By Francis Frangipane
God’s desire is for us to possess a thankful, rejoicing heart. To some, such a goal seems like an unscalable mountain, yet this is exactly what the Lord desires to give us.
Our problem is that we are focused on our problems. We enter our day with our countenance darkened by the gloom of unbelief. We wonder why the non-Christians don’t run to give their lives to Christ. Perhaps the obstacle is not what exists in their hearts, but what is in our own. Yes, we accepted Christ as Savior and gave Him our sins, but have truly given Him our lives?
Our gloom belies our trust in God the Lord desires to rescue us from gloomy, unbelieving attitudes. He wants us to cancel our plans to be miserable and submit ourselves into His loving, wonderful hands. This is why I’m fighting for the best life you could possibly have. I’m fighting powers of darkness, so you experience the fullness of joy.
Why So Sad?
Even in a world where spiritual darkness is increasing, the Lord plans something different for us. In fact, He orders us, “Arise, shine; for your light has come.” He tells us that His literal glory, which is now abiding within us, will “appear upon” us. The result? “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).
What does it mean? What we see of God’s glory is the outraying manifestation of His presence. But His radiance is actually the unveiling of His goodness. Consider: when Moses asked to see the Lord’s glory, the Lord responded, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you . . . I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Ex. 33:18-19).
So, God’s glory is His unfathomable goodness. When Scripture says, “the glory of the LORD will rise upon you,” it is actually saying the GOODNESS of the Lord will be seen upon you. In other words, in contrast to the uncared for world under judgment, you will be seen as one chosen to reveal how good God is!
God’s goodness, like a morning dawn rising at the end of a night, is increasingly going to be manifest upon us at the end of this age. With all my heart I believe we are entering days where both the visible radiance of God’s glory and the overwhelming effect of His goodness will manifest in the true church. We’ll see more of the good things of God: more of His healings, more of His miracles, more of His provisions and more of the power of His love. These won’t be isolated elements or events, but a stream of wonders that will cause the world to marvel at the Lord’s goodness upon His people.
Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Why should we rejoice? For “the Lord is near.” (Phil 4:4-5). He’s not talking about the second coming; the Lord is near now in our spirits. He’s saying that you’re not isolated from God. Rather, God is at hand. He goes on with the very familiar recipe for gaining God’s peace:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God (listen to this), which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
Paul describes the peace of God as surpassing all comprehension. Then the apostle writes in Eph. 3:19 that “the love of Christ surpasses knowledge.” Do you understand that? The enveloping presence of God surpasses your mind’s analytical powers to figure out the world around you. See, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the all the answers if you truly have God and can trust Him! The peace and love of God transcend and surpass the realm of the mind.
People may ask, “Why are you so happy especially given your difficult circumstances?” You respond: “I can’t tell you why, I just know, in spite of my battle, I’m fully loved by God. He’s in charge of me and my future.” 1 Pet. 1:8 says, “…you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible…” Add it up and see how much we have: peace beyond comprehension, love beyond knowledge and joy beyond our ability to express and articulate.
There is a spiritual realm of joy, peace and love we can abide in that’s far more wonderful and expansive than the tiny realm of our analytical thought life. Probably ninety percent of our battles exist in our minds. I am not saying we shouldn’t think or consider things, but if we are not simultaneously living in the spiritual realm of joy, love and peace, our fight is filled with futility. God wants to coax us out of these tiny realms and bring us into the realm of His full presence where His joy, love and peace abound.
Cursed or Christlike?
God had many blessings planned for Israel, but He also warned that curses awaited them if they embraced sinful attitudes of life. In the summary thought of Deuteronomy 28, the Lord explains, “So all these curses shall come on you . . . because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies” (Deut. 28:45-48).
Listen carefully: They weren’t cursed only because they disobeyed God, but also because they did not serve God with joy and a glad heart. If I ask my kids to do something and, though they do it, they murmur and complain, it is offensive. You see, obeying with a complaining attitude is not obeying, its complaining.
We must make the choice to rejoice. Too many of us are cynics. Cynicism, contrary to popular opinion, is not a gift of the Holy Spirit. A cynic is a habitual doubter. He is nearly always negative, expecting the worst, and probing for the worst when there is nothing negative is visible on the surface. Ultimately, a cynic will always discover something that confirms their expectations.
I am saying that God is good, and even when things are not good, He works them for our good. If you believe this is true, your faith in God will relieve you from a host of dark and dangerous attitudes. God is Who He says He is. Even if we don’t know all the details along the way, we trust that He is good.
He Who is perfect can make something wonderful come out of what was just average or even misguided. That’s where my peace comes from: God’s abilities and His goodness. This is where the peace beyond comprehension comes from; here is the source of the love that surpasses knowledge. God Himself is the reason for my inexpressible joy!
“. . .all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).
Not only is Christ the agency of creation, but in Him “all things hold together.” Now listen: Just as the Lord holds creation together, so He can hold our lives together as well. Maybe you don’t know what to do next. How are the bills going to be paid? What will the future look like? Maybe your emotions are stretched and strained, and you don’t know what to do next. You can’t hold it together, but God can. Trust Him. He’ll hold it together. He’ll keep you right in the center of His love.
I Will Rejoice!
Paul is in a jail when he writes the church in Phillippi. The prison he was in was horrific, and he had done nothing to warrant being there. Yet, when he writes he uses the words “joy, rejoicing or glad” over a dozen times. Consider: he has every reason to be miserable, yet he makes the choice to rejoice. He says, “. . . Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice” (Phil 1:18).
My heart tells me that Paul’s declaration wasn’t directed to the readers as much as to those forces of darkness that had stolen his freedom, his comforts – everything, but his heart for God. It was as though he were telling them, “Look, you took much, but you are not going to get my joy!”
If the enemy can take your joy, he’ll also take your strength. Soon, you’ll find yourself struggling with sin, not because you were evil, but because when you lost your joy, you lost your ability to resist the enemy. “For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10).
Paul couldn’t have know his letter would become part of the Bible. He’s just writing to fellow Christians. But when you trust God, focus on God, and magnify the greatness of God, then even your time in jail can be sanctified and used to glorify the Almighty.