Trials Magnify to us the Joy of Knowing Jesus (i.e. We Love Him More)
The writer of Hebrews writes to people who have gone through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Listen carefully to his description.
“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:32-34 ESV)
These Christians went through some terrible experiences. Public humiliation. Imprisonment. Think today of Christians living in Sudan or how Iraqis must feel as ISIS advances on their village or town. How could you be joyful when people are going into your house and taking away everything of value? This is not a happy thing for us, but for them it was?
On one level, of course not. Nobody chooses this. How could they have joy in a trial like this? “Since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” What possession did these Christians have that so trumped the loss of other possessions that losing them actually caused them joy? Their possession is the same possession of every genuine Christian. They had Jesus and eternal life through him. In their soulish estimation, that possession was so wonderful that the taking of their worldly possessions actually gave them joy because it highlighted the value of having Christ. Their joy in Jesus was magnified by the loss. By the trial. By the persecution. The loss of the temporal actually increased their joy in the eternal.
If you had tickets to the Super Bowl, but they were in the last row of the stadium, behind a pillar, next to a drunk, and someone came to you and said, “I’m giving you front row tickets but to do so I have to take your back row tickets,” how upset would you be at losing the back row tickets? Not at all. In fact, losing them would make you feel better about having the front row tickets. During the game you look back to the top row seat which you lost and you say, “Yes!”
What are trials? They generally involve losing something. I lose my job. I lose my health. I lose a relationship with someone I love. I lose my security or my identity. Trials involve life taking something from us. What does it feel like? It feels like pain. Physical. Emotional. It hurts.
For the Christian, where does joy come from? In heaven, it’s seeing and savoring Christ forever. On earth? It’s the same. Trials cloud our view or distract us or discourage us. Our focus is on our loss—it’s on back row Super Bowl tickets we no longer have.
Here’s the key. God often takes lesser possessions from us so we cherish having the eternal ones. The extent to which we cherish Christ above all things in this life is the extent to which we will have joy inexpressible and full of glory now. Trials clarify like nothing else where our real value lies.
Here is the beauty of Christian joy. Since it is found in Jesus, circumstances here shouldn’t take it away. This is not either/or, it is both/and. We can experience sorrow and joy. We can experience grief and joy. We can experience pain and joy. We can even experience death and see that death as gain (Philippians 1:21) because after death I get more of Jesus, the source of my hope and joy.
When I think of key points of pain in my life, in nearly every case, I have come from that trial more aware that this world is disappointing and more appreciative of what I have in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have a sense of peace because at least for a time, my heart is purified and my desires for the Lord are heightened.
How about you? Christian, are you in a trial right now? Pain. Threat of loss. Wondering why? Can pain and joy coexist in your soul? It can if your joy isn’t in the hope of getting rid of your pain but in a Savior who entered into our pain and died for it. Joy in Jesus, in the words of the old preacher, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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