Beloved of our Lord,
And after the toil joy? Is this the order?
In a sense, and beyond measure, yes. But by no means altogether
so. For while we look for that unutterable joy of the "Morning
without clouds," even now, by His grace, there is a joy of the
Spirit, of which it is said, "The joy of the Lord, it is your
strength." The "it" is left out in both our versions, yet how
emphatic it is. IT, the joy of the Lord, is alone our strength.
There can be no strength apart from this present joy.
The romance of the New Testament is in its joy. All through it is
a joyous book. Amid the storms of ill-will, persecution, hate, and
the battle for the gaining of the soul, it is the confession of
this company of harassed saints - "We rejoice with joy unspeakable
and full of glory." But here we have purposely left out the
dynamic centre and cause, "In Whom." For it is the joy of the
Christ-Life: it is the fellowship of His JOY amid the fellowship
of His sufferings.
Without this, Christian life and service are impossible. This joy
of God comes instant and immediate to meet the pressure of the
outward sorrows of the battle, so that the ground of our salvation
being clearly revealed, the apostle says, "And not only so, but we
rejoice in tribulations also." Extraordinary language! But
it is the expression of the extraordinary character of the
Spirit-born life. Faith (Abraham) begets laughter (Isaac). Oh, the
joy of this fighting faith. It has its taste of victory amid the
confusions of the conflict.
So it says, "The Lord loveth a cheerful, a hilarious,
giver." Surely this is one who in all things sacrifices with joy,
endures with joy, suffers with joy.
But how is this possible? It is impossible for the natural man;
by which we mean, it is impossible for the Christian in the ground
of nature. There are no such springs of joy in our "flesh." This
joy springs up from the wells of salvation. It is of the Spirit;
but of the Spirit as within us. Thus the second aspect of
the celestial fruit of the Spirit is "Joy": "The fruit of the
Spirit is Love, Joy...." The Kingdom of God, already a
realised FACT in the Spirit, is righteousness, and peace, and joy.
But the well-spring is the Divine Love. The children of God share
so deep a fellowship with their Lord that the JOY of His
accomplished triumph springs up within their hearts.
Did not He enjoy so intimate a fellowship with the Father here on
earth that in the face of His anguish He was able to pass on the
inheritance of His joy to His disciples, saying, "These things
have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that
your joy might be complete."
It is therefore His joy. Nothing else can sustain the
Cross. We do not go through upon determination, stoicism. Between
the upper and the nether millstones of God's will and Satan's, all
flesh would be intolerably crushed. It is not in us to stand the
pressure of the Cross. "The joy of the Lord, IT is our strength."
So He calls, "Rejoice with Me." He has triumphed, and He is
triumphing. Rejoice! He has found, and He is finding: He is
calling, and He is gathering: He is leading His flock like a
Shepherd, and the Gateway of that Eternal Fold is close at hand.
Joy therefore, not our own: not selfish, springing from personal
motives or achievements; but in captivities, straitenings,
afflictions, sorrows, suspenses, delays, postponements, and
seeming present defeats, JOY, that springs up in our spirit from
the Eternal Heart, because our life is in that stream of the Love
of His Purpose, which the Cross has already accomplished in the
unseen, and which the Spirit is working towards in the saints in
all the world.
As we seek to co-operate with Him in the building-up of the House
may it be said of us, "The Lord made them joyful to strengthen
their hands for the work."
"Rejoice, and again I say unto you, Rejoice."
Yours in this hidden Life,