the joy set before us

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1 – 2)

For many of us, 2012 has been a difficult and wonderful year. We have gone through a variety of trials, joys, failures, triumphs. I doubt any of us have had a perfect year, and I also doubt that any of us have seen a completely joyless year. Nevertheless, we all hope for a good 2013.

The year of 2013 is certain to have its ups and downs as well, but we need not be afraid. We have our Lord with us. The One who made us, the One who has performed endless miracles and victories, the One who made the universe – He is on our side. He will protect us, stand by us, hide us in Himself, save us.

Paul says that we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses,” angels. Angels aren’t delicate creatures with wings that fly around with halos. They’re heavenly warriors, soldiers; strong and mighty to fight Satan’s forces for us. We are not alone in this world! Since we are surrounded by this great cloud of warriors fighting for us, we shouldn’t be afraid to go forth in the name of Jesus Christ! We can throw aside our sin in His name and run with endurance the race ahead of us. Although we do not yet know what 2013 holds for us, we can already declare victory in the name of our Lord and Saviour because He is always victorious.

Jesus was hung on a cross and He went to it willingly because He knew that from this, greater joy would come. We ought to have this attitude with us too in the year ahead. We know that there will be struggles, pain, things we don’t (and maybe never will) understand. The Christian life is not a life of roses. There are temptations, burdens, valleys and battles. But if we go forth knowing that, if we turn to God in every circumstance and say “yes” to Him, He will turn our sorrow into joy, our burdens into blessings and our valleys into conquered mountains.

Jesus underwent a horrible experience out of love—love for us and love for His Father. As a result, He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If we say “yes” to God in the difficulties, trials, pains—when God doesn’t even seem there—we will be richly blessed and we will grow in our faith in Him. God uses trials to strengthen us, but only if we let Him. Will you commit to allowing Him to work in your life and help you grow this year, no matter how painful it is?

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.

The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.

happiness or joy?

Most of us would agree with this. Choose happiness. well, yeah. happiness is bien. God wants us to be happy, obviously. umm…maybe not.

My pastor raised an interesting point: what if God doesn’t want us to be happy…but joyful?

Happiness is external; joy is internal.

Happiness is based on chance; joy is based on choice.

Happiness is based on circumstance; joy is based on Christ.

– Pastor Gord (:

God doesn’t desire happiness for us because happiness is simply an emotion. It does not last, it can be stolen by the smallest things, and can quickly turn to sadness. Then you’re happy again…sad…then happy…you get the idea. If the Christian life was about being happy, many Christians would live unsatisfied lives. Imagine you were being persecuted harshly by the government, and a fellow Christian walked up to you, offered a big smile and said, “Be happy!!”, chances are you’d feel like punching them.

But if you are a Christian and are joyful, there is so much more! Joy overcomes the constant up-and-down of happy, sad, happy, sad emotions.

But joy alone is about as useful as happiness. Your joy needs to come from the Lord; otherwise it is of no worth.

Having the joy of the Lord is what separates us from the false joy of idols of other religions. From the temporary pleasure of watching Hollywood movies, Saturday night talk-shows. From music, sports…pretty much anything in this world (including shopping).

Bottom line: nothing and no one can give us joy except for the Father.

God’s joy will always bring you happiness, but happiness will not always bring joy — in fact, it very rarely will.

So what exactly is joy? Joy is a perspective that comes from knowing God is in control, no matter what.

I love 1 Peter 1:8 – 9:

…you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In Philippians 1:9 – 11, Paul writes,

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.

Paul didn’t pray that they would be happy, he prayed that they would love each other more and more so that they might serve God better — which comes with joy.

Joy is not a quick-and-easy emotion like happiness. It takes time to cultivate a true joy in God, and there’s no way we can do it on our own. We need to recognize that God is joyful. If God is truly in us, we will allow His joy to shine through us for the world to see. Releasing your problems to the Lord takes the worry and negativity out of our lives and allows us to experience His joy more completely. Who can be joyful when a cloud is hanging over their head all the time? Most importantly, though: remain close to Jesus. Getting to know God will deepen your relationship with Him and help you learn more about Him. Ask Him to use you to shine His joy to everyone.

Joy is the evidence of God in your life.