What is joy unspeakable1 anyway? How can “all things work together for my good”2? Wouldn’t it be for my good if God would just zap everything into place just like I want? Why doesn’t He grant my every prayer? That would bring me joy, wouldn’t it? For instance, why didn’t God answer every one of my Texas Sheet Cake prayers?
When I weighed 257 pounds more than I do today there were times I would pray that someone would bring a huge Texas Sheet Cake to a church carry-in dinner. Although that would bring me maybe two minutes of pleasure, it certainly was not for my good or lasting joy.
Today, I stay away from sugar and starches. These may bring me momentary pleasure, but they do not bring me joy. They definitely do not work together for my good.
“The first part of Romans 8:28 starts out, ‘And we know … ‘ The Greek word there, ‘aido’ means to see with the mind’s eye and signifies a clear and purely mental perception,” explained Jeremy Risner, C2 Church lead pastor. “It means I translate everything that comes my way to God being at work in some way in my life.
“There is a joy in the deep understanding and guarantee that God is still and always at work for my good and His purposes.”
For me that means what I want in the moment may not be for my good, even though it might in some way bring me pleasure or happiness. It will not always bring me joy. This is true of selfish prayers or honest, heart-felt prayers for healing for a loved one or some other good endeavor.
Understanding that God works in my life and the lives of those I love in entirely different ways is hard to understand except through an eternal perspective. We just don’t know what that is and, therefore, we have to trust that God is at work.
“Happiness and pleasure is the business of earth,” Risner said. “Joy is the business of heaven … God receives glory when I find pleasure in Him. He has not left me. He is working for my good so I will look more like Jesus in every circumstance.”
Risner lists five things necessary to live a life of joy in Christ.
Worship—All we do is worship even work. There is joy, satisfaction and contentment in that context because we understand who we work and sing for.
Giving—We can’t experience joy without giving. When we give we have enough. When we trust God to do with the 90% what we couldn’t do with 100% we experience great joy.
Serving—It always feels good to serve. When we take time to meet someone else’s needs there is great joy in the feeling that comes.
Rest—Rest is trusting God to do in six days what you can’t do in seven. There is joy in working hard, but we should not sacrifice our family life and spiritual life for work. On the Sabbath we should commit time to God and rest in His presence.
Pray—We really are a prayer-less society. You cannot experience joy without prayer. Take moments of your day to focus your thoughts and energy on God.
It’s really true that prayer has the possibility of destroying me if God answered like I wanted. Take my Texas Sheet Cake prayer for instance. Had He answered every prayer I prayed for that and other similar delicacies it’s a really good possibility I wouldn’t be alive today.
God has not abandoned us. He knows the difficulties we encounter each day are but “light and momentary troubles.”3 As a matter of fact it’s these very difficulties that “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”3 And because of that “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”3
I’ve already seen just a glimpse of that joy here on earth. I am so eternally grateful that He hasn’t and doesn’t answer all of my selfish prayers.
He’s not interested in my pleasure or momentary happiness. He’s interested in something far more eternal. He’s interested in my good and His purposes being fulfilled. And that brings me joy unspeakable.
1 1 Peter 1:8
2 Romans 8:28
3 2 Corinthians 4:16-18