Friday, September 5, 2008

enjoying God (7) how can I know my joy is real?

Surely you can fake joy! How can I know the joy I feel is real?

Here's a few safeguards:

1. True joy is joy in the gospel.
If we trust in Jesus' death, and live for him, we can be 100% certain of living joyfully with God for all eternity (see 2W2L). Now there's good reason for joy!

Lots of religions promise joy in God. But Jesus doesn't give us the option of looking elsewhere. He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).

2. True joy is joy in God's truth in the Bible.
In my experience, there's nothing to compare with the joy of getting to know God in his Word. "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps. 119:103).

We don't find God by emptying our minds and meeting God in the silence. Yes, God is beyond our understanding, and there will be times when this may leave us wordless. But joy in God begins with God's revealed truth about himself.

3. True joy is joy in God and his glory.
When I was a teenager, my Christian friend and I used to compare our "experiences" of God when we prayed. Until one day I realised it wasn't an experience of joy I was seeking: it was God himself.

In one sense, we don't seek joy at all. We seek Jesus, and in him we find our highest joy, for he is the desire and delight of all believers. We gladly become nothing, that he may be all in all.

4. True joy is joy in sacrificial obedience.
Jesus calls us to give up all we value to follow him. This is a sacrifice we delight to make, for in Jesus we have found a treasure beyond compare (Phil. 3:8).

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, "Seek for happiness and you will never find it, seek righteousness and you will discover you are happy – it will be there without your knowing it, without your seeking it" (Matt. 5:6).

5. True joy is joy in suffering.
The health and wealth gospel promises joy, but it can't cope with sorrow. Only a joy robust enough to respond to suffering will last a lifetime. We follow Jesus, who "for the joy set before him endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2).

John Piper, the great teacher on joy, says his aim is not to soften cushions, but to sustain sacrifice: "The joy I write to awaken is the sustaining strength of mercy, missions, and martyrdom". Amen.

Quote is from John Piper's When I Don't Desire God p.19; images are from stock.xchng.

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