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January 23, 2019

The Joy Set Before Us

James was the brother of Jesus. He was saved after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. James became a believer and was mightily used by God at Jerusalem. He said to count it joy when we’re tried so we can learn patience.

James 1:1-4 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

People sometimes have idealistic thinking about joy and how they should feel in hard trials. People that are in grief don’t feel joyful. Job felt no joy and even felt hopeless when he was in grief. How many of us say, “Behold, how joyful I am” when we are in terrible circumstances? Jesus is our example. When he was in the garden of Gethsemane, he was in agony and his sweat was like drops of blood. He had to get it settled for God to have his will in what was happening.

Luke 22:39-42 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And…he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them…and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

It was God’s will to let Jesus suffer as part of his plan. God knows every trial we have and he allows them for our good.

Isaiah 53:3-7 He is despised and rejected…man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth…as a lamb to the slaughter…

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

We have to go through trials to learn anything. We need to learn patience, endurance, longsuffering, and stedfastness. Trials of difficulty and temptation help our Christian character to grow and be strong.

James 1:2-4 (Living Bible) Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

Jesus’ joy was set ahead of him so he endured the cross. We endure hard trials and look forward to heaven. Jesus didn’t have happy, joyful feelings in his agony. Joy is not in the circumstances but it’s a choice we make to look forward. We don’t get all patience, longsuffering, and kindness when we’re first saved. We have to grow in these. The joy is set ahead and we choose to stay faithful. We face times when we don’t feel joy or that all is well, but we aren’t ruled by our emotions.

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…

The song “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford was written after the ship his family was on sank in the Atlantic. All four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent her famous telegram, “Saved alone …” Spafford took another ship to meet his wife and when his ship passed near where his daughters died, he wrote the song.

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul…”

A woman of Shunem didn’t believe that she’d have a son when her husband was old, but Elisha wanted to reward her.

II Kings 4:8-17…Elisha passed to Shunem…woman…constrained him to eat bread. And…oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband…this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber…a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick…when he cometh…shall turn in thither. And …a day, that he came…said to Gehazi his servant…What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her…And he said, About this season…thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son…

The woman probably heard about Elijah raising the dead son of the woman that fed him at Zarephath (I Kings 9:17-22). She knew Elisha was a man of God like Elijah and had confidence he could raise up her son, so she said it was well.

II Kings 4:18-26 And when the child was grown…he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And…he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she…laid him on the bed of the man of God…And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God…he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day?…she said, It shall be well…So she went…the man of God saw her afar off…said to Gehazi…yonder is that Shunammite: Run… meet her, and say…Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.

Gehazi didn’t think she should hold Elisha’s feet as she fell before him. Elisha said not to trouble her since she was vexed. There was no wavering in her confidence in Elisha and that God would help, so all was well. God answered her prayer.

II Kings 4:27-37 And when she came to the man of God…she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the Lord hath hid it from me…Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? Then he said to Gehazi…take my staff…lay my staff upon the face of the child. And the mother…said, As the Lord liveth…I will not leave thee…Gehazi passed on…laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went…saying, The child is not awaked. And when Elisha was come…the child was dead…He went in…shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. And…lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child…the child waxed warm. Then he…walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times…opened his eyes…Call this Shunammite. So he called her… said, Take up thy son. Then she…fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed in confidence and God sent an angel to strengthen him. We need to be strengthened in hard trials and to rely on God’s word, not on feelings or opinions. Our reasoning or leaning on our understanding to solve problems will fail. God never fails. We need to trust him with all our heart and ask for his help.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

We can hinder God from solving our problem if we don’t put it on the altar for him to work out. He wants control of our hard trials so we can learn patience and longsuffering in them. Job endured and his happiness didn’t come until the end. He looked everywhere to find God but he didn’t waver in knowing he’d come forth as gold and his redeemer was alive.

James 5:10-11 Take, my brethren, the prophets…example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job…seen the end…that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

The devil tries to condemn some who believe they need a bubbly joy all the time. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in what they did but that their names were in heaven (Luke 10:19-20). Paul and Silas suffered joyfully for the gospel’s sake.

Acts 16:22-34 And the multitude…rent off their clothes…beat them…cast them into prison…at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And…great earthquake…foundations of the prison were shaken…doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison…seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried …Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he…said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…brought them into his house, he set meat…rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

People suffered joyfully because they looked forward to joy in heaven. We don’t feel happy to be made fun of but can look forward to heaven. We have tests of faith, patience, and endurance to pass here. If we get an F, God wants to teach us how to pass the next test. God won’t scold us if we ask for wisdom but he’ll help us if we don’t waver. Doubt is from the enemy. God never fails and will help us. He wants us to see it is good when we’re afflicted so we can learn things.

Hebrews 10:33-34 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions…and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

 

(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)