The title for this piece is one of my favourite hymn lines, a lovely description of the Christian life and one of the easiest truths to forget. The verse springs to mind because Wednesday evening is my church's prayer meeting and as has often been the case of late God was with us and I realised afresh the bountiful joy of the Christian life. For context here's the verse the hymn line is in:
"Fading are the worldlings’ pleasures,
How can such a thing be true? Given this fallen world we live in, full of evil and sorrow and sin and misery and heartache and grief, how can a Christian have solid joy? How can joy be anything more than an uncertain thing at best? And how, given that nothing is safe and everything can be lost or break or be stolen, how can our treasure be lasting?
The answer is that a Christian's joy and treasure are not wrapped up in the circumstances of life. At least, they are not exclusively wrapped up in such things. Our joy can be solid because our God is solid and our joy is found in our God. Our God is solid because he is a promise keeping God, a God who makes a covenant with us, his people, and says he will never leave or forsake us. He is the great I AM, the unchanging, the eternal God who is deeply concerned for his people. He is the God who declares himself to be "slow to anger and abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion." (Numbers 14v18) The source of our solid joy is in the solid eternal character of our God in all its goodness, holiness and perfection.
What joys spring forth from this source? What makes the Psalmist sing: "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight." (Psalm 43v4). The answer would take too many words then I can spare here. Needless to say, the joys available to a Christian are abundant.
There is the joy of our salvation expressed in the plea of David: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation." (Psalm 51v12). Notice, how this joy is rooted in God's salvation of David i.e. the saving character of God. What could be more joyous than knowing freedom from sin, a conscience at peace, a relationship with God restored? What gives greater joy than sitting at the cross and seeing our Saviour dying for our sin, shedding his blood, paying the price we deserved to have paid and giving us a righteousness not of our own? And what could be more solid than this joy? For as Jesus said about his people: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10v28).
Consider too, the joy of our adoption: "But you have received the Spirit of adoption, as sons, by whom we cry "Abba Father!." (Romans 8v15). What cheers the heart like knowing that God is now our Father God, for through Jesus Christ we are adopted into his family and his Spirit dwell in us confirming our sonship? More could be said, of the joy of God's comfort, of his loving discipline, of his gracious provision, of his faithfulness and of the eternity in heaven that awaits.
What's more, our solid joys are intimately connected with our lasting treasures. For as God's people, we build up treasure in heaven which cannot be lost. Indeed, our lasting treasure is the future eternity that awaits. As Peter writes:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." (1 Peter 1v3-6)
As Christians, we can find such joy easy to forget. When the hard times roll and troubles come upon us and circumstances seem against us then our temporal joy vanishes, our earthly joy goes and often our heavenly joy, our solid joy, gets forgotten. No wonder Paul exhorts us to: " Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4v4). The solidness of our joy rests on the solid foundation of God's promises. Our joy vanishes if we doubt his promises; thus faith or trust in his promises is a necessary precursor to our joy.
This is why it is so vital to regularly read the Bible, for in it we are reminded of the truth about God and his character. It takes us straight to the solid joys and lasting treasures by revealing to us afresh the goodness of God and the loveliness of Christ.
It is to our greatest encouragement that we have joys and treasures which nothing on this world can take away. We have joys and treasures that are solid and can last through any trial and difficultly and grief. Oh, that we would avail ourselves to them more often! How much joy we miss out on because we are so slow to lift our eyes heavenwards and truly see things as they are. For our joy and our treasure is our God and he will not and cannot forsake us. "What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall distress, or tribulation, of persecution, or famine or nakedness or danger of sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us." (Romans 8v35)
The world promises joys and treasures but they are fading, fleeting, uncertain things that will never satisfy and will eventually be lost. But our joy is found in more than our circumstances and our treasure is found in more than a bank account. We have solid joys and lasting treasures in God our Father, Jesus Christ our Saviour and the Holy Spirit our Comforter.
Here's the rest of the hymn called "Glorious things of thee are spoken." It tells of the great privileges of Zion, the city of God, an image of the church today:
Glorious things of thee are spoken,