“The gospel is good news, but unfortunately, most Christians are socialised on bad news”.
dam and Eve initially lived in God’s paradise, the Garden of Eden. They lived in a state of bliss because: “In (God’s) presence is fullness of joy; at (His) right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11).
They did not have to work to make a living. God provided everything they needed. All that He required of them was to tend the garden. Moreover, they had peace like a river, the peace that flows from God.
But when they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit at the instance of the devil, sin entered the world. With sin, death also entered because the wages of sin death. (Romans 6:23).
When God threw them out of the Garden and prevented them from returning, they could no longer be in His presence. Therefore, sorrow also entered the world because they could no longer enjoy the joy of the Lord. They no longer enjoyed the joy that comes from God’s presence.
Decree of sorrow
Moreover, God pronounced a sentence of sorrow on them. “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.’” (Genesis 3:16-19).
Without the joy of the Lord, men developed counterfeits. We rejoiced in happenstances. We rejoiced in things that brought occasional happiness mixed with sorrow. We confused the blessing of God with the blessing of carnal things.
Solomon points out God’s uniqueness: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22). Not so, the blessing of men.
With the world now steeped in darkness, wealth and riches became confused for an abundant life. Joy became carnal and ordinary. In ignorance, men spoke mistakenly of the joy of the harvest, the joy of giving and receiving presents, and the joy of owning property.
As Jeremiah laments: “The joy of our heart has ceased; our dance has turned into mourning. The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lamentation 5:15-16).
But one fateful day, an angel appeared to some shepherd tending their flock by night and made a momentous proclamation. God had decided to send His joy back to the world:
“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).
What is the cause of this great joy and what does it have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ?
Jesus is “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Once we are rid of the sin, we can bask once again in the joy of the Lord for it was our sin that brought sorrow into the world.
Isaiah foretold this redeeming grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking in the past tense since it was already accomplished in the spirit, he says: “Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:4).
This message is also included in the Isaiah passage Jesus read when he announced his ministry: “The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts.” (Isaiah 61:2-3).
In effect, even before going to the cross to take away our sins, Jesus overcame the world. He says to his disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
What did He use to overcome the world? He overcame the world with the joy of the Lord.
The Bible says: “For the joy that was set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus overcame the world with the joy God, the Father set before Him. He then asks us to overcome with the joy He sets before us. This is the joy of spending eternity with God in heaven. The joy arising from our hope of salvation is henceforth to provide the strength for us to endure and overcome every situation and adversity we face.
When Jesus was going to the cross and His disciples were sorrowful, He alerted them that His crucifixion would end by giving them the joy of the Lord, and this joy would be forever:
“Therefore, you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (John 16:22).
Thus, when He rose from the dead, the first thing He said to them was: “Rejoice.” (Matthew 28:9).
Before then, He warned them that their joy must never again be the counterfeit joy of the world, which always ends in sorrow. Henceforth, their joy must be the joy of salvation.
Even when they were joyful that the evil spirits were subject to them in the name of Jesus, He says to them: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which those who accept Christ as Saviour receive. (Galatians 5:22).
The gospel is good news, but unfortunately, most Christians are socialised on bad news. No jobs, no electricity, no water, high prices, and high school fees. But all this pales into insignificance when we recognise that we now have the joy of the Lord.
When we do, we shall: “Rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). We shall: “Count it all joy when )we) fall into various trials. (James 1:2). We shall rejoice and be exceedingly glad when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake. (Matthew 5:11-12).
We shall rejoice and leap for joy when men hate us, exclude us, and revile us. (Luke 6:22-23). We shall rejoice when we share in Christ’s sufferings. (1 Peter 4:13). We shall: “Joyfully (accept) the plundering of (our) goods, knowing that (we) have a better and an enduring possession for (ourselves) in heaven. (Hebrews 10:34).
Thus, Hezekiah told the Jewish exiles who returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the Old Testament: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).