By now I’m pretty certain that most of you have heard about Hurricane Matthew that is beginning to blow its way up the eastern coastline of the United States. The good news for us is that it is predicted to take a turn away from land by the time it enters into North Carolina. In our particular locale about 30 minutes south of Raleigh, we are expecting around 3+ inches of rain and some wind gusts of about 25 – 30 mph, although I heard on the news this morning that there is a one in five chance that the wind could be stronger on Saturday or Sunday.
What continues to catch my attention is the force of the wind and rain near the eye of the storm as it has moved through Haiti and currently in Florida. It seems like there is not a lot that can stand up in the face of that kind of power. I kept turning to Piper last night as we watched a little bit of the Weather Channel’s coverage of the storm and exclaimed “Look at that!” or “I can’t hardly imagine that kind of forcefulness” as trees literally bent in half, mobile or fabricated homes simply disappeared, and the news correspondent’s literally yelling to be heard over the roar of the storm.
But then this morning I had another moment of amazement as I read from Philippians 4:4. When I began to dissect the original meanings to some of the key words in that scripture, I suddenly could see a clear comparison and similarity between the force of the hurricane and the force of “The joy of the Lord” working in and through us!
As most of you know, Paul wrote this letter from a prison of sorts. While he was in his own rented home, he was under house arrest, chained 24/7 to a Roman guard. To put it mildly, it was not a very joyful situation, yet his letter to the Philippians is known as the epistle of joy! In this verse he sums it all up by writing: “Always be joyful in the Lord.” Then to accentuate his point he repeats his encouragement saying: “I’ll say it again: Be joyful!” (God’s Word ©)
To be joyful or “rejoice” as the King James Version puts it, means “to be full of cheer, calmly happy, to thrive and to be glad.” (Strong’s) According to Wikipedia to “thrive” means “to progress toward a goal despite or because of circumstances.” Then there is that little word “Be” in front of it. Its job is to describe the action that is being asked by the writer. In this case it tells us “to occupy the place or position” of joy in our lives.” Merriam-Webster says that “it is used to indicate the IDENTITY, the QUALITY and the CONDITION of a person!”
Now I can’t consider this verse without taking a good long look at what I would consider to be its Old Testament counterpart in Nehemiah 8:10 where the Prophet declares in the midst of the overwhelming sadness and fear on the faces of the children of Israel when they first caught a glance of the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem. He concluded his pep talk by telling them in no uncertain terms that “Today is a holy day for the Lord. Don’t be sad (or ‘faint’ as the Apostolic Bible Polyglot version states) for the joy you have in the Lord is your strength.” (God’s Word ©)
This is where it gets interesting and my point comes together! That word “strength” means “a fortified place, a place of safety or a stronghold.” (Strong’s) In the Greek it is defined as a “force” or “forcefulness!” Hummm… so here we go seeing the same description being used for the power of a hurricane and the power of God’s joy working in, for and through you and me! When you combine that idea with the command to not “faint” (which describes one who “passes or crosses over something such as a river or lake”) you can understand the Prophet to be imploring his listeners to not cross over into the place of fear, sadness or despair, but instead to allow the force of joy to change the landscape that you currently see before your eyes!
So just as the unrelenting force of the hurricane blows through and totally changes the landfall that it touches, the exceedingly above all power of the force of the joy of the Lord operating in and through us can change the landscape of any situation into agreement with the Word of God that we are standing on in faith.
Believe me when I say that I have seen His Joy literally change the countenance of folks who have fallen into despair and unbelief when it comes to the current landscape of my wife’s health. The Lord has been teaching us a lot about His joy and how to best share it with others, especially to those who have given up on her. I have become very sensitive to those around me and always seek to be careful in the amount and content of the information I share, the way I share it and the way I personally respond to their reactions when they are in Piper’s presence. My goal is to let the force of His joy control the situations we face on a daily basis.
How much force does His joy have in the daily affairs of your life? Is that force as powerful as Hurricane Matthew with the ability to come in and radically change what you see in your life that does not line up with the promises found in God’s Word? Remember that His joy is not dependent on outside circumstances. It comes from the inside and is developed and increases as you spend regular and intimate time with Papa God in prayer and in the study of His Word. And it is never too late to start… or to get back to where you used to be!
Have a terrific and forceful weekend by letting His joy be your identity as well as the quality and condition of your life. I like to combine the teachings of these two verses into one statement by confessing that: “I always occupy the place and position of joy in the Lord, and I let my identity, my quality and my condition of Joy in the Lord always be the overwhelming force of my life.”
Is that what you are expecting today?