If everything goes right, if our needs are met, our desires are fulfilled then we are happy and thankful, and we smile and praise and call this the joy of the Lord. Is it a blessing to smile and be happy and be thnakful when we get what we want? Sure. It is a good thing. But is it the joy of the Lord?
In the US, even when we have luxuries, and fulfilled needs, and peace and safety, we often are disconent, and unthankful and miserable and greedy. This is below the status quo of good-naturedness, but atleast those a little more right with God, know how to be happy with the blessings they have, BUT the Apostles went beyond both of these American-style saints and smiled and praised in jail with stripes on their backs. Were they HAPPY that their backs stung? Of course not! Were they glad when GOOD things happened to them, physically speaking, I'm sure they were-BUT did the stripes upon their backs stop them from loudly singing songs of praise in a dungeon at midnight? Nope.
WHy is this relevant for us today? Because, perhaps we are all headed for suffering, persecution? Depression? Hard to say. But even if we do not, certainly we will ALL face personal suffering, we will lose loved ones, many will face cancer :( friendships will be lost, loved ones will let ya down, old age will steal your strength-suffering comes upon everyone....it is sadly shallow that so many religious people are looking for a God to make sure they never have a flat tire, always pay their bills on time, prosper, prosper prosper.....does God not do good things for us? Yes, He does! I don't know about you, but I've had a pretty good and happy life! So, NO God is NOT vindictive or nasty or unkind or unmerciful-But just because God is so wonderful and kind to us does not mean we should look to Him as nothing more than a servant and/or benefactor. Is God here for us or are we here for Him? Hmm.
Could it be then, that as earthquakes and hunger and war and persecution are unleashed upon the world-that our fellowship with Christ will become deeper, sweeter and less shallow? Could this all be a wake-up call? The only way to get our attention off of our selfish selves? Could this profound wake-up call be the only thing to shake us out of our apathy and callasedness?
The Bible says the joy of the LORD is our strength! God doesn't want us to be miserable. But what we are selling as joy is nothin more than a cheap, shallow emotional high that doesn't even come close to be the joy of the Lord!
The joy of the Lord gave Nehemiah and his men the courage to build the walls of Jerusalem with one hand and defend Jerusalem with a sword in their hands with the other!
The Joy of the Lord gave David the strength to write Psalms ad praise God and be obedient, even while the King who he loved and served was trying to kill him!
The Joy of the Lord helped Corrie Ten Boom to survive in a nazi prison camp and come out of it forgiving others and praising God
The joy of the Lord helped George Mueller live with nothing but a cot and a few books and feel like the richest man on earth!
The joy of the Lord helped the martyrs to sing hymns and shout for joy WHILE being burned at the stake!
The joy of the Lord is NOT a short burst of satisfaction that you get when you buy something at the store, or install a new pool or hot-tub. It is so much more! It is so much better! WE THINK that God's allowing us to suffer financially is downrght judgment, but perhaps in truth, God is going to bless us by removing our idols? Help us Lord! Turn us to You! Amen.