If I'm being honest with myself, I believe the word "joy" has gotten severely watered-down over the years. Most people probably equate the word with Christmas. Many more most likely put the word equal to happiness. However, when looking at the 2nd to last part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), what does God mean when it comes to joy. We could do what most people do nowadays, and ask Google to define joy. However, our purpose at Perhaps Today is to take an expedition into God's Word, not the internet, therefore we will use God's own words to define the 8th description of the character of His Spirit. To do so, let's take a look at the core verses that are going to springboard us into our investigation.
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
– James 1:2-3
Upon first reading this section of the Bible I was struck by the opening words. “How can one consider all of the trials that life has to offer, pure joy,” I wondered. Perhaps there are some trials that we might be able to grin and bear them. But all trials? Trials of many kinds? That thought goes against the grain of normal human thinking. As it should.
To elaborate: If a cherished loved one of yours passed away, at the same time you lost your job, and at the same time a rare and painful disease overtook your health, is that what you would consider a time of happiness? Probably not, which would immediately overturn the thought that joy and happiness are synonyms of each other. However, even though it might not be a time of happiness, God writes through James that we are to consider it pure joy. Another way to translate that in the Greek would be to say “all joy”. A joy that is unscathed by the trials and rooted in a life-giving foundation. A joy that looks at the trials from a godly perspective instead of a human perspective.
The word “consider” in the original text is a word meaning to reframe your mind. It is a word that can be directly related to a section of Scripture that we have talked about many times before. In the book of Romans, Paul writes,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you can test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
– Romans 12:1-2
It should be abundantly clear now that the reframing of the mind is only possible when first viewing life through the lenses of God’s mercy. Simply put: You must first allow your mind to be governed by the understanding that the wrath of God – which we all deserve because of sin – is not something that a true witness, overcoming believer will receive because of what the Lord Jesus has already done for us, and because of our faith in him. That is why Paul starts with mercy, and then immediately follows it up with offering ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.
If you truly take a moment to consider and understand the mercy of God, how can you not offer yourself to him immediately? What in your past do you want to hold onto that is not holy and pleasing to him? Why would you continue to live in the reminders of anything other than his love and mercy? That would be like holding on to the engagement ring from a failed marriage after getting married to someone new – the true love of your life. If you’re focused on the love of the new marriage, why would you want to hold onto a reminder of the one without that was without true love and ended in pain and heartache?
THE FIELD OF BROKEN CRAYONS
In the book “Coloring Outside the Lines” by Christine Bowen, the author wrote something that has always stuck with me. In her book she said, “Even a broken crayon can color a masterpiece.” What an awesome statement!
As you can see from the final Joy, speed art picture, the ground is littered with broken crayons. The crayons are fragile, in tatters, and snapped in half. There is even a tornado snatching them from the field and devouring them in the dark, looming clouds above. In the picture, these crayons are guaranteed to be destroyed.
These crayons represent you; your physical existence that was born into this world. Your life is fragile, limited in days, and will eventually cease to exist. Because of sin in this life, we are fragile and doomed to die. We’re selfish, self-righteous, judgmental, hypocritical, greedy, violent, sexually immoral, impure, idolaters, hateful, envious, angry, drunkards, and apathetic. The nature within us from the moment of our births leads us stumbling onto that kind of path. Even though we tend to think of ourselves in a high-and-mighty way, we are nothing but broken crayons.
But there is hope.
In understanding the mercy of God, by offering yourself – as broken as you are – to the Lord Jesus and allowing the Spirit of God to govern your heart and mind, you no longer will consider life the way a broken crayon does. You will no longer see the trials as a way to break down your crayon all the more. Instead, you will view the trials through the eyes of the Lord and understand how those trials help sanctify you from the ways of your old life, which was doomed to fall under the weight of God’s judgement. You will therefore persevere and stand up under the weight of the storms. As it says in the book of 1 Peter:
“These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, 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, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
– 1 Peter 1:7-9
His opening word “these” refers to the trials that come. A true believer in Christ will know that the trials come so that their faith may be proved genuine. The cool thing here is that term “proved genuine” is the same word in Greek as the word “testing” from the verses in James where we first began.
What’s the significance of that?
The testing of your faith, which was recorded in James’ letter, is not a testing because God needs to know how faithful you are. That’s foolishness to think. What it does do however, is prove the genuineness of your faith, but not to God. It proves it to the other broken crayons sitting around in the field living a hopeless existence waiting for the storm that will one day take their life.
