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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Unpolluted Joy

“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 1:2-4 NIV

 If you lived in or near a city in the 50’s you probably remember uncontrolled pollution. Factories spewed out rolling billows of black smoke from their smokestacks. Semi trucks, cars, and buses collectively spilled out exhaust fumes as they traveled down the road. I remember my husband saying that as a child he used to like to hang his head out of the car window and smell the exhaust fumes from the diesel buses that passed by. He always has been a little weird! In those days people rolled down their car windows and threw their trash along the roadside. Streams and lakes were dumping grounds. Year after year our world was becoming more and more polluted. Looking back I see that we have made amazing progress in cleaning up much of our world. At times we may even forget what the pollution of the past looked like.
Our world is not the only thing that can become polluted. Our minds and our hearts can also become full of filthy sin, nasty attitudes, and selfish motives all robbing us of pure joy. As believers we are told to consider the trials that enter our life as pure joy. To me and you that may seem a little sadistic. Who in their right mind is happy about problems? Who looks forward to the next disaster about to happen? Who doesn’t cringe in the face of unwanted adversity?
As believers we may put on the mask of pretend joy because we know that is what we are supposed to do. But the real truth may be that even though we are smiling on the outside, deep within we are a basket case, a train about to derail, or a bomb about to explode. The mask of deceptive joy says the right words but feels very different emotions. On the other hand, pure joy understands that life is not always perfect and in this world sin thrives. At times we are overcome with sadness and we know that which concerns us might not end well. The fact is our emotions are raw.  The heavenly truth is that God will see us through to the end of our earthly trials. We know that at the end of life’s dark tunnel, even in the worse case scenarios, we will experience eternal life in heaven. That is the source of our joy. Jesus experienced this very thing when facing the cross. He knew that here on this earth things would not end well. But he fixed his eyes on the Father and doing the Father’s will. Jesus’ joy came from knowing that the Father was accomplishing great things for mankind though his obedient work of perseverance and total surrender.
When we experience pure unpolluted joy we understand a heavenly secret. We trust God. We know that God will use this bump in the road, this heartache, this pain in our life, or our loss for our eternal good. The Bible tells us that in this life we will have trouble. We will experience trails of many kinds and if we are wise we will prepare for these times.
So today I am wondering how can I prepare for these difficult times. First of all I must believe that the Bible is true. God’s Word teaches all of us that it is because of God’s great love for us that he allows trials to come into our life. We must remind our self often, that if we belong to God, he has each one of us on a path that leads to heaven. Along the road of life God is perfecting us and we are a life long work in progress. Our holy sanctification is brought about as God uses the tools of trials to perfect us for glory. Very simply, our trials test both our faith in God and our faithfulness to God. Only a Father of love would want to make us the best we could possibly be. Our trials are designed to develop perseverance. Trials can also provide an opportunity to strengthen our resolve to be a person who is determined to trust God and seek the power of the Holy Spirit to help us overcome our trials.
Of course, we can always choose to curse God or become bitter and angry when we are involved in a difficult situation, facing a huge challenge, or experiencing the darkness of loss. We can give up on God. But the wonderful thing is God does not give up on us! As long as we live we will encounter more and more opportunities to both need God and to trust God. Because we live in a fallen world we will always face trials. However, God will continue to use these opportunities to pursue us by using the trials that come into our life for our eternal good. God loves it when our response to our trials is divine joy that is grounded in our heavenly hope, because this glorifies him!
We must persevere! We must learn to overcome life’s trials because God’s Word tells us that perseverance must finish its work. When we choose to believe that God is able to mature us in the midst of our trial God begins to work in our life. If our thinking is based on our emotions we will never understand how this can be true. But when we choose to trust God beyond our emotions we will miraculously understand that God is using our trial as a tool to test our faith and for that we can experience pure, unpolluted joy in our soul. This inward joy and peace is not to be confused with outward happiness. When we understand this difference we will begin to see our trials through our Father’s eyes not our eyes. God has promised us that we will be mature, complete, and lacking in nothing by the time we meet him face to face if we choose to persevere. “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 1:2-4 NIV
I must be aware of the fact that fear, bitterness and self-pity are the tools that Satan will use to keep me from embracing joy. Perseverance is watching and waiting to see what God will do with my pain. Sooner or later God will reveal to me what he was doing in my life during my time of suffering. In this life we may never understand because our minds cannot comprehend the workings of our Creator. But without a doubt, God will reveal it all to me in heaven and I will finally understand the unanswered questions of my life.
So today, here in the garden of my heart I am staring at a prickly cactus. These needles are a reminder to me of the pain in my life and in the lives of others I know. It is so typical that even among the needles of trails God cushions all of our lives with blessings. This beautiful blooming cactus sings of pure joy and so today I choose to do the same. My joy is not for what is but for what will be because of his great love for me. It is a love that draws me to my maker and Savior. It is a love that is bent on making me the best I can be. Some days, even in the midst of pain, I just have to wonder, God, why are you so good to me? Why would you even care about the trials in my life? Why do you try so hard to make me into your image? I realize that it is simply because I am his precious child and he loves me with an everlasting love.
It is often really hard for me to see how God is using my pain and suffering. Yet, if I choose to praise God who both gives and takes away, others will notice. I must never forget that others are being affected and influenced by my response to God in the midst of my trials. When I cannot see God’s work in my life I must look at someone else, who I consider to be dealing with adversity in a godly way. I must look at the people in my life who are positive believers who have chosen to overcome their trial by trusting our Sovereign God.  They all wear T-shirts that say, “He gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!” It is another joyful day in the garden as I realize that in all things God IS good!

  1. Have you ever experienced pure joy?
  2. Have you allowed your joy to become polluted?
  3. What is the remedy for this pollution?
  4. How does it make you feel to know that God loves you so much that he allows trials into your life?
  5. Do you find joy in knowing that your trials are calling you to hang in there so that perseverance can finish its work?
  6. What is God’s goal for you?
Dear God,
How amazed I am that you are perfect in every way. You are lacking in nothing. You are good. I on the other hand need work. Living in a sinful world has given me many occasions for trials. I pray that you will help me hang in there and trust you to use my trials for my good and your glory. God, I pray with all my heart that things will end well, but if they don’t, I will still choose to trust you.  I know you don’t expect me to rejoice in my trials and sorrow because that is not the definition of pure joy. Pure joy is based on heavenly hope that is waiting for us within the gates of heaven. God I am so glad that you do not expect me to find joy in the tragedy, pain, suffering, tears and challenges of this life. I know that your goal for me is not a perfect life now. Your goal is that I will be like you in heaven. It is this knowledge and hope that fills me with your pure joy. God, I love you and I thank you that you are finishing the work you began in me the day I began to follow you. Father, I pray that you will mature me and complete me so that I will be found lacking in nothing. I am amazed that you love me this much! Help me to face my trials with pure joy. I pray that others will be blessed and encouraged by my life as I choose day by day to respond to you as I consider my trials as joy.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen