Many of those who call themselves Christians do not live with a thriving, authentic joy. They have not been transformed. Their Christian life does not stand out from their non-Christian life. So what are they missing? They are missing what the Bible calls peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). No matter the trials this life brings, a Christian should have this tranquility.
My wife and I’s music group UNITY (ibelieveinunity.com) sing a song that is dear to our hearts called “You Can’t Steal My Joy” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nY-giXhkdA). Now first we need to distinguish between ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’. The Bible does not promise us happiness all the time. Happiness is fleeting. It comes and it goes based on circumstances sometimes out of our control. True joy is eternal. When we achieve that true joy, nothing can take that from us!
It’s the story of Job. He loses everything – yet he can still praise the Lord! Can you imagine that kind of peace amidst the storm? Many cannot. So the million dollar question is – how does one get to that point?
I believe that true joy, that eternal peace is found when we are at the exact intersection of God’s love and God’s will.
That may sound like a simple statement, but let’s break it down.
Let’s start with God’s love. Yes, as a Christian we know God loves us. That’s basic, it’s foundational. But do we really know what that means? It can take quite a bit of time to actually fully process and understand what God’s love truly means. I think there are two aspects of it that are the most difficult to understand.
The first is that God’s love is unconditional. We may have heard that before, but do we really know what that means? That literally means you can walk out of your house, go rob a bank, come back – and God doesn’t love you any less. We don’t understand that. We, as humans, keep score. God does not. There is NOTHING you can do to make God love you any more or any less. Your sins past, present, and future have been forgiven. Each time you make a mistake Jesus doesn’t have to get back up on the cross. It is finished. That is an immensely difficult position to fully comprehend. We live under grace. We make mistakes, but God still loves us the same. The closest thing we can compare that to is a healthy parent-child relationship. Think of the prodigal son, the father opened his arms in love…and God’s love is much more perfect than that!
The second part of God’s love we need to understand is that God’s love is sufficient. Is God’s love enough for you? If everything else is stripped away… if you lose your job, if you lose your family, if you lose your health… is God’s love sufficient? That is sometimes a hard question to answer. God’s word promises us that He is enough and can carry us through anything, and will never give us more than we can handle as long as we don’t try to handle it on our own. Does that mean that Christians can’t or shouldn’t be depressed, angry, lonely, etc.? No not exactly. Depression starts as a feeling that when unchecked transforms into a prevalent emotional state which when left unchecked still evolves into a clinical issue that at least need professional counseling and/or medication to treat just as any other illness. Anger is not necessarily wrong. Jesus was angry with the religious leaders of his time. Anger becomes wrong when it is manifested incorrectly. Loneliness is another thing. In many instances loneliness is a natural part of the grieving process of losing someone. But just as depression can get out of hand when left unchecked, so can loneliness. God’s love is sufficient, and should cover our loneliness. God will do for us what we can’t, but He won’t do for us what we can. Sometimes He wants us to pick ourselves up and do something about our circumstances. But either way – God’s love is sufficient for all these instances.
Understanding the fullness of God’s love – that it is unconditional and sufficient, although huge steps, are only stage one of obtaining this perfect joy. It can’t be complete until we can also understand God’s will for our life. If we surveyed our churches I am sure a majority of people, if honest, would admit that they don’t know God’s will for their life. As a counselor I’ve seen many people who would say they don’t know their purpose. I love when they say this because I know the answer to that one. The Bible is clear on our purpose and it applies to all of us… we were created to glorify God. That’s it. If you want to know what your purpose is – it is to glorify God in all you do. Now how we do that is another matter altogether.
How do glorify God is what I call our mission. Do you know your mission? We find out what our mission is by exploring what our God-given talents and spiritual gifts are. There are several spiritual gifts tests available online. Take one, take a few and compare. Find out what qualities God has engrained in your character. Once you know that, find ways to put those gifts into action. Perhaps it will be a career path, perhaps it will be volunteer opportunities, perhaps something else altogether. We all have unique talents and gifts. Whatever yours are – use them to glorify God. Some gifts are more obviously ministry-based, and some are more behind-the-scenes service types. All types all needed. The body of Christ has many parts, and all are needed. If the Christian church as a whole does not seem to be moving or working in our world, it is probably because of an overwhelming percentage of Christians who are not engaged in their mission. Find that mission, embrace that purpose, and you will understand God’s will. There is no better feeling than knowing you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and the exact time you are supposed to be doing it. God’s will is perfect.
Now let’s pull it all together! Finding that perfect intersection of God’s love and God’s will is not an easy task. It takes time. It takes work. It takes investigation. It takes questions. It takes patience and perseverance, but the outcome is invaluable. At the intersection of a complete understand of God’s love (grace) and God’s will (works) is where you will find that perfect joy that can’t be stolen from you! I love that half the equation is based on grace and half is based on works. The Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. We are saved by grace, but that is not enough for a healthy Christian life. We need both to be complete. Find your joy!