This month and next, we will be wrapping up our series on Private Worship: The Key to Joy. I pray the Lord has used these articles to encourage you and provide you with practical steps to experiencing His joy through worship.
Joy is said to take possession of our whole man. And this joy is what gives us the strength and the fortitude to withstand whatever circumstances the Lord may allow into our lives. (Nehemiah 8:10) As Paul expresses it, "I am exceedingly joyful in all [my] tribulation." (2 Corinthians 7:4) What Paul is saying here is that he is so full of joy from being in the Lord's presence that it doesn't matter what his circumstances are. This is an astounding statement in light of the horrific trials and problems that Paul faced. If he can find joy in the midst of his circumstances, we certainly can do the same!
"Worship" is the key to this kind of joy, simply because worship is the key to the Lord's presence. Psalm 16:11 tells us that: "in Thy presence is fullness of joy and at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
Remember Mary and how she lay before the Lord, continually washing and bathing His feet with her tears? Mary was worshiping the Lord from the depth of her being, totally consumed in her love for Him and overwhelmed by the inner joy she was experiencing. She wasn't aware of anything else at that moment because Jesus was her complete focus. She was one with her Lord and full of His joy.
Jesus tells us in John 15:10-11 that, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in My Love even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His Love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you and that your joy may be full [or complete]." Jesus had perfect joy because He always did the Father's will and was in constant communion with Him. Consequently, as we do the Father's will (surrender, love and worship Him) and as we commune with Him, our joy will also be complete.
Isaiah 56:7 confirms this, "Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."
Restoring the Joy of our Salvation
Now, there is a type of joy that occurs when we first become believers and it's wonderful and it does last for awhile. But, once our circumstances become more difficult, this type of joy often disappears. The kind of joy that we've been talking about throughout this series of articles - the joy of our salvation - does not come from our circumstances, our emotions or even others' actions, but is a gift directly from the Lord. This type of unspeakable joy comes only as a result of being before Him in worship. (Psalm 9:14; 21:1) And, thus, this type of joy will not diminish if our circumstances take a turn for the worse.
Let me give you an example: Three years ago, the Lord prompted us to expand our ministry and establish The King's Place, which is the local outreach of The King's High Way Ministries. The King's Place is a Christian crisis center focusing on teaching, discipling and encouraging those in any sort of trouble; i.e., marriage struggles, drug abuse problems, alcoholism, etc.
We found a little house in downtown Coeur d'Alene that was absolutely perfect. It had great visibility (on a busy downtown street), wonderful access (you could walk everywhere) and yet was homey enough and comfortable enough not to be intimidating. We didn't want to minister to hurting people in a cold and impersonal business office. We wanted a safe, home environment. The little house we found was just perfect and we knew it was God's choice. So, we moved in - computers, desks, phones, etc.
There was, however, one small problem. The property needed to be rezoned: it still was zoned "residential" and needed to be changed to "commercial," in order that we might have classes and sell the King's High Way materials. "No problem," we were told. Properties across the street, at the other end of our block and right behind us were already zoned commercial. So, we thought, no problem! It's a shoe-in!
The Planning Commission turned us down 6 to 0! We were absolutely shocked! We couldn't believe it! Nobody could believe it. It meant we had to move again.
I went home that night, fell on my face and began to worship the Lord, pouring my heart out before Him. What happened next was unbelievable. I could not contain the joy that began to flow from my being. I have never experienced anything like it. Here it was, one of the worst days of my life, and yet I am overflowing with joy. It was absolutely supernatural! It reminded me of Paul's words, "I am exceedingly joyful in all my tribulation." (2 Corinthians 7:4) God began to speak to my heart that this was our ministry home and that I was not to worry. He had "other things" in mind besides "zone changes." He wanted to use this difficult situation to change many hearts.
