“Joy Unspeakable…”

 

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” -I Peter 1:8

When Peter wrote these words, it was on the cusp of what would become one of the greatest persecutions of Believers the world has ever seen, one that would eventually take Peter’s own life as well.  And yet, he wrote that in the terrible and trying days to come, the Believers could live their lives with a joy that could not be put into words, one beyond man’s ability to articulate, a joy “unspeakable and full of glory.”

I must confess, that joy Peter wrote of has seemed elusive of late… Though it is doubtless that God has been gracious and merciful; His providence has seen me through six months of living in the forests and mountains and deserts of the West, bringing me safely back to the origin of this journey…yet, loneliness, and doubts, and fears of failure rob me of the joy that is promised to all Believers…

But I heard a sermon yesterday on a passage of Scripture that I believe holds the key to having this joy, even “though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”  The Scripture I speak of comes from the Jesus’ own words to His disciples the very night before He would go to the Cross.  In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks these words…

“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing… If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you…. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  -John15:4, 5, 7, 8, 10-11

Peter heard those words that night; and only hours earlier he had boasted of what he would do for the cause of Christ, and had been warned of the failure that would follow.  Peter failed to let those words of Christ “abide in him.”  When the testing of his faith came later that night, he was “asleep at the switch”, he wasn’t “abiding in Christ.”  The failure that night robbed Peter of his joy, “and he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matt.26:75).

I fear that if we are not careful, we like Peter, can find ourselves ignoring the warnings of God’s Word, and attempt to live our lives and do the works of God in the strength of our own flesh… If we do that, even if God still uses us, we will be robbed of our joy in Christ. 

I thought perhaps in just six months’ time I could have a successful online ministry impacting thousands, resulting in opportunities to preach and teach in Christian schools and churches across the country.  Yeah, I know, it’s a bit much… And while I have been told that my writing has been a blessing to many, I fear often I may have been relying on my own strength and not abiding in Christ; God forgive me…

The world, our flesh, and the devil will consistently rob us of our joy. Our only hope of living the joy-full life that Christ promises us is to consistently abide in Him.  Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, offered this commentary:

The verb “abide” is the same in the Greek as “continue” or “remain” and is used no less than twelve times in John 15:4-16.  The same word is used in John 8:31 when Jesus said those who “continue in my word” are “my disciples indeed.”  Thus, abiding in Christ is not some mystical concept, but simply adhering strictly to the words of Christ as found in the Scriptures, guarding them as true and authoritative in every respect and seeking to obey them by God’s help.[1]

Abide in me;” “keep my commandments;” “continue ye in my love;” “love one another, as I have loved you.” These were the Lord’s words to the disciples on the road to the Garden of Gethsemane, where their faith would soon be tested unlike never before.  That night they all failed and fled…  But later, when they were abiding in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, these same timid Galileans would “turn the world upside down” for the cause of Christ!

 If the “manifold temptations” of this life are robbing you of your joy, take some time to reflect on whether the source of your strength and efforts has been in God, or your own…  I have good news, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).  And when we are right with the Lord, and abiding in Him, then our joy will be full, joy unspeakable and full of glory


[1] Morris, Henry M. 1995. The Defender’s Study Bible; Pg. 1161.

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