The Best for LastJanuary 18, 2018
I began my previous post (November 17) by saying that "Glory in the Face" explains that we can be strengthened to face adversity of every kind—strengthened with the joy of the Lord, and with the peace of God.
I still do believe that that joy and that peace are real. These days, my day-to-day life is again and again confirming it all to me. In this post, added almost exactly two months later (and in a whole new calendar year), let me continue on the same theme.
Throughout the book, a 3-point answer is assembled for one practical question. Here is that question, with the book’s three answers.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO KNOW CHRIST BETTER AND SO BE STRENGTHENED TO FACE ANYTHING?
1. Learn as much about Christ as we can from diligent reading and study of the Bible.
2. Identify the commandments of Christ and live in consistent obedience to them.
3. Pray that God will enable us to see the face of Christ.
Now here we are in the second half of the first month of 2018. By now, we hardly think to wish one another a “happy new year.” Whatever reason we might have for that, it is not because most of us have lost all interest in being happy. So here, I set down my own opinion on this more-or-less universal desire for joy. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but here comes February: a month notorious for all sorts of sadness and gloom, and what not.)
A famous Old Testament man, with an Old Testament book named after him, once famously said “Do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I think this “joy of the Lord” comes in three flavours, each strengthening us to face fearlessly the challenges of the present day, and the threats to our future happiness. All three flavours offer us a better knowledge of Christ.
The first sort of joy is what Answer 1 is all about. There is a very definite joy in knowing what the Bible tells us about Jesus. For example, the Bible reveals that Jesus is the most excellent of good shepherds, providing us with green pastures and still waters, rescuing us from all our enemies, even laying down his life for his sheep. Similarly, the Bible explains and demonstrates that Jesus is the Lord of all creation, in perfect control of the wind and the waves, and sovereign over all his people, and even over people who refuse allegiance to him. “The Lord is on his throne,” a man I worked with used to say, “and he is not the least bit nervous.” We understand that truth more and more as we diligently read and study the Bible.
The second sort of joy is what Answer 2 points toward. To be clear on the specific commandments of Jesus, and to strive to obey them consistently, results in Jesus making himself known to us. This knowing is relational, so this joy is the highest example of a friend making you happy. And “what a friend we have in Jesus”!
In this 3-point description of the joy of the Lord, the best is saved for last. The first joy is a joy of the mind, no small thing. The second is a joy of experience, making our joy more personal, more powerful. But the best joy of the Lord is spiritual joy; the joy that is the Lord himself.
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God,to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. (ESV)
This is the joy we experience by beholding, “with unveiled face,” the glory of the Lord, as he himself shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6]. I explain this “spiritual joy” as clearly as I can in Chapter 6.
So then, as the echoes of many a “Happy New Year!” fade from our memories, let me wish you the joy of the Lord, intellectually, experientially, and especially spiritually. And may this joy continue to strength us to face our difficulties fearlessly until that day we see the face of our great God: our shepherd, our master, our saviour, and our joy.