March 8, 2020 Working for Joy

Working for Joy

 

But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.[1]

 

The apostle Paul had just explained that he was not vacillating when he told them that he was going to visit them but then, as it turned out, he did not. Paul was not indecisive. We saw that indecisiveness is not a godly trait.

 

Now he reveals the reason that he did not come as he had intended. The reason he did not come is because he did not want to have to chastise them once again. He had already chastised them both in his previous letter and his prior visit (2:1). He did not want to cause them any more pain through verbal chastisement.

 

In verse 24 he says he and Timothy do not lord it over their faith. As an apostle he had the authority to direct them. Indeed, he did so in his first letter. What he means is that this time this is not his intention. He and Timothy want to work with the Corinthians for a purpose. What is the purpose? Their joy!

 

There are three reasons why we should enjoy the Lord. And, there are three practical ways to experience the enjoyment.

 

First, why should we enjoy the Lord?

 

[1] The enjoyment of God’s people was not only on the apostle’s heart. It is on the heart of God! The Lord desires that we enjoy his provision, but also that we enjoy God Himself.

 

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9 For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light do we see light. [2]

 

When someone loves you, protects you, gives you an abundance of food so that you can feast, and causes you delight…that is enjoyment!

 

And, in Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O Lord of hosts!

2 My soul longs, yes, faints

for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and flesh sing for joy

to the living God. [3]

 

The Christian life is one of enjoyment, enjoying both what God has provided and God Himself. These three passages, the Corinthian one and these two from Psalms, are explicit in encouraging enjoyment. Sometimes the Lord is more subtle.

 

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [4]

 

The Lord made pleasant trees that bore fruit that was good food. The detail of the Lord placing the tree of life in the midst of the garden indicates that it was God’s desire that man partake of it. It wasn’t until man sinned that he excluded him from partaking of that blessed tree.

 

The tree of life signifies God Himself. God is the source of life. As one man of God has insightfully observed:

 

“When God says that he wants man to come to the tree of life, He means that he wants man to touch him. God wants to enter into man to be his life.”[5]

 

What is it about food that brings satisfaction? There are two things about food that are universally true. Food sustains us and, if it is delectable, it brings enjoyment. These are reasons why God likens himself to food. God sustains us. Every Christian knows that God sustains us, upholds us, and empowers us. But, the Lord is also delectable and enjoyable, too! Come taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8; I Peter 2:3)

 

The Lord Jesus often likened himself to food and drink (John 4:10-14; 6:48-51; 55-58; 7:37-38; Matthew 26:26-28). He desires that we enjoy him!

 

After God created man, he placed him in front of the tree of life so that man would enjoy the fruit of the tree. The tree of life is just God Himself. This shows that God wants to be man’s enjoyment.

 

When we eat and drink, what we take in goes into us and becomes a part of us. We enjoy the tasting, but we also enjoy the life that we receive from food and drink. It is a double enjoyment! So it is with the Lord. We enjoy receiving him and we enjoy the life that grows within us!

 

Do you remember when you first repented of your sins and believed in Christ? There was great joy, was there not? So very often, though, the joy of our initial salvation wanes. The fact that we were filled with joy upon our coming to Christ shows that the moving of the Spirit within us results in enjoyment. We need to enjoy the Lord again!

 

[2] We should enjoy the Lord because it will stir us up to fulfill the Great Commission. As you have been taught, the commission to spread the gospel and make disciples is not just for professional evangelists or church leaders. It is for every follower of Christ. It is for you. Your own experience and the simple observation of Western church life reveal that it is a struggle to share the gospel. Many Christians are apprehensive to talk about God and the gospel.

 

Do you know what makes any subject easy to talk about? It’s when you enjoy it! The more you enjoy something the easier it is to talk about it. In fact, we like sharing things that bring us joy. You see, the more you enjoy the Lord the more you will spontaneously talk about him. You will hardly have to give it a thought because it will just be the overflow of your enjoyment!

 

Enjoying the Lord opens our mouths! This is the way the Lord has made us!

 

[3] We should enjoy the Lord because enjoying him is…enjoyable! Can you see that enjoyment is its own reward? All men seek happiness. It is one thing that is always true. And, enjoyment is just a higher form of happiness! Our enjoyment makes life good and the Lord Himself is the best enjoyment!

 

So, how can we experience this enjoyment? Before we answer that, it is good to see how we do not experience lasting joy.

 

The enjoyment of the Lord has nothing to do with our circumstances.

 

I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. [6]

 

Notice that Paul says that he is overflowing with joy in his affliction. Even though he was afflicted he not only had joy, he was overflowing with it. Our outward circumstances ought not to hinder the great joy that is available to the child of God.

 

More, the enjoyment of the Lord has nothing to do with how much money we have.

