For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her eighth chapter: “The Bride Who Tripped Down the Aisle”
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 52:12).
My first grader brought home a book from school to read over the weekend. For two days she followed me around the house giggling uncontrollably and reading me her favorite sections aloud.
“Mom, listen to this,” (she’s giggling already). “This kid just said George Washington was in his underwear. He said underwear!!!”
“Isn’t this hil-ar-i-ous, Mom? It says this kid put carrots up his nose and then he ate them!”
She could barely control herself on that one. Left to her own devices, she’d probably have spent a half an hour in hysterics on the living room floor.
It’s not humor I could understand. Me, I’m more of a Marx Brothers kind of girl.
In Part I of this post, I wrote that “we Christians should have a joy that people who don’t know Christ just don’t get.” It’s just as mysterious to them as my daughter’s humor is to me.
Certainly this incomprehensible joy comes from the goodness of our message, the very Gospel of grace itself. When life weighs us down with its humdrum dailyness, we must remember the great news we have received and that we share with the world. It’s reason enough for joy in every situation.
Yet, while we always have reason for joy, life isn’t always joy-full.
God never commands us to paste on perfect happy faces to convince the world that Christians never suffer hurt or sorrow. It’s a deception Christ Himself never engaged in. He cried out, He asked others to pray with Him, He wept, and He suffered pain. He assured us that this earth is a place of trouble.
Yet, Peter wrote:
Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world ( 1 Peter 4:13).
Does it sound like impossible truth? Being joyful in trials because God will be glorified? If we’re honest, often our prayers are more for our comfort and relief rather than for God’s glory.
So, was Peter a guy who preached impossible things that he never put into practice himself? No, not Peter.
His ministry had never been more powerful or full of impact. He and the other apostles were spreading the Gospel message and people were responding in droves. Their reputation for miracles spread, so the crowds lined the streets with the sick hoping that Peter’s shadow would fall on them as he walked by and they would be healed (Acts 5).
Reason to have joy? I’ll say! Wouldn’t you be celebrating such ministry success?
Yet, full of jealousy, the Sanhedrin and religious leaders imprisoned Peter and the other apostles. After hearing Peter’s astounding defense, the court determined to have him killed, but not immediately. For now, he and the other apostles were flogged and turned away . . . only to be martyred at a more opportune time.
Acts 5:41-42 tells us, “The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”
Peter didn’t just preach joy in all situations. He lived it.
He had joy because of the message he had to share: Jesus is the Messiah!
He had joy because he knew that every trial was “for the name of Jesus.”
It’s not that God rejoices in our suffering, but instead His grace for us, the way He brings us through trials and redeems us from the pits we find ourselves in, the way He carries us through the fire and out the other side of the furnace—it all brings Him glory. It shows the world that our God is faithful, powerful, mighty to save, and merciful to save us.
This outlook requires continual perspective adjustment. We remember what matters in eternity. We consider what will bring God glory.
That’s how the Christians described in Hebrews, “suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever” (Hebrews 10:34).
We likewise know that the eternal is what truly matters and that God’s glory is our ultimate goal.
Still, just being honest, that doesn’t make most of us want to kick our heels and break into song when we’re facing trials. It’s theologically sound, but practically difficult.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Psalmist has to plea for God’s help with this? David wrote, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 52:12).
That is our prayer also. “Lord, we ask that You restore our joy. Help us to recall the excitement about Your Gospel of grace. In all circumstances, help us to submit to Your plans for us, because that is what will strengthen us and sustain us. We rejoice that You will be glorified and we ask that You will work in each situation we face so that we can give a testimony to the world of Your power and Your love. Amen”
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King