Impediments to Joy
This is the fruit of joy, part 4. We were looking at the impediments to joy in our daily walk. A second obstacle to experiencing joy on a continual basis is when we are unduly proud. I am not saying that we should not take pride in our work. For example, if you build cabinetry or sell insurance, one can take pride in the fact that he or she does a good job.
But what we are speaking about here is when it becomes a carnal thing. That happens when we neglect to acknowledge God as the source and reason for our success. He gave us the talents and wherewithal in the first place, so that we could do a good job.
This puffy pride of self is the arm of the flesh at work. Seven times in the Old Testament and twice in the New, we find the phrase “rejoice in the Lord.” In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul makes it clear that we will either do one or the other: we will either place confidence in the flesh, in the works of our own hands, or we will rejoice in what the Lord has done through us.
Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
So we see in that passage how that when we place confidence in the works of our own hands, that is failing to rejoice in the Lord. This is a sin in itself, but it can be the main cause of why we are not experiencing continuous joy in our life.
It seemed that Jesus was also applying this principle to ministry because you remember when He sent out the seventy disciples to get some practical experience in casting out demons and healing the sick. Pay attention to the joy words in this passage.
Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
So it appears that Jesus was not discouraging joy per se, but He was warning them about what the basis of their joy was. They were not to rejoice in the success of their ministry, as in, “See that? We can dispatch those evil spirits.”
Success in a ministry can come and go, but our names are written in heaven for all eternity. And if we think we had anything to do with that, then we again are failing to give the credit where it is due.
Our names are written in heaven because God first chose us. Whenever we “got saved,” it is because we were fulfilling the script that God had written for us before we were even born. All the credit goes to God. Now, just as a sidebar of interest, let’s continue into the next verse.
This principle is applicable even if you are not in full-time ministry work. Because if you are a Christian, you are, in fact, in full-time ministry work. Whether you work at an office, a factory, a farm or family-rearing, your manner of life is always on display to someone. Non-believers will form much of their opinion of Christianity based upon how you and I walk the walk.
Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes:
Question: who was Jesus calling babes here? Not to their faces, of course, but in his private discussion with the Father. The seventy, right? That is something to ponder. Consider that these are the people who have been closest to the Savior throughout His ministry and they are mere babes. Thinking about that should keep any of us from getting puffed up with spiritual pride, shouldn’t it?
Now, there are two more obstacles or impediments to experiencing continuous joy in our life, and these two are very closely related because both of them have to do with our response when bad things happen to us.
The two obstacles to joy are chastenings and trials. Both involve our suffering, but here is the chief difference between the two. Chastening is when God brings suffering in order to discipline us for sin in our lives, to correct our behavior, or to change our attitudes of the heart.
Trials, on the other hand, are designed by God in order to grow our faith, not to deal with sin in our lives. Both trials and discipline are painful and both are for our ultimate good. For that reason we have cause to rejoice through our trials and chastenings.
In the book of Revelation, the risen Savior was speaking to the church at Laodicea when He told them, and it applies to all believers—
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Now look, brothers and sisters, the topic of this portion of the lecture is joy, and so I do not want to misteach anything so that the result of my teaching is that you leave here with heavy hearts and drooping heads and negative feelings about your suffering.
I know that we all share this in common: that when bad things happen in our life—whether it is you or a loved one who is seriously wounded or terminally ill, or if it’s financial problems, marital problems, in-law problems, children problems, parent problems, work problems—whatever the bad things are that are happening in your life, I know that we all have the tendency to think that God is beating us up for sin of one sort or another. And then we beat ourselves up with guilt and self-pity because we messed up, and we brought it upon ourselves.
What is the purpose of guilt? It is the means by which the Holy Spirit brings awareness of sin to our consciousness. But when we have confessed the sin, there should be no more guilt about it, because that guilt has served its purpose.
In my own experiences , I have come to see that feeling sorry for ourselves is never productive, it is never positive, it is never helpful in pulling out of depression or a low spiritual state. What self-pity is, is self-ish-ness to an extreme degree.
Read the epistles of Paul. Though he recounts on several occasions the many perils and physical beatings and so forth that he underwent, not once do we ever detect self-pity from Paul. Instead, how does Paul refer to his sufferings? As cause for rejoicing!
And so, because we all suffer pain of various sorts, mental-emotional, physical, etc., I do not want any of us to leave this study with self-pity and guilt. If you tend to self-pity, rebuke it, refuse to give it space in your mind.
Ask Father for the grace to turn your mind towards Him instead, and as for guilt, if you have it, deal with it by confessing the sin, and then ever after, tell that negative side in your mind, that it has no place because the sin has been confessed and you have accepted Father’s forgiveness.
By so doing, we are fulfilling Paul’s encouragement to believers in 1 Corinthians 11where, in the context of preparations for commemorating the Lord’s supper, Paul says this:
1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Allow me to elucidate that passage. Paul is saying that if we want to avoid chastening which is discipline and correction from the Lord, then we should correct ourselves. It is a totally logical thing. Think about it in terms of your own family.
If you have a child who has a habit of stealing—even if it is no more serious than taking cookies without mommy’s permission, it is going to set up bad patterns for life. Therefore, a parent wants to correct that bad behavior pattern as soon as possible. Therefore, you punish the child in an appropriate manner in order to teach him or her the ways of righteousness.
But if the child took it upon him or herself to judge himself, as Paul encourages, meaning that the child decides on his own to never steal cookies again, then he avoids the chastening and corrective discipline by the parent. (To be continued.)