Written by: Ezekiel Asis
James 1:2 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
According to James, sufferings for Christians are inevitable. It seems ironic that our supposed response to trials is to face it with joy yet the verse is written as an imperative! I agree with John Piper that, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” The glory of God is the joy of true believers. This is Christian joy in a nutshell. I love this truth! I will defend it with all my might! In our reflection, we must ask, “Am I a joyful Christian?”, “Do I exercise Christian joy?”
We love to hear the old catechism declaring that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to fully enjoy him forever. But do we fight and stand by it? In reality, we are all devastated. Believers and non-believers alike. We are broken and ruined because of sin! Anxiety brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, pornography addiction, divided churches, broken families – the list goes on. These are just some manifestations that exhibit the difficulty in fighting for joy while we are still in this sinful humanity. How then do we fight for joy? We find the fundamental answer by looking at the person of Christ.
In Isaiah 53:3, Christ is described as a “man of sorrows”. John Murray explains that His passive obedience (suffering on the cross) is a “perpetual” passive obedience until His exaltation. Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. In Matthew 26:38, we read, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’” In Luke 22:44, “And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Christ, throughout His life on earth, lived as a man of sorrows, culminating in His death on the cross.
Because Christ was a man of sufferings, He is more than able to help us in our own trials. Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Christ is our great High Priest! He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Dear Christian, Jesus Christ is mighty to help and sympathize with your sufferings. This truth should motivate us to fight for joy!
However, we must note that Jesus is not just a man of sorrows. He also is a man of joy! In fact, Christ’s motivation in His active (perfect obedience to the law of God) and passive obedience is the joy that was set before Him! This is pointed by Hebrews 12:2, “Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The letter to the Hebrews (often attributed to be written by Paul) encouraged Hebrew Christians to persevere in the midst of their sufferings. Some of which are the threat of apostasy (Hebrews 5:11 to 6:1-12) and the temptation to go back to the Old Covenant ceremonials. That is why the main theme is the sufficiency and the superiority of the Person of Christ. The author is encouraging them to run with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) and to look unto Jesus, the foundation of our perseverance in our fight for joy. Stuart Olyott gives importance to having a better sight of Christ as it is “the antidote to every spiritual illness”.
Fighting for joy is not an easy task because we are living in a world that is corrupted by sin. On a personal level, we also look at our own remaining sins. Hence, the Lord, in His grace, has given us the community of believers. We are not alone in this fight! Ultimately, we have Christ. John Owen, in his exposition of Hebrews 12, said, that we can find refreshment from all our troubles in Jesus alone, “nor shall we endure any longer than whilst the eye of our faith is fixed on him”. Fighting for joy is looking unto Jesus. Consider Him.
One of my favorite missionaries is David Brainerd. He suffered from tuberculosis and died at the young age of 29. In spite of this, his short life is characterized by a constant fight for joy. He wrote in his diary, “When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!”
We must fight for joy even in the midst our sufferings! Look to the superlative beauty of Christ!
1. Piper, John. 1986. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Multnomah Books.
2. Olyott, Stuart. 2011. I Wish Someone Would Explain Hebrews to Me!. Banner of Truth UK.
3. Bounds, Edward M. 1975. The Weapon of Prayer. Baker Book House.