The Seven Joys Of The Believer In Jesus Christ
“Rejoice always.”—1 Thessalonians 5:16
In the King James Version, this text reads, “Rejoice evermore,” but the Revised Version (a more accurate rendering), reads, “Rejoice always. “If I should ask you want the shortest verse in the Bible is, a great sea of hands would go and you would say, “John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept.’” Well, that is so in the English version, but in the Greek that verse has sixteen letters, while our text has only fourteen letters; so in the Greek this is a shorter verse than “Jesus wept.”
I want you to read the verse in its connection: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” These three verses taken together tell us three things that it is the will of God for every believer in Jesus Christ to be doing all the time. It is the will of God that we do what? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything—continual thanksgiving, constant prayer; unceasing prayer and continuous rejoicing.
I wonder how many of us are realizing the will of God in this matter; how many of us are rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in everything. I am going to call your attention this morning to the first one of the three. I may have a chance to come back some time and take up the second and third.
It is the privilege, it is the solemn duty of every Christian to rejoice all the time. No matter what our surroundings are, no matter what our circumstances may be, no matter if things are going dead wrong, God has made it possible for every child of His to be happy all the time, to be radiant all the time, to rejoice all the time. The first joy of the believer is the joy of the forgiveness of sin.
Forgiveness Of Sin
Away back in the Old Testament, King David sang about that joy, in the 32nd Psalm, “Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” If you would look into the Hebrew Bible you would find it even more wonderful,—“O the happiness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” I tell you when any of us are brought to the place where we realize our state before God without Christ, when we come to see that we are guilty sinners in the presence of a holy God (for that is what we are until we do take Christ), we will begin to appreciate God’s forgiveness.
Someone was telling me a day or two ago about a very nice man who said he did not like to think of anyone dying for his sins, that he would rather stand for his own before God. That shows what a fool he is. That shows how blind he is, for that man is a guilty sinner in the presence of a holy God, and he cannot stand before a holy God one minute in his own character. If he would ever really come into the presence of God he would not talk that way, for even the best of us have broken the greatest of God’s commandments. Some are not drunkards, have never gambled or stolen, have never taken God’s name in vain, but they have broken God’s first and great commandment, which is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Not a man or a woman has kept that commandment, but every one is a guilty sinner in the presence of a holy God.
Oh, if we have ever been brought by the Spirit and the Word of God to realize what we are without Jesus Christ,—guilty sinners in the presence of a holy God, and then accept Jesus Christ and know that our sins are all forgiven because the Word of God says so, the joy of knowing there is not a cloud between us and a holy God,—you know the world has no joy like that! You not only know that joy when you first accept Jesus Christ, but ever afterwards when you look back upon your past and see how it is all washed white in the precious blood of Jesus Christ, there comes into your soul a joy that no language can express,—joy unspeakable and full glory. O the joy of sins forgiven! “Blessed is the man (or woman) whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Communion With God
The second joy of the believer is the joy of communion with God. You cannot have communion with God as long as you are in sin; but when you have taken Jesus Christ and the blood of Jesus Christ has washed away your sin, there is the possibility for communion with God for the very vilest of us, and that is the greatest joy there is,—the joy of the friendship and the fellowship and the companionship of a great, infinite, holy God.
The apostle John spoke about that when he said in 1 John 1:3. “Our fellowship (our comradeship, our companionship) is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” He went on to say in the next verse that that was the supreme joy,—“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” The Revised Version says, “may be made full.” Another version says, “Fulfilled.” You turn that “Fulfilled” right around and you will have exactly what the Greek text says, “Filled full, that your joy may be filled full.”
There is nothing in all this world that will fill your joy full but communion with God. Why, David sang about that in the 17th Psalm, 11th verse, where he says, “In Thy presence (that is, in the presence of God, the companionship of God) is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” He was not talking about the friendship and the fellowship we are going to have with God in heaven. O, that will be glorious of course, and what we have down here is only a faint foretaste of it; but right here in the life that now is, fullness of joy is found in companionship with God, and when your sins are forgiven you enter into companionship with God.
We can have the companionship of God every hour of our lives. Every day of our lives we can walk with God just as much as Enoch of old. Enoch was a common every-day sort of man as far as we know. He was a preacher, in a sense a prophet, but a man who went around in his daily work and had fellowship with God in his work. We can walk with God just as much as Enoch could. We can “Practice the Presence of God” just as much as Brother Lawrence could. Most of you have read that little book by Nicholas Herman, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” Who was he? A raw, crude country boy, very awkward, failing in everything he undertook, breaking almost everything he touched. One day in the winter he stood looking at a tree, leafless, naked, tossed by the wind. The thought came to him, “Pretty soon the warm spring winds will come, the sap will run up into that tree, the buds will swell, the leaves will come and that will be one of the most beautiful things around here.” Then the truth came to him, “God is everywhere. God is in that tree, and the life of God in that tree will bring the leaves. I can have communion with God everywhere.” That thought transformed that rude country boy’s life.
