - forever.
But sadly we all have chosen to go our own way and seek our own joy by our own selves apart from Him. This is sin, and it is deadly for us, for true joy can only come from Him. Our choice led to pain, heartbreak, sickness and death; without God our Creator, we are lost. If we do not repent, that is, turn from our own ways and to Him, we will stay lost forever.
But God loves us and did not want us to stay lost; so He sent Jesus, His only Son, to come to earth as a man. Jesus agreed and died on a cross to pay for our sins, that is, to redeem us with His blood from Satan to whom we had sold ourselves by our choice of self apart from God.. Because Jesus Christ was God, He arose from the dead, and He has the power to give us His life and resurrect us. We must receive His life. We must say Yes to God and No to our own selfish, suicidal ways.
You can talk to God and tell Him you are sorry for having turned your back on Him, and want to please Him from now on. Thank Him and Jesus for His love and faithfulness even while you left Him, be sad for having made Him sad by leaving Him. Bring gladness to your heavenly Father's heart, and mean to do so moment by moment from now on. You too were created in His image and likeness. You too were paid for by Christ. You too are created and meant for His and your eternal joy. Acknowledge to Him with all His people of all generations in all sincerity of your heart and will: "Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they were and are created."
Walk with Him faithfully moment by moment, step by step; He
will faithfully guide you, open up your way before you (Proverbs 4:12),
be with you and in you every moment, bear you in His arms across the
deepest chasms and roughest waters, and share your distress. Now as
you turn to Him and walk with Him, then as you enter His new heaven
and earth, He opens the door of His presence and His joy: "Well done,
thou good and faithful servant: enter into the joy of thy Lord."