Brother M. J. Michaux has favoured us with another article, a refreshing, stimulating one. It will prove a blessing to those who read and heed it.
“My soul shall be joyful in my God” (Is. 61:10)
A Christian without joy is like a bird without wings. It cannot rise from the earth. It becomes a helpless prey to every cat and child that sees him flopping about. The Bible talks of death, tribulation, trials, and persecutions, but not of joyless death, or joyless tribulation, or joyless trials, or joyless persecutions. Rather it speaks of great joy, of exceeding great joy, abundant joy, unspeakable joy, a joy that rises up on wings of hope above sorrow, above death, and above despair.
“I bring you good tidings of great joy,” said the angels to the shepherds as they announced the birth of the Saviour. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. Great joy had come to the earth. The wise men “when they saw the star” two years later “rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” They were wise enough to see that the hope of the world was in that person they were going to seek and to worship.
Peter likewise saw that the end of faith and the salvation of souls were in Him. He said we should “rejoice with joy unspeakable” that such a One had come to earth to dwell among men. He declared that we were wrong to complain, but should rather rejoice that we were permitted to share in Christ’s suffering; knowing that “when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” Also, because Christ will be glad too. His honor will have been satisfied. The world shall see His glory and realize that His suffering, and ours had accomplished that which He pleased, to perfect us and present us with exceeding joy to Himself, a bride without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
This bride whom He loved, and for whom He gave Himself, has the same joy He had in giving. It overflows, like that of the Corinthians, even in deep poverty, with an “abundance of joy,” proving that poverty does not limit, but on the contrary increases, joy.
Joy is that fruit of the spirit which should characterize our walk. It is evidence of the surrender of our lives to the control of His spirit. It says to the flesh, “You shall no longer have dominion over me. I have been freed from being your servant. I have a new master.” But the doubting Christian might ask, “What reason do I have for joy? If you only knew my circumstances you would not say that I had much reason to joy in anything. Joy, to me, is like a ship floundering offshore in a heavy gale, ready to break up on some sharp, coral reef.” That doubting Christian is wrong. We have supernatural
We have an advocate with the Father who controls every gale. The seas He holds in the hollow of His hand. He numbers the sand of the seashore and guides the stars in their courses. He knows our needs, the dangers that surround us. He also knows the enemy of our souls, the accusser of the brethren. None of this is strange to Him. He daily intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. He watches over us night and day. We have only to call on Him and He answers us. He hears the cry of the distressed and the oppressed. “Call upon me and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” With promised help we also have
It is a hope of which we are not ashamed, a hope born of experience through much tribulation and patience. We do not sorrow as some do who have no hope. Our hope is not the substance and tissue of dreams, but the meat and matter of a promise pledged before the world began by God who cannot lie. We “look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Is there another hope offered by the world equal to that of God? Is there another guarantee greater than His guarantee? Can the world say of any hope which it offers that it “purifies, even as He is pure?” When hope flickers and help seems far off, we still have reason for joy, There is an expected
“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” It is clear from these words that the Lord of the storm is also the Lord of the calm. Storms in our soul are calmed. The turmoil is stilled. We are glad for the quietness, the rest promised to the people of God. Jesus Christ has become “pontifex maximus.” He has bridged the troubled waters of life. If we follow Him we come to this desired haven. But we can fail to come into it. We can come short of it. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” For there are some things that destroy the joy in a Christian’s life.
Grumbling and Complaining “When a horse is kicking, he is not pulling,” said Mr. Moody. There is a kind of malicious satisfaction in grumbling and complaining. We like to see others made unhappy, discouraged, and dragged down. At these times a happy person annoys us. But grumbling and complaining are self-destructive. Joy is stifled. It cannot grow up in that fetid, rotten air. Joy breathes a purer air. It is associated with life, not death. Hope, not defeat. “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed,” Asaph said.
“Complaint is like a jagged hole in the bottom of a ship through which salt water rushes, dragging the whole ship down by sheer weight.” “When the people complained, it displeased the Lord … his anger was kindled … and the fire of the Lord burnt among them…” The record of Israel is a pitiful record of a complaining people. God saved them many times because He loved them with an everlasting love, not because Joy was characteristic of their lives.
The Critical Spirit
This defeats joy. If I measure you up to fit my cloth, it disturbs me when you will not put the garment on. But God did not make me your tailor. There is no warrant for it. When I become your tailor I am no longer God’s servants, but rather the servant of sin. How can joy survive in sin? Obviously, it cannot. I am not your judge, but your brother. As your brother my joy increases along with my appreciation of you, for you are precious in God’s sight, and must be in mine.
Unbelief and Doubt
O, if we could only have the spirit of Paul and be able to say with him at the end of a full life, as at the beginning: “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” Unbelief is the sin that so easily bests us. When trial comes, how readily we turn to doubt and unbelief, those twin enemies of joy, those monsters that rule the torture chambers of infidelity. How can we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” or see in you our crown of joy, if we ourselves are full of the bats of doubt and uncertainty and fearfulness? We cannot. We destroy our own child. We snuff out its life. We could paraphrase the Lord’s words in this way: “Joy came to its own, but his own received him not.” Doubt expressed or secretly nurtured is death to all joy.
In His presence is fulness of joy, therefore, to be for one moment out of His presence is something less than fulness. True north to the compass is salvation to the sailor. How can a fish breathe on land, or a bird fly in the sea? No more is joy found anywhere but in His presence. We can test our nearness to Him by the barometer of our joy. It indicates our lowest and highest pressure. It reveals our true state. The weather may be fair outside and all may seem to be well, but inside the true state is measured, whether a storm is approaching, or the present storm has lost its bite. In the shadow of His wings — that is our home — that is where the refuge is, the security and safety and sanctity our souls long for; there is the joy of peace and rest. In His presence. The light of His presence. The shechinah light.
But the heart cries out, “How can I have this joy? Oh, where can I go to learn it? What must I do for this pearl of such great price?” The word of the Lord is adequate. It comes to our rescue. It does not leave us without hope. It tells us what to do.
God always calls us to remember, for He does not change. Because He is the same, His word is the same and His promises are as valid today as when He first spoke them. When Israel sinned He called them to remembrance of His past mercies. When Israel prepared to enter the land of promise Moses reminded them of all the way which the Lord had led them for forty years in the wilderness. So we need to be reminded, first, of the pit from which we were dug. Once we were hellbent, now we are heaven-bound. Once we were full of malice and envy, hating and being hated, now the love of God constrains us. Second, we should remember the pledge he gave us, that none shall be lost, not one. We shall be presented faultless before His presence with exceeding joy. Third, we should remind ourselves of the Person. One without fault, able to deliver, beloved of the Father, redeemer, sanctifier, and perfecter of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ!
We can do all things through Him who gives us strength. How can this unspeakable joy be real to me? Remember the pit from which we are dug, the pledge He gave us, and the peerless nature of the Person who gave that pledge.