How fickle our joy is.
If our favorite sports team (or our child’s sports team) wins “the big game,” or even just “a” game, we’re happy.
If a T-bone steak shows up on the dinner plate, we’re happy. Brussels sprouts and sauerkraut? Not so happy.
If there’s more money than month? Happiness. More month than money? Frustration. [The corollary: if there is a check coming back from the IRS? Joy! If one goes to the IRS?….]
We even take this fickleness into the church.
If the sermon is powerful and moving (and perhaps short)? Joy and gladness. If the sermon is “ordinary fare?” Yawn.
If someone comes to Christ? Gladness and delight. If we share the gospel and only hear rejection? Sadness and frustration.
Three new families in worship or in the small group? JOY! “Just” the same old folks? Oh well.
Here then is a Word for us from the lips of Jesus.
Having sent the 72 out for a brief season of ministry, they had returned to Christ with joyful and happy results — “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (Lk. 10:17). You can almost hear the lilt in their voices! “We did it — and with Your power!”
To them, Jesus responds with this curious statement: Yes you have been given authority, “nevertheless, do not rejoice in this…but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Lk. 10:20).
What? Don’t rejoice in spiritual victory? What is Jesus saying?
What Jesus is saying is that a spiritual activity in itself does not guarantee spiritual salvation (cf. Mt. 7:22-23). It is possible to appear to bear fruit and do it all in the flesh. It is possible to “be spiritual” and not even be a believer! It is possible to do spiritual things as a believer and do them with the wrong motives and become prideful. So don’t delight and be happy in these little things, but be happy in the bigger and best thing: an eternity that is secure with God.
Those who genuinely trust in Christ and have their names on the role as citizens of heaven have all the full privileges of the heavenly commonwealth and all the rights of being the adopted sons of God. That’s real joy. Other days may not yield the same results to our spiritual efforts — but our names can never be removed from the family of God. And our real delight is not in what has been done by us, but what has been done for us.
What is the antidote to our fickle and wavering joys? To focus on that which Christ has done for us — that which cannot be taken away. Eternal fellowship. Christ’s righteousness. Heavenly position. Faithful forgiveness. Now those are things that should stimulate happiness!