“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Romans 5:11 NLT

Paul made another statement as though it was a fact. He took it as read, beyond an assumption, that rejoicing would follow the process of belief in Jesus and all that He did at Calvary. Quite a leap for someone in that culture, moving from idolatry, to faith in the one true God. Society wasn’t very kind to those early Christians. But Paul wasn’t being theoretical when he wrote that. He wasn’t living in some different world, divorced from reality. What he wrote to the early Christians in Rome was a perfectly valid statement, designed to set out for them what a relationship with God should be like. A relationship that they could rejoice about. A relationship that was wonderful and new.

We fast-forward to today. If anything, our world is just as hostile a place to Christians as it was in Paul’s day. More so, if we read about the levels of persecution experienced by some. Constant negative news reports wear us down. The hostile spiritual environment where even leaders in the faith struggle and prevaricate rather than act as beacons for God’s ways. Worldly expectations have created a society where God doesn’t exist any more. And here are Christians today who, in spite of all that is going on, are called to rejoice in our relationship with God.

But we pilgrims have made a decision to follow Jesus. Through our faith in Him, believing Him for our future salvation, we do in fact have a “wonderful new relationship” with God. We are indeed His friends, positioned right in the “sweet spot” which He designed for us before the foundations of the earth. We rejoice! It’s not something we can do with one eye on what is happening around us. We do it with both eyes on God, because it is in Him we find a Friend who has overcome the world. We view the natural world through God’s eyes. And in that way we get His perspective. Through prayer we approach difficult situations and relax as God whispers in our ears wonderful words of wisdom and guidance. 

It may have been some years ago that we experienced  the “wonderful new relationship” with God. Perhaps we have taken our eyes off Him a bit. Perhaps we have been worn down by all the information, most of it negative, that bombards us every day. Well there is good news. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “ … Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. Having refreshed ourselves in God’s presence we can experience being friends with God. And that has to be good news. That has to be a wonderful experience. And through it all, regardless of the circumstances, we can rejoice. We look forward to a time when joy is the norm, and worldliness is no more. And because we are God’s children, we can experience that joy right now. 

So if any of my readers are experiencing a lack of joy this morning, feeling they there is nothing to rejoice about, we read these words of Paul. Through Jesus we are friends of God. Meditate on what that means this morning. How amazing is it, that the Creator of the whole universe, wants to be friends with us. That very thought is enough to make even the stones around us burst into praise. It truly is a momentous statement, and one that we embrace through our faith in Him. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” That is not a statement of delusion. It is a fact and one that will never leave us regardless of our circumstances. Join me this morning in rejoicing, because Jesus is alive, and because we are God’s friends.

Father God. We worship You today. You are the source of joy. You are the mighty One, our Lord and God. Amen.

Faith Brings Joy

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
Romans 5:2 NLT

Paul mentions that word again – “faith”. So much can be achieved through that word and all that is behind it. He mentions that “faith” brings us to a place of undeserved privilege. Now in this life, privilege is something only rarely granted. We usually have to work for it, or pay for it with our hard-earned money. That is, of course, unless we were naturally born into what we refer to as a privileged family. But we know that when we accepted Christ, believing in all that He did for us, we were spiritually born into God’s family, a family far more significant and privileged that any natural family could ever be. And through God’s grace such a birth was and is undeserved. 

This place of privilege in which we now find ourselves is transforming in its extent and scope. There is the benefit of being in God’s Kingdom here on earth. A place where we have abandoned lives of sin and adopted righteous living instead. A place where we can share God’s grace and love with those around us, doing God’s missionary work in a lost and deluded world. A place where we can drop in when we want to, to spend quality time with our Heavenly Father, worshipping at His feet. But Paul wrote that there’s more to come. Over the horizon, but on our radars nevertheless, is God’s glory. And He will share it with us. How amazing is that? Through our faith we have confidence that it is coming. Perhaps sooner than we think.

How does that make us pilgrims feel? Excited? Joyful or sad? Whatever we feel about our lives today, the life to come, eternally in God’s presence, is going to be “immeasurably more than we can … imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And joy beyond anything we have experienced will be found there. 

What is this “joy”? People often confuse it with happiness, but it’s totally different to that. The dictionary definition of “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”  doesn’t come anywhere near what true Godly joy really means. The joy we experience as Christians comes from a connection with God. We feel joy because of what He has done for us and for what He will do for us in the future. We feel joy because of our salvation, the fellowship with other believers, and the promise of eternal life with God in Heaven. The list of joy-sources is endless. But we can also experience joy in a prison cell, persecuted by an evil state. Joy is more than a feeling. It is a deep assurance that God is close to us, loving us, providing for us. It may manifest in an outward expression of praise and worship. In Acts 16 we read about the desperate situation Paul and Silas found themselves in. Because they cast a demon out of a slave girl, “They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:23-25). How could they do that? Because they were full of joy. A joy founded in the fact that there was nothing other human beings could do to them that would destroy their relationship with God. They experienced the same joy that Nehemiah knew about. We read in Nehemiah 8:10, “And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!””

So, fellow pilgrims, are we full of joy today, or are we overcome and miserable because of our circumstances? Full of Godly joy, we can rise above all that is going on in our lives and around us. Regardless of our situation in life we can still be joyful in our amazing Creator God. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Dire circumstances for a farmer, don’t we agree? But nothing was going to take away Habakkuk’s joy, and it won’t take away ours either.

Dear Father God. You are the Source of our joy. We worship You today with grateful hearts. Amen.