The Joy of
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)
Christians are happy because they know they will live forever. It is a wonderful thing to know that you will never die; that throughout the endless ages you will live on and on.
“The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever”. (1 John 2:17) “He who believes and trusts in the Son and accepts Him [as Savior] has eternal life [that is, already possesses it]; but he who does not believe the Son and chooses to reject Him, [disobeying Him and denying Him as Savior] will not see [eternal] life, but [instead] the wrath of God hangs over him continually.” (John 3:36)
Before I was a Christian, I did not look into the future, but how I love to look into the future now! It is a great joy to preach, but oh, what joy it is to be able to stand and look dow through the coming ages and see them roll on, age after age, and know that I am going to live for all eternity in happiness and joy ever increasing! I am not surprised that Christians are happy. I don’t wonder that they have “joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
Christians know that they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.(Romans 8:17) They know that they have “an inheritance Incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for them” (1 Peter 1:4) When someone rides down beautiful country roads and looks out at the beautiful mansions and sees lakes, forests, parks, and the gardens, he may say, “It must be very pleasant to live there.” I suppose it is, but how long will those people live there? They will soon be gone. But every man, woman, and child who takes Jesus will have an inheritance that will last forever. Every earthly inheritance soon fails. Even the richest man on earth won’t keep his property very long. But the poorest man who will take Jesus Christ will receive an inheritance that will last forever. You may be having a hard time in this world. You may have to work long hours for small pay. Perhaps your home is not very comfortable. Well you won’t have to live here very long. If you receive Christ, you are going to a mansion such as this earth never saw and to an inheritance like none ever inherited on this earth. If you will accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will know that you are an heir to all that God has. The whole world belongs to Him- even “the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10) If you are a child of God, if you will take Christ, you will be an heir to all that He is and all that He has.
Sometimes we get so busy trying to make it in this life that even Christians forget that there is a world to come. That world is the destination of our journey once we have received Christ as Savior. Jesus told us that in this world we will have troubles but that He is going to prepare a place for us and that place is beyond imagination. I realize we live in a troubled world and there may be those who see this focus on the future as an escape mentality and I suppose that would be true we’re it not so.
Our end goal is to spend eternity in the new heavens and new earth with Christ where all the struggle and strife has vanished. I remember how the saints of yesteryears would speak of going to heaven and the joy that literally shone on their faces. As I served as a hospice chaplain, I sat many times with one of the children of God making their exit from this world and their entrance into eternity with God. I have no words to describe the joy and peace and excitement that was visible on their faces. I had sat with them on several occasions when the pain and suffering was almost unbearable and now in those last moments that was replaced with incredible peace and joy.
Why is it important for us to be reminded of this hope? Why do we need to speak of it often? It’s what gets us through the dark times, the times of trouble and the times of loss and sorrow. We read that because of this joy that was yet to come that Christ was able to endure the cross.
“looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”
We read of Stephen as he was being stoned seeing into the world to come and what a description he gives us.
“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” They continued stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!” Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them]!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].” (Acts 7:55-56,59-60)
I doubt any of us will end our life this way but what words of hope and comfort these provide us. To know that we are not just a number but that each of us is recognized and welcomed by Christ Himself ought to fill our hearts with joy. Perhaps as much as the joy we find in knowing that we have passed from death to life and that those who are born twice die once and live on in eternity; is the comfort we find when we experience the separation from loved ones in death. We know that our grief is really for us if that loved one is a Christian. For them “to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.” Their struggles and trials are over. Our sense of loss and the vacancy those who have gone that has left in our lives is the root of grief. The Bible doesn’t teach us not to grieve but to grieve in a different way than those who know not Christ. In John 14, Jesus is speaking to the disciples just before His death on the cross. We no doubt have heard these words many times, but let’s read them again.
“Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:1-6)
Jesus tells us that our hope and peace lies in the fact that a place is being prepared for us and that He Himself will come and take us to be with Him for eternity. Thomas asks the important question, “how can we know the way?” And Jesus gives the all-sufficient answer, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” There we have it. Our entrance into eternity is through Christ. Therefore, if you have received Christ, you have also received the guarantee of eternal life with Him.
Paul, as he speaks of that time provides incredible hope and comfort.
“Now we do not want you to be uninformed, believers, about those who are asleep [in death], so that you will not grieve [for them] as the others do who have no hope [beyond this present life]. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again [as in fact He did], even so God [in this same way—by raising them from the dead] will bring with Him those [believers] who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For we say this to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are still alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede [into His presence] those [believers] who have fallen asleep [in death]. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the [blast of the] trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain [on the earth] will simultaneously be caught up (raptured) together with them [the resurrected ones] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord! Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words [concerning our reunion with believers who have died].” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
If we know these things and believe them to be true, they will indeed give us true happiness even in times of difficulty. Knowing that you are an eternal being gives new meaning and new perspective to life and living. While we are not exempt from suffering, we can find happiness in the fact that we are passing through and these things will not last forever. We can find joy in knowing that our destiny is with Christ in person and in the place He’s prepared for us. If for some reason you have not yet found that happiness, may I invite you to seek Christ and receive from Him eternal life.
Dr. John Thompson