He became a religious young man, and according to the customs of the time he went into a monastery. They put him into the kitchen doing the dirtiest work they had, washing pots and kettles. But he practiced the presence of God as he washed the dishes, pots, pans and kettles, and became such a holy priest that the greatest men of Earth, and kings, sometimes traveled hundreds of miles just to see Brother Lawrence wash pots and kettles and practice the presence of God as he did it.
Some of you get tired washing pots and kettles, and you get tired of bending over the washtub and hanging the clothes out on the roof with smoke pouring out of the chimneys to make them as black as they were before. You men who have to work in the shops and stores and factories get tired of it, and it is humdrum; but if you practice the presence of God as you wash your clothes, your pots, your kettles, as you go down to South Water St. and other parts of the city to do your work in the commission houses, stores and other places, you may be just radiant. What odds does it make what we are surrounded with if we only have the presence of God? I tell you the dullest old laundry can become just radiant with the presence of God, more filled with joy than the finest mansion on Lake Shore Drive. There can be more joy in the dreariest place down on Milton St. than in the beautiful mansion along the lake, if you have the presence of God and they have not.
Three Methods of Communion: First—Prayer
Now there are three methods of communion with God,—the method of prayer first. That is, just going to God and lifting your heart up to God in definite petition for the things that you need, asking for them and expecting to get them. O the joy that there is in the communion of prayer—not merely because you get the things you ask for,—that is fine, but there is something finer than that about it, and that is the joy of having a real God. That is the best part about getting things by prayer,—it makes God so real. You can have this method of communion with God by going into your secret place and locking the door and being alone with God; you can have it when you are about your work, when you are riding on a trolley car. Why, I can even pray as I preach. Sometimes I think I have a real nice sermon prepared, but folks do not seem to think so, and as I preach I pray, and then things change and I get the interest of the people. We can pray as we work. If God calls us to dig in the field, to plow, to hoe, to harrow we can pray as we do that. “Pray without ceasing,” as the verse next to our text says. And O the joy of doing it!
A great many professed Christians know very little about communion in prayer because they haven’t their regular season of prayer, and if they have it is very brief. If they have their seasons of prayer they have not learned the secret of praying as they go about their work, so do not have this joy constantly.
Second—Praying Without Ceasing
The second way of having communion with God is praying without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks. I think there is greater joy in thanksgiving than there is even in prayer. Just going over your life and counting your blessings one by one, not being as occupied with the blessings as you are with the Blesser, saying, “Heavenly Father, I thank Thee for that new hat I got today, for that good dinner, for that poor dinner.” The world would call it “poor” but a piece of bread even without butter, is a good deal sweeter if you take it with prayer than the best chicken dinner or squab dinner, or any other dinner if you do not take it with thanksgiving.
Oh just cultivate this habit of taking everything that comes to you as from God. It is from God. “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Our blessings become a hundred-fold blessed when we see God’s hand in them and just thank Him.
A great many people do not know this joy, even as they do not know the joy of communion in prayer, because they do not have their seasons of thanksgiving, and some who do have seasons of thanksgiving have not learned this secret of what Paul tells in other places, “In everything returning thanks,” thanking God for everything that comes.
That passage got hold of me several years ago. I was down in Northfield, and on my way back I got out of the sleeper at Miller’s Falls to get on the train to come to Chicago. As I opened the door it shut very suddenly and took part of my finger, and it did not feel a bit nice, but that the text came to me. “This is one of the all things,” I said. “I thank Thee Father, for that finger.” My, it was just fine, worth having your finger pinched.
Third—The Method Of Worship
The third method of communion is the method of worship. Thanksgiving is not worship. When we pray we are asking for things; when we are returning thanks we are thanking for things; but when we worship we just bow before God in adoring contemplation of the wonderful beauty of Himself. Someone has put it in this way, “In our prayers we are taken up with our needs; in our thanksgiving we are taking up with our blessings; in our worship we are taken up with Himself.
Oh the joy of just beholding the wonderful, perfect beauty, infinite, beauty of God! The psalmist knew that. Do you remember what he says in Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” I used to think when I first learned that Psalm, “There are lots of things I would rather do than go to the house of the Lord.” But listen to the rest, “To behold the beauty of the Lord.” I understood it then. O friends, do you know the most beautiful thing and the most beautiful person in the world? It is God. It is God.
Oh, what odds does it make what our surroundings are? Suppose you haven’t the flowers and the fruit that we have out in California. Suppose you are not even in as beautiful a place as Chicago, suppose you are in a place where it is just what you do not like; what difference does it make if you have Him? “To behold the beauty of the Lord.”
