JOY of the “cup running over” and circumstance-defying kind!!! The online dictionary “Merriam-Webster.com/definition/joy” defines JOY as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or, by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” Like the JOY of our certain, forever-future with You, Lord! JOY that is certain because of the price You paid, Lord, to give us the Gift only You could give!
How can we possibly experience the priceless emotion of JOY in the midst of trials?
“Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Not just JOY but pure JOY — “pure” in the sense of being good, wholesome, untainted by any self-righteousness or self-advancement.
Consider… when… because… So it isn’t that the trials themselves are sources of great JOY; on the contrary. The trial itself might bring pain of overwhelming magnitude. But the JOY comes from our knowing that the trial will test our faith and produce something of great value: PERSEVERANCE.
The same Merriam-Webster site defines PERSEVERANCE as “the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult.” Are You not the perfect example of this, Lord, at Calvary? And what about Your first disciples? Where would they have been without the priceless gift of perseverance? Surely their path in following You was more difficult than most. Yet their perseverance came after they had betrayed You… after they had fled in fear as You were led off to be tortured and crucified. But somehow, eventually, they got it… and have been amazing generations ever since!
“They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:40b-42)
Today, I learned of a sixteen-year-old sister-in-Christ whose circumstances are giving her every opportunity to “count it pure JOY.” I couldn’t help but flashback to one of my favorite movies: “God’s Not Dead.” Another student / professor showdown? She is a high school student who is “dual enrolled” in the local college in her city. Her faith is being tested big-time… and, by Your Grace, she is standing firm! A press release from the Liberty Counsel (a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life and family) describes the issue in a nutshell:
“[The student] is the subject of religious intolerance by humanities professor [L.R] at Polk State College in Lakeland, Florida. [The student] and her parents reached out to the Liberty Counsel when [Professor L.R.] gave her four straight zeros because she refused to conform to his personal world views of Marxism, Atheism, Feminism and homosexuality… Liberty Counsel asked the dean to investigate the professor and his curriculum.”
Precious Lord… I took the liberty of reading the 62-page attachment to the letter her parents wrote to the dean of this college. I saw the specific questions the professor assigned to the students, and his admonitions about what they could and could not say in their answers. I saw additional material from the professor’s Facebook and website pages, material that demonstrates his bias against religion in general, but against Christianity in particular. I saw her written answers, those submitted to the professor for grading. Her wise, historically accurate, well-thought-out answers that specifically addressed the professor’s concerns without denying You, Lord.
All I can say is… Lord, You must be SO PROUD OF HER!!! (I must say, so am I!!!) I am amazed that a sixteen-year-old would have such a powerful voice for You, Lord… and that she would exercise it so fearlessly!!! How inspiring!!!
PURE JOY… That she would do Your Next Right Thing with such grace?! That the fierce opposition to her, though it could not have felt good, would produce such a RICH HARVEST through her in the lives of many people she will not meet this side of Heaven?! Fellow classmates, other professors, college administrators, community members, anonymous people who will read the testimony on the web… WOWOWOWOWOW!!!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
JOYFULLY Yours, gratefully inspired…