One of the fun parts of social media is sharing the joys that friends experience. Recently, one of my friends got married. I shared her joy as she posted about the engagement. Then, they went to Rwanda to hold a traditional Rwandan engagement ceremony. (I met her through volunteering to work with Africa New Life.) Then came the wedding here in the United States, with all the pictures. You could see the joy on my friend’s face throughout the process. People share the joy from weddings, from the births of babies and, at my age a lot of friends are posting about grandbabies, from accomplishments in school and sports. I saw a lot of pictures from a recent chess tournament as players celebrated their victories. Some have noted that when you share the joy you’re experiencing, the joy is doubled.
We get joy out of so many different things in life. We talk about joy a lot during the Christmas season, and some people get so caught up in it that they’re already talking about Christmas. (OK, folks, the Christmas season doesn’t start until the Friday AFTER Thanksgiving. Experience the joy of giving thanks in the meanwhile.) Some have noted that JOY makes a great acronym if you think about it as Jesus, Others, Yourself. True joy happens when you put Jesus first in your life. True joy continues when you think about others before you think about yourself. And while we’re supposed to be selfless as we think about others, we do see that God takes care of us. We all want the joy that comes from God, or do we? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
Don’t you hate it when God redefines concepts? If you’re like me, you want to talk with God and let Him know that He doesn’t quite understand the concept of “joy” if we’re supposed to consider it “pure joy” when we face trials because of our faith. But, as we think about it, because that statement is so jarring to our natural beliefs, it keeps coming to mind, we are known more by our enemies than our friends. I allow practically anyone to “friend” me on Facebook, hoping that the gospel message I share might draw them to Jesus Christ. You might see some strange friends on my list; but, if someone were to spend time attacking everything I wrote, the nature of the attacker would tell you more about me than the nature of my friends. When evil people attack us because of our faith, we’re to consider it “pure joy” because that means we are living our faith correctly and we are making an impact on the lives of other people.
If you really think about what it means to follow Christ, it means that you develop a mindset that isn’t controlled by the desires of this world. We aren’t too good for the economy, because we don’t believe in things. We don’t do worldly things like seek revenge or put other people down to make ourselves look better. At least we shouldn’t. The problem with a godly mindset is that it is so opposed to the mindset of people in the world that those who are deep in the desires of the world begin seeing us as enemies. Perhaps they see us as enemies because our lives are so different as a result of our relationship with God that they can’t understand us. (I sure hope that’s true in my life!) Perhaps they see us as enemies because they see us as a threat to their way of life. Whatever the situation may be, if we are living lives that honor God and we face trials, we need to rejoice. We rejoice not because of the trials themselves, but because those trials help us grow and develop perseverance. The smaller trials prepare us for even harder trials in the future – but always take joy in remaining faithful in the face of trials.
Lord, I don’t really want to take joy in trials – I wish they wouldn’t come. But if trials prove my faith, thank You!