You remember Stephen, don’t you? There was nothing beautiful around Stephen. There was a howling mob about him, and they were stooping over picking up rocks, and they commenced to come through the air and hit him. But Stephen, looking up steadfastly into heaven beheld the glory of God.
What did he care about the rocks? It was the happiest moment Stephen had ever known. The rocks were falling around him, they were beginning to crush in his head and bruise his body, and in a few minutes he was to fall to his knees and utter his last cry, but O, he beheld something so beautiful he did not care for the howling mob, he did not care for his aching body; he beheld the glory of God, just a foretaste of what he was going to enter in about five minutes.
The Word Of God
The third joy of the believer is the joy of feasting upon the Word of God. Jeremiah, the prophet, puts that in a beautiful way in Jeremiah 15:16, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” You all know the joy of sitting down at a table just laden with all the wholesome and delicious and palatable things of the season: but God has spread for us in this Word a more delicious table than was ever spread at any royal banquet on Earth.
In this Book we not only have the “pure milk” of the Word, and the “strong meat” of the Word, but we have “the finest of the wheat,” and “honey out of the rock,” and “bread from heaven,” and the most sweet and luscious of “summer fruits.”
There are a great many Christians who do not know much about feasting upon the Word of God, for they do not feast upon it. They take very little time to read it, and some that do read it from a mere sense of duty, because they think they ought to, do not know what it means to just take these precious morsels of prophecy, promise, and precept and chew upon them until they really get the juice and the sweetness out of them, do not know the joy of the psalmist, “Blessed is the man (whose) delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.
The fourth joy of the believer is the joy of victorious service. Is there not a joy in working for the people that you love, especially if that work is effective? Well, our work is the work of the Christ we love, and it is our privilege to be effective in our work. “Oh,” you say, “I cannot work for Christ; I have no natural ability.” Well, get supernatural ability. It is on tap; you can all have it, you can all have the joy of working effectively for Jesus Christ, and you know that the working Christian is a happy Christian. There are some Christians who do so little work they do not know anything about the joy of victorious service.
The idea some Christians have of the Christian life is to see how much they can get out of Christ and how little they can do for Him. Well, they are a miserable lot, they do not enjoy very much. Some folks are always asking, “Can’t I get to heaven without doing this, or the other?” They are trying to find out how little it is necessary to do in order to get to heaven. Well, if they ever get there they won’t have much fun going. It is the Christian who is trying to find out how much he can do for Jesus who gets all the joy he can hold.
I used to watch the people who came into the church when I was pastor, and found they could be divided into two classes,—those who were ready to do anything they were asked to do, and those who were never ready to do anything. Some were not ready to take a Sunday School class, and would not even attend Sunday School, would not give out tracts, would not do personal work, would not do anything. Most of them have died off. Others wanted to do anything they could, whether they were big or little,—if they could not hold an open air meeting they wanted to help someone else do it. They were the happy Christians. A lazy Christian cannot be a happy Christian.
The mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a constant attendant at a convention we were having in Boston, and said to me, “Did you ever notice that foreign missionaries are always happy? Now what do you think makes them so?” “I can tell you why it is, it is because they are working.” Work and joy go hand in hand, and if you will take hold of the work in this church, and not limit your work to this church either, but go out to work for Jesus Christ and do anything and everything in your power to do, you will be a happy Christian three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Just sit down and say, “I am going to hear Brother So-and-So sing, and hear the preacher, and then coming home, I worked a little hard yesterday,” think about yourself and no one else, and you will be a miserable Christian.
The fifth joy is very closely related to the fourth, and that is the joy of winning souls. There is hardly another joy this side of heaven like the joy of winning souls. In fact it is one of the present joys of heaven. The Lord tells us in the parable of the lost coin, and the lost sheep, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” In another verse he tells us of the future joy, “There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” The joy of bringing the unsaved to repentance. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke about it again in the 15th chapter of John, 11th verse: “These things have I spoken unto you (these things about fruit-bearing, these things about soul-winning), that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. The Revised Version says, “that your joy may be made full,” the American Revision says “fulfilled,” turn it around and you get what Jesus said, “Filled full.” The only way you will ever get your joy filled full is by soul-winning. The only way you will have fullness of joy is by having Christ’s joy. That was His joy,—no joy like it this side of heaven.
One of the most vivid recollections of my life is an experience that happened forty-one years ago. I had been a professing Christian for three years. I was a senior in Yale Theological Seminary, and Mr. Moody came to New Haven and stirred us theological students up to do something beside preaching sermons,—stirred us up to go and do personal work. This was the first definite experience I had in leading someone to Christ. It was in his after-meeting on an April afternoon. I saw someone I had known before I was converted, and made a bee-line for him. He was stubborn and I had a hard time trying to persuade him to accept Christ. Just as it was time to go he gave up and accepted Christ, and I tell you, when I left the place and went to my room in the seminary it seemed literally as if I were walking on air. I had never seen such a beautiful world in all my life.
