Our mission at Life Challenge can be wrapped up in one sentence—helping men and women find serious joy in God.
Addiction is the result of unhappiness. When we are discontent, we easily fall prey to our fleshly appetites and the vices of the Enemy. We are pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking creatures. We seek relief from our boredom, pain, and emptiness. Enter sin.
The fight against sin, therefore, is the fight to find satisfaction with God. Joy in God is the key to breaking the power of sin in our lives. “The joy of the Lord is your strength”—your strength, among other things, to resist sin (Neh. 8:10). Commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714) put it like this: “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”
Holiness and happiness are bedfellows.
When we are happy in God, we do not need the approval of others or the ego supports of wealth, power, and revenge. Pornography, binge-eating, and ESPN (ouch!) lose their hold on our lives. We become free! Pastor and author Sam Storms writes, “Pleasure in God is the power for purity.”
That is why the Scriptures are replete with admonitions to be glad in God:
- “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Ps. 100:1-2)
- “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Ps. 32:11)
- “Delight yourself in the Lord.” (Ps. 37:4)
- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4)
The devil’s main business is to keep you from seeing glory in the gospel of Christ so that he can keep you unhappy: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (1 Cor. 4:4). Blindness results in badness.
But when this darkness is lifted by the grace of God and we behold Christ’s beauty, we become satisfied—for true happiness is seeing the glory of God in the face of Christ. This happiness, in turn, leads to holiness. It creates in us a “holy indifference” to the cotton-candy pleasures of the world.
But there is more.
Joy in God not only frees us from sin, it empowers us to become people who love radically—people willing to die, if necessary, for the well-being of others. No sooner does Jesus talk about the fullness of joy he gives than he issues this command: “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:11-13).
Delight in God is dangerous. Joy frees us from our idols of comfort and security and enables us to live lives marked by sacrifice and suffering. Joy gave Jesus the strength to bear the agonizing death of the cross: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).
The fight for joy is the fight for personal freedom. Joy in God leads to freedom from sin.
But the fight for joy is also the fight for the glory of God. Enjoying God is the means whereby we glorify God. God is praised when he is prized. The Puritan pastor and theologian of America’s First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards (1703—1758), articulated it so eloquently centuries ago: “Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? . . . The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.”
Serious joy is not some light, silly, inconsequential happiness based on your happenings. No. Serious joy is full of glory, rich in power, and infinitely priceless. It is rooted in Christ’s bloody death at Calvary.
Some of you may be going through a very difficult season in your life and joy may come hard to you. It is okay to be sad. There is a time for everything, including weeping (see Ecc. 3:4). But while we grieve, we can still be glad. In the midst of great hardship, Paul said he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10).
Pray that God in his mercy restore the joy of his salvation to you (see Ps. 51:12). Pray that the blessedness of having your sins forgiven and being made righteous with God would overwhelm your soul (see Ps. 32:1; Rom. 5:1-2). Pray that the wonder of his grace would never cease to amaze you! Do not make excuses for your lack of joy. Not finding God delightful and desirable is insulting of his Majesty.
“I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Ps. 16:8-9)