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.
Enduring With Joy
15th March 2021
The great BB hymn that I was brought up singing, ‘Will Your Anchor Hold’ asks three questions,
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear?
Will your anchor hold in the floods of death?
Storms in life, fears, mortality. Three experiences of life that I am sure we can all identify with. Three experiences of life that are common for everyone – believer and unbeliever. But even though these are universal experiences, the Bible says we can face them in a unique way because we belong to Jesus.
The chorus says,
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
Our anchor is Jesus and he is the one who keeps us, he is the one who holds onto us - like an anchor firmly attached to the rock protecting the ship from the ferocious waves – Jesus does not let go of us through the wildest storms that we face.
The second line shows us the effect of Jesus holding onto us – we remain steadfast in the face of the storm. The fruit of this unfailing ability of Jesus to keep his sheep is that we endure through the trials.
At first it can seem odd that the Bible places joy and suffering together so often. But when we realise that Jesus’ power to keep us is most powerfully displayed while we suffer, then it is little wonder that in suffering, we experience joy. A joy in the unfailing power of Jesus to keep you and me. A joy that there is no trial or storm or fear that will separate us from Jesus. James writes,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
James points us to the fruit of our trials – steadfastness. It is in the face of trials that our faith is tested and the result that we look for is steadfastness. Sometimes people can become discouraged because they feel like they haven’t hit the mark when they’ve gone through a difficult time. But what we can fail to realise is that the fact we’ve come through the trial and we’re still a follower of Jesus is cause for celebration – not a celebration in our achievement but in Christ’s for he is the one who has faithfully held unto us.
The fruit of our testing is seen in the fact that through the trial, we have continued to trust in Jesus. And therefore, we have joy because it proves that Jesus is holding onto us and no trial will tear us from Him.
Safely Kept Forever
I was speaking to a Pastor-friend a few weeks back who said that often within the church we can be so focused on the here and now that we fail to teach that the Christian life is marked by endurance. I think he’s right. After all, the decision we first made to follow Jesus is proved genuine in our daily endurance by the power of Jesus throughout our lives.
And this is where assurance comes from. We are assured of our salvation by the fact that we keep on trusting in Jesus. We are assured of our place in eternity because the unfailing power of Jesus is keeping us and enabling us to endure through every trial and difficulty.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11)
It is a very good prayer to pray for one another. But do you see how Paul says this works? God’s power enables us to endure with patience and joy. And we can be assured that his power will not fail because he has first chosen us to share in his kingdom.
Sometimes finding joy as we endure the trials can be difficult – it can be almost impossible if we’re seeking to endure alone. As we endure, we need brothers and sisters who will remind us of what God has brought us through before; who will testify to what God has brought them through. That is what we see the writer of the letter to the Hebrews doing,
Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:32-36) NLT
The hymn ends with this verse,
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past forevermore?
It's another question. For the believer, the answer is yes! We will anchor safe by the heavenly shore because we have Jesus who keeps our soul. He keeps us steadfast through life's storms. He keeps us grounded in His love. He keeps us until that day when life's storms are passed and we enter into glory.
Next week - 'Suffering for the name'