By Eld. Sim Chee Seng
The Yishun NBC met in Bro. Norman Tan’s home last Friday. We used Pastor Gan’s sermon on “Joy robbers” for our sharing and discussion. We praise the Lord for blessing us in the study of His Word and our fellowship one with another.
One question we considered was on the difference between happiness and joy. Examples of happiness are: winning a lottery, getting married, receiving a promotion or become grandparents. Bro. Norman gave thanks for his third grandson, Bro. Ronnie Pang praised God for two lovely grandchildren as too my wife for our grand-daughter, Faith. Others are thankful that they have a job, families are well and generally life has been smooth so far. We agreed with Pastor Gan that happiness is dependent on circumstances. When times are good and circumstances favourable, we are happy. The converse is also true.
What about joy? We considered Job, a righteous man, who suffered successive tragedies – loss of livestock, property, children and personal health – yet refused to “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) He persevered in his faith and trust of God and he could even say “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” (Job 1:21) in the face of these severe trials.
We also considered Jesus’ suffering. In Heb 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Unless one is a masochist, nobody in their right mind enjoys suffering. Jesus suffered not because He enjoys it. Rather He suffered for our sins and He became the author and finisher of our faith. Those who believed in Him may become the sons of God. The joy that Jesus experienced was not the suffering on the cross but the knowledge that He persevered and accomplished His Father’s will.
We concluded that joy is not based on circumstances but it is anchored in the Lord. Usually, joy does not diminish with the severity of adversity / trial (but on some occasions may be intensified) due to the grace of God working through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We made reference to Psalm 43 which taught us precious lessons on how to cope with distress. Seen from another perspective, Psalm 43 is about the journey of praise in adversity. Surrounded by enemies, the fearful and despondent Psalmist firstly cried to God for deliverance and vindication. If the psalmist did not have such a close relationship with God, he would not have this problem. He wonders where God is and why He is silent at this critical moment of need. “Why dost thou cast me off” “Why go I mourning” (v2). The world is never a friend to the godly. Our Lord has warned us before: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. ” (John 15:20) Indeed, many Christians are being persecuted for their faith in some parts of the world.
Secondly, the Psalmist requested for God to lead him by His light and truth. He is in the dark about what is happening and how to respond to the situation, he needs help. God must send His light and truth so that he will be rightly guided by Him and to Him. Spurgeon says “We seek not light to sin by, nor truth to be exalted by it, but that they may become our practical guides to the nearest communion with God.”
Thirdly, he prayed that God’s truth and light may bring him closer to God using the imagery of “holy hill, tabernacle, and altar.” The tabernacle is where God meets with his people who are assembled there in a special way. At the altar, through confession & repentance of sin, the worshipper anticipates God’s answer to his prayers. At the altar, he acknowledges that God is his only treasure: “O God, my exceeding joy.” Ultimately nothing really matters in life but God. We are going to die and we will die. The real issue is this – what do I treasure most in this life? If they be my career, children, possessions, success, advancement, prestige – all these will pass away. But God is from everlasting to everlasting. We will meet our Maker one day.
The Psalmist then broke out in praise on the harp. He has reached his destination on his journey of praise – he started by seeking God in prayers, and then led by His light and truth, he came to the house of God, the altar of God, seeing and experiencing God as his exceeding joy, and then the psalm culminated in praise.
Finally, he spoke to his soul. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” He has hope of God’s redemption, but it has not come yet. He will not “give up nor give in” to his feelings of despondency. He challenges himself to trust God still and believe that God will come through again. Though the circumstances around him have not changed, yet we see that his attitude did. O what a difference that makes!
“Not yet has the answer come. The darkness and the mystery are still about him, but the shinning way is seen, and again the soul is forbidden to despair and hope is encouraged in God.” (Morgan)
Prayer “O Lord, guide us to seek Thy light and truth and be led by them to a personal communion with Thee. Open our eyes and our hearts to know Thee experientially, O God, our exceeding joy. Grant that Thy name be praised and exalted in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”