 

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.[7]

 

The saints in Macedonia (modern Greece) had both poverty and an abundance of joy. Clearly, their poverty had no bearing on their joy. This is a mistake so many make today: many people believe that if only they could have more money they would be happy. The truth is, if they are not happy now then they would not be happy if they came into a large sum of money. If they did come into money there might be a temporary lifting of their emotions, but it wouldn’t take long before they were back to their former state of mind.

 

The joy of the Lord does not depend on your wealth nor does its lack rob you of joy.

 

How can we, then, practically experience the joy of the Lord?

 

[4] Seeing the spiritual progress of those we love brings joy. In 2 Corinthians 7:4, Paul had pride in the Corinthians and this pride gave him joy. Why did he have pride in them? Because of their spiritual progress! They had obeyed his instructions in his previous letter and were progressing in obeying the Lord.

 

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God[8]

 

Because the Thessalonians were standing fast in the Lord Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were feeling joy!

 

My older children have not been as devoted to the Lord as I would have hoped, at least not when they were still with me under the same roof. Then, when they move away, you wonder how they are progressing in their walk with the Lord. Several months ago, Coulter called me from is air base in Arizona. He just happened to mention that he was both meeting with the Navigators at a mid-week Bible study regularly and that he was attending a Baptist church every Sunday. I was so happy and thrilled to hear him to tell me this! Knowing the spiritual progress of those we love brings great joy.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. [9]

 

The truth of the gospel and the truths found in Scripture are the most important truths in the world. When we learn that someone we love walks in them there spontaneously arises with us a great joy. Actually, there is no greater joy!

 

[5] Simply being with brothers and sisters in the Lord brings the joy of the Lord.

 

As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.[10]

 

Paul was Timothy’s mentor, but Timothy was also his friend. This verse is just about the joy a friend brings. This is a verse about friendship. Not just any friendship, but a friendship grounded in Christ.

 

As I look back on my life, the most joyful times were those that were filled with friends and fellowship. I have seen this phenomenon over the years: those that meet often with God’s people are the most joyful. Those that neglect fellowship are the least joyful. I do not think it is a coincidence. It is a spiritual reality.

 

Paul writes to Philemon and includes this:

 

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. [11]

 

When we are loved by the brothers and sisters it brings joy and comfort.

 

[6] Setting our hearts and minds on the rewards that are to come to us brings the joy of the Lord.

 

Too many Christians are focused on the present age. They are concerned about how to get ahead at their place of employment, or how to get a better job, how to find a husband or wife, getting a new car or truck, what have you. Yet, these pursuits are no different than pursuing money. We think that if we get these things then we will be happy. But if you are not happy now then you will not be happy when you achieve your dreams.

 

There will be difficult times here in this age. The Lord himself said it is not good for man to be alone. Being single is not the best mode of living. (But it can be better than having a nagging spouse, so choose your marriage partner wisely! Proverbs 25:24)

 

The Lord Himself when suffering here on earth looked forward to the reward and this brought him joy.

 

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [12]

 

There was a joy set before our Lord. The joy was the reward that he would receive when his work on earth was done. He would sit at the right hand of God the Father and rule and reign with him. We have the same promise if we are faithful!

 

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. [13]

 

See also Hebrews 10:36; 2 Tim 2:12.

 

For those who are faithful to the Lord, his coming and his presence will be a time of great joy because he will reward us.

 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,[14]

 

As we set our minds on the joy that we will receive at his coming we are filled with joy in the present. As we set our minds on the next age the vicissitudes of this present age become less important.

 

[7. Application and Conclusion] Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We work with you for your joy.” There is one sense in which we do not have to work for joy because joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). As soon as we touch the Spirit we enjoy the Lord. It is spontaneous and living!

 

But in another sense we must work for joy. How is that? It is because there are so many things that will keep us from walking by the Spirit. This is why Paul had to encourage the saints to walk by the Spirit. We must be intentional in our walk with the Lord to be in contact with the Spirit who dwells in our spirit.

 

These three things facilitate a living by the Spirit. They keep us from getting distracted by lesser matters.

 

  • When we work for and see the spiritual progress of those we love there is great joy that comes because this is at the heart of God’s will.
  • When we are with a friend in Christ our spirits come alive and the enjoyment of the Lord is present.
  • When we set our minds on the joy that awaits us in the next age we experience joy now!

 

Would you like more joy? Then have done with lesser things. Work with those whom the Lord has placed in your life for their spiritual progress – their sanctification.

 

Instead of watching television or surfing the net, get with a friend in Christ and enjoy their fellowship.

 

Set your mind upon the greater joy that awaits those who live faithfully.

 

As you do these simple things you will discover that you are walking in the Spirit and experiencing the enjoyment of the Lord!

 

“Lord, let me done with lesser things! May I work with others for their joy and may I discover my own in greater measure. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 1:23–2:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 36:7–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 84:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Witness Lee, How to Enjoy God (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 2006), 8

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 7:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 8:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 3:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (3 Jn 4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 1:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Phm 7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 20:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jud 24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.