Joy of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

God Fills Us With Joy

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Children are Chosen

God has chosen His children.  He has predestined that all men should be drawn to His Son since Jesus was crucified.  The true children have heard, and will hear, the message of the Gospel with joy, and it will manifest itself with power through the Holy Spirit in the deep conviction that comes with the witness of the Holy Spirit about all things that are true. Truth is no longer an abstract concept relegated to relativism, but is now the embodiment of the Son of God who has declared:

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Holy Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and power of the word of the Living God as the word penetrates into the hearts of all who listen.  God’s word will not go void;  everywhere it is heard, His word will have effect upon all who hear it.  The soil of our hearts is being plowed by the difficulties of life and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of times, the Holy Spirit of God is able to soften the hardest of hearts in the emotional pain of suffering and loss.  God has said through His servant Paul that we are predestined to be His children.  We merely need to respond to the message.

Severe Suffering

We know that we are His children because we have responded to His word, and it has grown in us through the hardship of life.  Paul reiterates that when we become imitators of him, we are being imitators of the one who sent him.  Hardship and suffering produce perseverance,  which produces character, which then produces hope – a fully justified expectation of completion of what has been promised.

When we are tried through the crucible of suffering, our faith is tested, and it grows.  Those who do not have a deep faith in the solid rock of Christ will find that whatever they have placed their faith in will be eroded by the crashing waves of hardship and suffering, just as sand is swept away by the outgoing tide.  The sand erodes, and exposes the fragility of the foundation upon which the building was laid.  But upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, no hardship or suffering can prevail.  For it is within Christ that we have our joy. and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Justified Joy

The Holy Spirit testifies of the Son of God, and fills us with joy as we cling tightly to the author and perfecter of our faith.  And a peace that transcends understanding fills our heart.  We may not understand why, but we know that our joy is justified, well-placed, and authentic.  Nothing and no one can take that joy from us except that we take our eyes off of the one who beautiful gaze is the sole object of our affection:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. – Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

It is in the light of His glory and grace that we find our peace and our joy.  In these desperate and wicked times, turn to the author and perfecter of your faith, and witness the joy and peace that transcends understanding as He fills your heart with Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the joy of the Lord to fill me up during my duress?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, glory and power be to You who are exalted above all.  Praise be to You in all things, for You are all in all, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  Thank You for bringing me joy through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit as I walk in Your ways.  Give me a heart of thanksgiving and joy as I contemplate the magnitude of all that You have wrought.  Tune my heart to Yours, and help me to endure the trials that are and that are to come.  Prepare me for the great and terrible day of the return of Your son.  Help my life to be a witness to the love, grace, and mercy that You extend to all people in the hopes of reconciling everyone to Yourself.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Joshua 14:6-12

Give A Good Report

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Complete Conviction

Caleb was one of only two military-age males that survived the forty-year trek through the desert.  He and Joshua were the only ones to bring back a good report of the land from the twelve spies that were sent forty-five years ago by Moses.  It was the reports of the other ten, and the fear of the hearts of the people, that caused them to wander for forty years in the desert.  Caleb had complete conviction in his heart that God would help them to overcome the inhabitants of the land that God was giving them.

Reputable Report

Caleb gave the report that with the help of God, that the people of Israel could drive out the inhabitants of the land across the Jordan.  Caleb remembered that God had parted the Red Sea and that Pharaoh and his army of chariots were completely destroyed by God when the waters collapsed upon them.  Caleb remembered that God had delivered them from the tenth plague that took the life of the firstborn male of man and cattle during the Passover.  Caleb remembered every time that God had helped His people through the most difficult situations.  It is only remembering what God has done that we can look forward and say that God will do something.

Still Strong

Caleb then declares that, after eighty-five years, he is still strong and able-bodied, and requests that Joshua give him the hill country of the Anakites.  Caleb knows that regardless of his physical age, God is able to provide for him and his family.  Caleb knew that God is not able to go back on His word.  And God had said that the land that his feet tread upon would be his.  Caleb was merely claiming what God had already provided.  It should be noted that he took the most difficult of terrains available, in part because no one else wanted them, and in part because they were the best and most defensible.  Finally, he requested them because God had already given them to him – his feet had tread upon that land.  The other ten had already died.  Caleb had the pick of the land, and he chose the most difficult part of the land.  With great risk can come great reward.  And since God is for you, who can be against you?

Fight the good Fight

In all of this, Caleb was ready to go out and to take what God had promised him.  Caleb was fighting the good fight, not depending upon his strength or ability, but rather upon the strength and ability that God is able to provide.  He was merely going out to get what God had already given him.  Caleb had the eternal perspective that God had, and that gave him the confidence to go and take the most difficult and fortified regions of the land because it was God would be fighting for him and with him.  When we have been given a word from God, we should approach it in the same fashion.  Have a firm conviction in your heart that God will do what He says He will do, and then go and do what God has told you to do, regardless of what your circumstances appear to be.  For if God has said it, it is already done and written in stone.  For no one can change what God has already said will be done.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I claiming through obedience what God has already promised me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to Your servant.  Give me the strength and courage to do all that You have commanded me to do, and to leave the results up to You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient in all that You have revealed to me, and let not my heart faint when giants oppose me.  Rather, help me to be like David and Caleb, that I would remember that You are fighting for me, and have already gone out before me, and let me rush at my enemies that they would know I am not afraid, and that You are the all-powerful Lord God Almighty.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?