And this is exactly what happened. We made another modified application, then watched in utter amazement as many people at City Hall became acquainted with our ministry and touched by God's Love. Several even commented, "We're rooting for you and we hope you win this time." Our neighbors, who didn't know who we were the first time we applied for a zone change, all began to call us by our first names and allowed us into their hearts to pray for their personal circumstances. The gentleman who stood up at the first meeting and spoke so vehemently and defiantly against us, began to call us regularly. His wife and I even went to lunch together and they allowed us the privilege of comforting them when they lost their first grandchild to cancer.
Our non-believing landlord was absolutely stupefied as he watched God perform miracles in the situation. One night he commented to me, "Boy, it's not how I would have tackled the problem (he was angry and wanted to get even with everyone involved), but, man," he said, "it's certainly a much better way!" He even let us give him a Bible and began to listen to audio tapes of the same. The architect, whom we had hired for the remodeling job, was absolutely amazed at how things began to work out.
The next time we went up before the Planning Commission, we were approved 6 to 0. Ten people stood up and spoke on our behalf; our "defiant" neighbor who had spoken against us the first time, simply said he had now "changed his mind" and wanted The King's Place. Another gentleman who spoke on our behalf flew all the way from New Zealand to do so! You could see the men and women on the Planning Commission panel soften, change, and then actually become excited about our vision. It was an absolute miracle!
Earlier that day, we had been told by a friend that the mayor "didn't think we had a chance!"
With God, however, "all things are possible"!
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God always has much bigger things in mind than our little "circumstances." And even though His ways of accomplishing His will in our lives are not always our ways, His ways are always much better.
This kind of supernatural joy does not come from our circumstances, our emotions or others' actions, but is purely a gift from the Lord - it's the joy of our salvation. 1 Peter 1:8 expresses it perfectly: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Joy Instead of Mourning
Worshiping the Lord on a daily basis does not preclude our having more trials and temptations, but actually necessitates it. In other words, experiencing deeper consecration requires even more refining. Our crown is only gained through the cross. Therefore, the Lord will treat us just like He did Jesus. First, Jesus was visibly and audibly approved of, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17); then, after that glorious beginning, He was led into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights where He was tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1-2; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
Moses is another example of one who was first exalted, and then abased. Moses was with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights on that spectacular mountain (Exodus 3), experiencing things that no other human being has ever seen or touched. But after that incredible encounter, he too sustained horrific attacks through Pharaoh and others. And then there was Elijah, who also witnessed miraculous events from the Lord, but shortly afterwards holed himself up in a cave and experienced terrifying things. And, of course, there are many others in Scripture who underwent the same kind of pattern - Jonah, Abraham, Jacob, David, Paul, etc.
Thus, there seems to be a close connection between being initially crowned with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy at His presence, followed by torment and accusation by the enemy.
According to the Bible, then, sorrow often is the means by which God enlarges our capacity for joy. In other words, God uses persecution to enhance our happiness.
John 16:20-22 validates this, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." See also 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; Acts 5:41; Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 8:2; James 1:2.
When at the depths of a trial, if we can respond in such a way that the situation pushes us into God's presence, then we can expect to experience the joy of the Lord in spite of our circumstances. Faith choices (choices we make by faith, not feelings) to worship the Lord in the midst of our difficulties will bring us that unspeakable joy.
Path to Victory
The pattern is clear: first, we are approved of by God; then we are tempted by many trials and tribulations; and finally, we receive our crown. If we know how to enter the Lord's presence and worship Him in the midst of our suffering, then we will receive His "beauty for [our] ashes" and His "oil of joy instead of [our] mourning." (Isaiah 61:3)
Now more than ever before, however, we need to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of others. God's Word promises us that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us but will be at our right hand, helping us through any circumstance and bringing us to victory. If we really believe this, then we must show others by our joy and by our actions that it is true. Our only responsibility is to trust the Lord enough during our difficult times that we continue to worship and adore Him.
Then, regardless of what is going on in our lives, He will align our feelings with our faith choices and make His presence known by filling us with His joy. (Psalm 71) This experience is what will give us the hope that He still cares and that He is intimately concerned about every single detail of our lives. Thus, like Paul, I desire (I'm not there yet), but I do desire to be "exceedingly joyful in all my tribulation."
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