Rejoice alway; . . . in everything give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:16
To me this verse describes one of the greatest of all miracles, joy in the midst of all circumstances. One of my reading assignments in Bible College was Fox’s Book of Martyrs. I really struggled with that book. Some of the responses of the martyrs described in that book were way beyond me. I couldn’t imagine being filled with joy as you were facing being burned at the stake or even when seeing your own family members tortured for Christ. These Christians obviously had gotten hold of something I was unfamiliar with. They died in the tradition of Steven, the apostles, and even the Lord Himself. I finally began to get a sniff of what their secret was when I tasted His joy in 1994. For the first time I could begin to see the joy of the martyrs. Here is how Watchman Née describes this joy.
“How is this possible? How can we rejoice amid difficulties? Where does that joy come from? We cannot manufacture it, for if we have not got it, we just have not got it! But elsewhere Paul gives us the secret. We are to rejoice in the Lord. We are to live by the joy of Him who, where you or I would have despaired, “rejoiced in spirit” with those triumphant words: “Father . . . it was well-pleasing in thy sight!”. His joy is yours. Learn to live by it above your troubles. When tempted to be cast down, look up and ask yourself, has the Lord lost His joy today? Only if He has may you be content to be joyless! For it is not a question of your joy but His. The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Our own joy and determination could never endure the resistance, persecution, and sometimes suffering that has historically been associated with Christianity. The answer, like always, is to be daily and continually filled with the Holy Spirit. This is where we access the power that we have seen in His church from the earliest of days. I believe all of us long for this supernatural element that has been missing for too long in much of our church experience. It’s funny the way the Lord works in our lives, facing the worst imaginable circumstances what does He come up with? Supernatural joy that is bigger than all of our enemies.