Robert Murray McCheyne said, ‘The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus.’
In these posts, I want to share some reflections on joy and where, as Christians, we can find our joy.
Finding joy in God’s presence (Part 2)
15th February 2021
I remember sitting outside a mud hut in an orphanage in South Sudan with one of the Mama’s whose role it was to look after a dorm full of children. She had been widowed herself in very difficult circumstances and had been left destitute. Her role in the orphanage was as much a rescue for her as it was for the children she cared for. There were a group of children around us and she gathered them to pray. And as I sat and listened to Mama pray, her words were full of incredible joy. I found myself at one point, opening my eyes and looking around at mud huts, outside toilets, and kids toys made from old tyres and bottles (the conditions in the orphanage were better than the average family experienced in South Sudan) and sensing this incredible disconnect between the joy-filled prayers of this woman of faith and the situation that surrounded us.
Yet, that is the point isn’t it? Her joy was not based on the circumstances around her but in the God who had rescued her, forgiven her, provided for her, and loved her.
Her prayer was a living example of what Paul wrote to the church in Rome,
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Every Christian has hope in Christ. At the start of his letter, Peter says that every follower of Jesus is born again to a living hope. A hope that is rooted in our salvation, which has been achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. A hope that is certain. A hope that promises that all who are in Christ are forgiven and brought into eternal relationship with God. Our hope is based completely on Jesus for He is the one who has defeated sin and death and He is the one who has secured for us a place in heaven.
And in this hope we rejoice. Our joy comes from believing and holding onto this hope, which often requires great patience in difficult times. John Piper describes prayer as "God’s appointed means to awaken or sustain hope”
So as we pray, the hope we have in Jesus and the faith we have in all that He has accomplished comes to the fore, and joy rises within us because we are reminded that we are united to the one who has overcome this world, who is victorious over sin and death, and who has an iron-clad grip on His people.
Prayer that leads to joy
We see this very practically in verses that we have considered in previous weeks,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:4-6)
Paul’s command to Christians is to rejoice in the Lord always. And, as I said before, anxiety is often the enemy of joy. But Paul does not stop when he says, ‘do not be anxious about anything’ but continues to show us the healing balm for our anxieties and the route to return to joy – ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’
For, as Paul says, the Lord is at hand (v5). Whether we are facing good moments, or whether it is a hard day with the children, or things seem to be falling apart at work, or life just feels full of disagreements, worries, and uncertainties. We can rejoice always because in any moment of any day, we can call out to the Lord who is at hand. He isn’t far off, He isn’t disinterested, He isn’t too busy. He is at hand.
There is joy in the knowledge that anytime, anywhere, and in any circumstance, we can call out to the maker of heaven and earth and He hears us. And the process of bringing our requests before God and filling our prayers with thanksgiving causes our anxieties to flee and the joy of the Lord to return.
The reason I experienced the disconnect when Mama was praying was because I opened my eyes! I saw the surroundings while all she was seeing was the hope she has in Jesus.
Next week - 'Joy in His eternal presence'