Notice the artwork for a moment. Some of the crayons are just broken crayons. However, there are some crayons where a life is coming up out of the brokenness. And where there is a new life, there is a butterfly. In this artwork, the butterfly represents a metamorphosis. This represents a life who has given up trying to conform to the pattern of the other broken crayons and has instead chosen to let the Spirit of God transform them by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2). The transformation word is a word of metamorphosis; a changing of the outside because of a change in the nature on the inside. Therefore, what is proven genuine by the testing of your faith, is the resurrection of your life – the new birth into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). And if you are an example that resurrection is true and possible, than it also speaks to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And that, is the purpose of a broken crayon. Bearing witness and giving evidence to the resurrection of Jesus is how you can color a masterpiece.
You can spin your wheels on any other endeavor in this world that you would like: make a ton of money, become high and powerful in your career, do drugs to get high, rely on alcohol to keep you grounded after a tough day, have sex with whoever and whenever you want, go to church, sing in the choir, preach. None of that matters. The only thing that counts in the view of God’s mercy is a person that gives evidence to the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. So, for the religious folks who think going to church, paying their tithe, and being baptized by immersion is the way to God, you are sadly missing the purpose of your life. I’m not saying those things are bad, but what good are they if you follow them up with a life that is identical to all the other broken crayons in the world? The hope of new life is in resurrection. After all, resurrection is everything to a true believer.
As a matter of fact, even unbelievers and atheists no this to be true. I recently started reading a book called “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. In a nutshell, it is the autobiography of an atheist journalist/reporter who set out to investigate the gospel accounts of Jesus to try and debunk it. He knew that he didn’t need to attack any other narrative of the Bible other than the resurrection of Jesus because that is the hope that Christianity hangs onto. If Jesus died and is still dead to this day, we have no hope. To make a long story short, Lee Strobel became a believer and a Christian author. He currently serves as Founding Director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University.
So, how powerful is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It’s life-changing! It’s mind-reframing! It’s the hope that should allow us all to face the storms every day, stand firm, and rejoice in the joy of the Lord!
Don’t try to run back to the old, broken crayon anymore. Stand on the back of the resurrection and soar in the freedom of Christ. This is why Paul started the chapter containing the fruit of the Spirit verses, with this poignant statement:
“For it is freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
– Galatians 5:1
Don’t fool yourself. Your enemy, the devil, does not want you bearing witness to the powerful work of resurrection. He will send the storms as God allows. He will offer temptations. You can either fall to them or turn them into tests that prove the genuineness of your faith. How do you accomplish such a rebuttal of the devil’s schemes? As James writes later in his letter:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
– James 4:7-10
THE PROOF OF RESURRECTION
I often wondered this thought: “Why doesn’t God allow somebody to make a decision to follow Christ in their life, and then pull them out and take them to heaven?” As the question first tickled my mind, I had to admit that it would be nice. Cry out to the Lord, come into belief of who he is, and be taken up to heaven. Ignore all of the other pain and sufferings of this world and be at home, where my heart truly desires to be anyway.
Then I came to the first chapter of the book of Acts and read these words:
“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
– Acts 1:3
Luke, the writer of Acts begins this letter with this interesting statement. I had read this chapter many times before, and yet had blown off the meaning of these words. In the first 2 verses, he mentions that he had already written about all that Jesus began to do and teach. He chronicled from the birth to the resurrection. But in verse 3, he starts by mentioning the suffering that Jesus underwent. However, he doesn’t focus on the suffering itself, but rather what takes place after the suffering. And what did Jesus do? Did he suffer, die, resurrect, and immediately ascend into heaven? No. Just like we don’t come to belief through suffering, die to ourselves, resurrect into new life as a believer, and immediately get taken up to heaven.
I was starting to see a correlation.
The question that remained however, was what did Jesus do between the time of his resurrection and the time he was taken up into heaven? And this is what Luke answers for us. He showed himself to others and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them and spoke about the kingdom of God.
If you claim to be a believer in Jesus, that’s awesome! But if your life cannot provide the convincing proof that the new creation inside of you is no different than the original person you were before Jesus, than I urge you to truly take time today to get your business straight with the Lord. The fruit of the Spirit is all about the character and nature of Christ becoming the character and nature of you. Now, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect. But it does mean that you are not going to burden yourself again with the same yoke of slavery that Jesus already paid the price for. That does mean that you will allow the Spirit of God to govern your heart and mind rather than you trying to take the reigns.
This is where true joy is found. This is how you can rejoice in the sufferings of life.
Maybe you are struggling still as a broken crayon. If so, I implore you to seek Jesus with everything you are. Feel free to reach out through our site and let us know how we can serve you in prayer. This is your life. This is not something to take lightly. The tornado is coming. It’s inevitable. The only way to escape it is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ in you.