You can all have that joy, and there is no joy on Earth like it. O how the opportunities lie roundabout you here in Chicago!
Suffering For Christ
The sixth joy of the believer is the joy of suffering for Christ. Some of you will stop right there and say, “Why the joy of suffering? That is not joy, that is misunderstanding, that is sadness.” No, that is joy. Look at Peter and John for example. They threatened them, and threatened them, and told them they must keep still and mustn’t say anything, but they could not keep still. They arrested them, tore their clothing from them, hitched them to the whipping-posts, and made them lean over until their backs were taut, took a scourge and laid it on their backs until they were all torn and bleeding. Then what happened? They departed from the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
You know what Jesus said: “Blessed are ye when men shall (talk well about you, and elect you to the best offices and shower all manner of kindnesses upon you? No.) revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil again you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
They arrested Paul, and treated him as they had Peter and Job [sic] (John the Baptist), scourged him until his back was torn and bleeding,—and Silas too. Then they thrust them into the dark inner dungeon. There isn’t a dungeon in Cook County jail that compares in filthiness, darkness, wretchedness and unhealthiness with that. Their feet were made fast in the socks, and they were left. The keeper sat down by the door and went to sleep. At midnight, Paul and Silas, sitting with aching backs, with vermin running over them, began to talk. Did Paul say, “Silas, I did not think it was going to cost so much to be a Christian?” “Paul, why did you ever get me into this?” Never! They were singing praises to God.
Oh men and women, it is a joy to suffer for Christ. A good many of you do not know anything about the joy of the Lord because you have never suffered for Him. You dodge every opportunity, you compromise, you dodge this way or that from the straight line in which God has told you to go, because somebody would say something harsh about you, someone might not understand you. You are losing the greatest sweetness there is in Christian experience.
Do not whine, grumble, complain when people lie about you, slander you, or hate you. Rejoice for the greatest privilege this side of heaven.
The Joy Of The Holy Spirit
The seventh joy of the believer is the joy of the Holy Ghost, and the sixth and the seventh are very closely connected, because, unless you suffer for Christ, you will not know much of the joy of the Holy Ghost. Peter says in his first epistle, “You received the Word with much affliction, and with the joy of the Holy Ghost.” He says again, “Rejoice when ye suffer, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” “If ye suffer for righteousness sake.” Oh the joy of the Holy Spirit!
There is a beautiful name given for the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 1:9, “Because thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” That is the name of the Holy Spirit,—“the Oil of Gladness.” Why? Because when God pours out the Holy Spirit it is just as if He took a great golden cruse of gladness and poured it over your head and over your whole person, way down to the hem of the garment, suffusing you with gladness.
Do you know the joy of the Holy Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance. Some of you may know little about the joy of the Holy Spirit.
I recall a man who was a Scotchman, a dour sort of a man, cold, phlegmatic, one of the most undemonstrative men I ever saw. One day he came to my home and knocked. I opened the door, and he came up the stairway and down the hall, burst on me as I stood in my study, and began to pour out his soul. I thought he had gone crazy, but I soon found out what was the matter. God had anointed him with the Oil of Gladness.
Some of you know little about this, either because there is sin in your life or because you are neglecting prayer, or because you are neglecting the study of the Word, or because you have not just gone and asked and claimed what God has for you,—for the anointing of the Holy Spirit is for every child of God. You know Peter said on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sin, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
It is for every believer in every age of the world’s history, if they will only claim it.
Some of you have known the joy of the Holy Ghost and have lost it. O, you come to church, and perhaps you are active in the church, but you haven’t that radiant look in your face. Mr. Moody once said to me, “Mr. Torrey, do you know the saddest thing about my visits to Chicago is to see the men, who, when I was a young man here in Chicago, were at the very forefront of Christian activity, radiant Christians, no longer so.”
My heart is heavy for some of you. How radiant you were, and when you got up in the prayer meeting to give your testimony how people listened! Just to look at your face was a benediction. Some of you are better dressed than you were then, but your faces do not look nearly so well as they did then. There is no beauty of the human countenance to be compared with the radiant beauty of the man or woman filled with the Holy Spirit.
Oh, my brother, my sister, come back! Come back! Get alone with God today, have it out with Him. Tell Him to search you and put away your sin, put away the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust for things that are choking the world. Take time to study the Book as you used to, take time for prayer, get alone with God and confess your sin; put it away, and ask God to fill you again with the Holy Spirit.
These are the seven joys of the believer. Do you know them? Do you know the joy of sin forgiven? If you do not, you can find it today. Do you know the joy of communion with God. Do you know the joy of feasting upon the Word of God? Do you know the joy of victorious service? Do you know the joy of winning souls? Do you know the joy of suffering for Christ? Do you know the joy of the Holy Spirit?