LENT: JOY

I️ know…yes, I️ know…I️ hear you. It’s too early in the Lent season to talk about JOY. It needs to wait until the end. It is the goal. The end. The grand finale. When Jesus is raised from the grave it results in an inexpressible, exuberant, uncontainable JOY. YES, of course, it does (or at least it should).

But then it dawned on me, we need to fight for JOY now.

JOY is part of our here and now.

And yet, so many of us as believers have lost that loving feeling. I️ mean, seriously, what is wrong with us? We hang our heads low. Dwell in sadness. Engulf depression. Feel the attack of the enemy. We have handed the keys of victory of the present time to our foe. In doing so, we forget who we are and why we’re here on earth for this brief time. (And no judgment here…I’m guilty too. That’s why I️ desperately need this message today). 

We indeed live in a fallen world. It is also true that Satan has been given authority over this world for the time being (Luke 4:5-7). “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19)”. But we so readily forget that the ultimate authority belongs to God. He has sovereign control. He ultimately determines the outcome.

All Satan’s power is by permission. He has no autonomy to do anything God does not permit for infinitely wise purposes.” John Piper

The battle against our JOY.

When we understand this truth, we begin to comprehend that the battle of life is against our joy. Our present-day contentment and happiness are fought on the battlefield. Satan has come “to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Why, of course, he has. It all begins to make sense now.

The disappointments. The battles. The frustrations. The tears.

The brokenness. The heartache. The sadness…and fears.

Satan comes to wear us down, for when we are weary, we look to counterfeit JOY. And unfortunately, counterfeit JOY is cheap and available and found at the local convenience store.

It comes in pretty packaging and looks enticing at first glance. We feel like we need it. A must-have. The perfect romance.

But before we know it, we feel dissatisfied. So we numb the pain. With a bottle. A quick fix. A shopping spree. Dark chocolate. Or Netflix for hours till our eyelids fall shut.

Whoever you are…it’s inescapable. We all have a deep, deep, ache from within that longs to be joyful. Philosophers for centuries have described it as a sense of satisfaction. It is a longing that groans from our soul to be filled to the brim.

Some consent that this longing can never be filled, and ever so slowly, give up over time. They try every urging and pursue every dream…only to find that the feeling eventually flees. The contentment of JOY seems aloof and far off. Like winning the lottery or having a beer with the guys. Unfortunately, for most, JOY doesn’t stick or stay around. We get slapped in the face with the counterfeit kind.

Finding true JOY.

But the Psalmist David wrote of true JOY…

My heart leaps for joy Psalm 28:7

You have put more joy in my heart Psalm 4:7

And it is here that I️ have to confess…I️ don’t know the last time that I’ve lept. Have my feet left the floor? Do I️ truly jump for joy? Have I️ completely, utterly, abandoned this kind of soul contentment?

Jesus tells us, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).” Why then, why then…are we so, so, so sad?

Oh, this precious gift of a thing we call JOY. We all want it, yet avoid it, because we feel the tension in the room. As believers, we know that we should exude JOY that is incomprehensible. But yet, deep down, we familiarly know that we’ve allowed counterfeit JOY a place at the table.

It Takes Faith to Believe.

So maybe it’s time we confront the elephant in the room. Let’s admit that we want JOY but are a bit afraid of it. How can we exude JOY yet live in the here and now? I’ll tell you how…we have to start living it. We have to start living like Jesus really was raised from the dead. Take our eyes off the present, and press on ahead. Turn our attention heavenward, and press on dear saints. Press on. Press on. JOY is attainable, but it takes faith to believe it.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 1 Peter 1:8

Prayer: Oh dear Jesus, we come humbly before you today to confess our fallenness. We are so tempted by our present that we forget about our eternal future. Help us to fix our gaze on you and be filled with inexpressible JOY! You have made it possible. In you, we choose JOY. Amen.