Introduction (repeated in parts 1-4)
The portion of the Church (those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives) that currently exists in the industrial nations such as the U.S., Canada, France and other parts of Europe, has become a dysfunctional, mere shadow of the first century Church. Over the past few months, the Lord has taken me on a “Tour” of sick and dying denominational churches where, in my opinion, there is either open rebellion, or a subtle form of what I will call a “beguiling” rebellion against His direct and delegated authority and where there is also open denial of His power. When I say, “beguiling”, I mean that, although the individuals in the church are sincere and honest Christians, yet they have been deceived by the tempter (Satan), just like Eve herself was deceived when she partook of the forbidden fruit.
Would Eve have described her act of rebellion as “rebellious”? No. But just as Eve rebelled in partaking of the forbidden fruit, so, too, do I believe that churches in the West are also rebelling against what God has ordained for his church. Thus it is, that, based on the word of God, I can say that, even though churches may be sincere, and even walking in the light to a certain extent, yet there is much rebellion going on, whether open or not. Simply put, the church in the west, to a large extent, is currently in rebellion, but so deceived is she, that there are not many that would care to admit this fact, or take ownership of it, or realize that they themselves are in fact, in rebellion. This has led to a huge and devastating darkness that has now covered our lands, to the extent that many churches now proclaim “light” as “darkness” and “darkness” as “light”. This is deception. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
God has shown me the darkness and sickness in His children and how they are handing their families and their inheritance over to the enemy (Satan) in ever-increasing numbers. He has also shown me four important steps that will lead the Church back into His authority, into His power and into the light.
Understanding the Difference Between Worldly Happiness and God-Given Joy – Step 4
Confusion on the part of Christians about the difference between God-given joy and worldly happiness has allowed Satan to throw the wet blanket on the fire that should be burning in the Church. God’s word tells us in 1 John 2:15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Worldly happiness comes as a result of happenings and satisfying the cravings of the flesh via worldly pleasure. No discussion, end of story. On the other hand, true joy is a pure gift from God to His children. Our joy can vary from full joy as in John 15:11 “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full,” to unspeakable joy as in 1 Peter 1:8 “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.”
Never forget that our flesh and spirit are at constant war with one another and that our flesh is always at enmity with God. That war between the spirit and the flesh is never more apparent than when the flesh seeks thrills and happiness through worldly, pleasurable circumstances. Do I mean to say that you should never go to Disney Land? Well, to be honest, you might well want to avoid Disney Land, but then again, I am not here to judge you if you should decide to go to Disney Land. Whether you go to Disney Land or not is not between me and you, it is between you and the Lord. And there may well be a reason why a spiritually minded person may want to go to Disney Land. I will let you decide on that, and whatever you decide, you will have to face the Lord on that one. However, the person who indulges in worldly pleasure and whose character is of the Disney Land type – that is, it is buried somewhere deep within his Spirit that he requires this type of entertainment on an ongoing, continual, basis – this man or woman, I think, should be seriously asking themselves whether or not their hearts are properly inclined towards the Lord. Let me reiterate. Attend Disney Land. But be careful that you are not caught up in the Disney Land way of thinking! Yes, you can separate the two, even as Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. But remember his purposes were always higher than “thrills and pleasures”.
May I honestly ask you a question? Could you just as easily live without Disney Land, without videos, without big screen TVs without steak every night, without an expensive boat or even an expensive car or even an expensive house? Could you live like the apostle Paul and be content with what you have? Did you say “yes”? But if you did, you will likely be tested to see if your “yes” is really a “yes” indeed. It is hard really to know if we can be content without all of these things. How do I know? Because even the apostle Paul said he learned to be content (emphasis on the word, “learned”). “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) And now you understand why you suffer sometimes. It is not always because you are sinful, or have done wrong. But rather, God is grooming you, and wooing you away from having to be content with the things of this world. When you have learned to be entirely content without them, perhaps God may even restore your fortunes, for it is in learning to do without and still be happy that we truly learn to have plenty and be happy as well. Or, to put it another way, if your happiness depends on your worldly pleasures, you have not yet learned happiness, my friend!
The things we do to satisfy our flesh, to attain that momentary rush of happiness, always glorify Satan, not God. Because of that, they always drive us further away from our Father. Since worldly happiness is rooted in worldly situations, things and pleasure, it is easily controlled and manipulated by the enemy and can be taken away in an instant. True joy, on the other hand, cannot be controlled by the enemy or his representatives. It is totally independent of our circumstances and other people. Why? Because we have learned to do without! That is what all the hardships are so often all about! Have you learned the lesson yet? Have you, like Paul, learned to be content in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? I hope so! Only then can you move on to real effectiveness for God’s kingdom. Only then can God use you with authority. And let me be perfectly honest with you about it. It is only then, really, that God can trust you. For God will not trust a person whose joy in this life is dependent upon worldly pleasures. Is the reason for our suffering beginning to make more sense to you now? Rejoice! You are not suffering without a reason! But God is indeed on your side in the midst of it, and has your best intentions at heart! Christian, the best thing you can do is to learn to give him praise and rejoice in all circumstances! It was not when all was well that the apostle Paul wrote the words, “Rejoice, and again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). No, but rather, it was when he was in jail. And this was no highly decked out Western jail, either!
When a child of God is filled with His joy, they shine like a beacon in the darkness. Receiving God’s joy creates a desire for more joy and a CLOSER relationship with the Father. When we are drawn closer and closer to Him, His love is obvious in us and we feel it and we show it. Our joy can be shared with other people. Our joy is the light that shines within us that differentiates us from the lost and draws them to us. It is that quality in a person that is so hard to articulate or explain yet is so real. When we pour ourselves and our emotions out to God in worship, He returns them as pure joy. The Church in the west, it appears, for the most part has lost its joy and desperately needs it back. This may cause you to recoil somewhat, but may I suggest that there may indeed be a connection between the amount of suffering in the west and the amount of joy that the church is displaying. Ouch! I just hit a funny bone. But both Scripture and history bears this out. Thus who suffer the most are the most joyful. It is paradoxical, in a way, but entirely true. The saddest people are, in fact, the rich, and particularly those who have not learned to suffer.
Do you seek to have true joy? All you have to do is ask. But don’t be surprised if suffering comes your way, as well. The Bible says that suffering and being “glorified” together with Christ are, in fact, inseparably linked. For Paul wrote, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:17-18) Thus, if you are serious about your walk with Christ, be prepared to suffer. But, alas, it is only for a “short while” (or a vapor, as James would put it). Our life here on this earth is indeed short! Are you willing to suffer just a “little” so that you might inherit eternal riches and be part of those that God calls “faithful”? Oh, how I would that both you and I both would become ever so much more consecrated and willing to suffer before him. It would remove fear, and it would lead to much more accomplishment in the kingdom of God. Remember, this life is short. But eternity is, well, for all eternity! Do not worry about the sufferings of this life. Set your heart on God, and he will surely reward you. You will have true joy and peace.
If we love the Lord and we tell Him so, He will fill us with joy. When a sufficient number of His children figure that out, we will see Isaiah 35:10 fulfilled in the Church: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Dear Christian friend, learn the lessons that God is trying to teach you as you live your life, and by all means, don’t forsake continuing to praise him in all circumstances. No one said it was going to be easy, and I certainly don’t know the circumstances that you are going through. But be aware of this, God is greater than your circumstances, and will make a way where there is no way. Please, don’t forget to praise him in the midst of it!
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:4-5)
You are reading the last in a four part series.