Monday, September 12, 2016

Joy in Affliction

This week in my time with God, I ran across 3 verses in 3 consecutive chapters of 2 Corinthians that all speak of having joy in the midst of affliction.

“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”  (2 Cor. 6:10)

“in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4).

“for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy” (2 Cor. 8:2)

This really hit me.  How radical is that?  To be in some kind of affliction, trial, or hardship and yet have joy!  That is supernatural.  Indeed it is. God calls us to a supernatural and radical life. 

So, how can we have joy in the midst of afflictions?
1.     Joy is internal, whereas affliction is external.  Certainly affliction can be internal, but much affliction comes from external circumstances.  Here is my definition of biblical joy:  Joy is an inward state of contentment and satisfaction in the Lord, regardless of what is happening in my life.  And we all know this can only come about as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5).
2.     Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who is more powerful than any affliction we could experience.  “Greater is He that is in me than ….” (1 Jn. 4:4). All that has been talked about here is a supernatural work of God, and He does this through His indwelling Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus is alive within every Christ-follower (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 8:9-11).
3.     Joy is based on a constant, and affliction is constantly changing.  Affliction and difficult situations are constantly changing, but the joy we can have in the Lord is based on the stable and consistent presence of God.
4.     Joy comes from the positive things that God accomplishes through our affliction.  It is in hardships that we often get to know God better and become more like Christ.  “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces …..” (James 1; Romans 5).  God uses affliction to deepen our character and our compassion for other hurting people.
5.     Joy is based on what is eternal, but affliction is temporal.  This is not to minimize the pain that some go through, but we must always keep the temporal and eternal in perspective.  We serve the eternal God who has promised us His eternal presence and an eternal home with Him in heaven.  No matter what happens, hardships are temporary.  The worse that could happen is for us to actually loose our life or be martyred.  And yet, that would be victory because we would then go to be with the Lord.  “For I consider that this light and momentary affliction is not worth comparing to the eternal weight of glory being revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).  It was the martyred missionary Jim Elliot who once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

May you experience joy amidst affliction in the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God!