"When we study it in detail … we discover what a book of JOY the New Testament is.”
"JOY is the distinguishing atmosphere of the Christian life" (William Barclay in Flesh and Spirit).I remember well my experience of surrendering my life to Christ at the age of 18. Before that, I was ignoring the faith I had as a child. I was focused on having a good time, but though my focus was on a good time I remember a profound emptiness I felt. Here I was, surrounded by a group of friends, doing all kinds of fun things, but inwardly, I was empty. I see this same emptiness in kids today.
My experience of surrendering to Christ was one of coming to know an “inexpressible and glorious joy”, as Peter says (1 Peter 1:8 NIV). Giving myself over to faith brought a fullness where once there was emptiness and an undergirding strength to all of my life, as Nehemiah testifies (Nehemiah 8:10).
The source of this joy was in believing, precisely as Peter says in 1 Peter 1:8. Giving myself over to faith was like letting a dam break so that the joy might come in like a flood. Ever since then, this has been my passion. I want to facilitate faith.
In my own life, this has meant working out my faith. This is why I study so much! I want my faith to be based on knowledge. I want it for myself and for the people to whom I minister. There are many challenges to faith today, and I want to help people face these challenges.
I have found, however, that the primary challenge to faith is not intellectual. Instead, it’s the same as when I was a teenager. The problem is neglect. We get caught up in other things. The author of Hebrews said the problem is drifting away (Hebrews 2:1). There’s our career, our kids, our fun activities--none of which are bad in and of themselves, but they become the focus of all our time and our faith suffers. The result is a loss of joy and an inner void.
The temptation is to put more pressure on our families or our jobs or whatever to fill the void. Instead, what we need to do is surrender to God and his purpose for us revealed in Christ. The joy which is the Christian’s strength comes in believing, just as the Bible says. We must nurture our relationship with God. We must feed our faith!
The end of summer activities signals a good time to renew faith practices, such as Bible reading and prayer and church attendance. I encourage you, if you’re feeling empty, if you’ve lost your joy, surrender to your need for Christ and the joy that comes only in trusting him. That inner emptiness is a signal, a hunger pang, meant to awaken you to a real need, and that need is for Christ.
Now, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV).