A certain woman in our church is known for her sunny, joyful disposition. Several years ago she came into my office and shared some devastating news with me. As she spoke, she was amazingly composed and the sweetness in her spirit caught me totally off guard. When we finished our conversation, she asked me sincerely, “May I pray for you?”
This dear saint started out by telling me some shattering news and then finished by praying for me! I was amazed at her joy despite some very painful circumstances in her life.
The kind of joy this woman had was normal for the New Testament church and it should be normal for us, too. Should we be depressed that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave? Should we lament the knowledge that one day we’re going to be with the Lord forever? Should the fact that our name is written in the Book of Life make us sad? No, of course not! Those things should give us great joy!
Peter wrote: “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8, emphasis added). Does an “inexpressible and glorious joy” describe your church or mine? It should.
Paul’s epistle to Rome is his great theological document regarding justification by faith and other weighty doctrinal matters. Yet toward the end of his letter, the apostle declares that the kingdom of God isn’t essentially about doctrinal positions such as Calvinism or Arminianism. And it isn’t about who is right in the pre- or post-tribulation rapture debate. Paul said that the kingdom of God is a matter of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, emphasis added).
The apostle Paul was describing a life of joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. That is how important joy is; it makes us distinctive as followers of Jesus Christ.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.