The Call To Joy and Pain: Chapter 1 - Two Basic Aspects of Christianity (Ajith Fernando)



The Call To Joy and Pain: Chapter 1 - Two Basic Aspects of Christianity (Ajith Fernando)

CHAPTER 1: TWO BASIC ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY

 
Pain and joy are both essential features of Christianity...
 
Paul's statement: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake." (Colossians 1:24)
 
1) The Call To Joy:
 
Great Christian thinkers like C. S. Lewis and John Piper have emphasized that joy is perhaps the primary characteristic of a Christian...
 
There are twenty-three different Hebrew words for joy in the Old Testament...
 
The Old Testament has several calls and commands to people to rejoice... eighty-one references [to be exact]..." - references in the Psalms, in Isaiah, in Deuteronomy, and other Bible books - references regarding instruments like cymbals, regarding hand-clapping and shouting for joy and singing - references to the succession of festivals in the Jewish calendar...
 
The same is true of the New Testament: Jesus Christ's birth was "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10) - when the Wise Men saw Jesus, "they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (Matthew 2:10)...
 
With an even more marked experience of salvation in the New Testament than in the Old Testament... the joy of salvation has an important place in the Bible... The finding of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son are all accompanied by great rejoicing and celebration (Luke 15:6-7, 9-10, 20-24)... In Galatians 5:22, Paul placed joy right after love in his listing of the fruit of the the Spirit. Writing from prison he instructed the Christians to rejoice... "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4)...
 
Salvation is such an overwhelmingly wonderful blessing that whatever we go through, we always have a reason to rejoice...
 
2) The Call To Suffer:
 
... The call to pain and suffering... this too is a basic aspect of Christianity. Jesus' basic call to follow him was a call to suffer: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)... Jesus told us, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). And Paul stated, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12)...
 
3) Joy and Suffering Come Together:
 
One of the interesting things about the New Testament record is that suffering is hardly ever mentioned without also a mention of the blessings of suffering. And often the blessing mentioned is joy. [There are] eighteen different places in the New Testament where suffering and joy are found together... in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the epistles...
 
So according to the Bible, joy and pain can coexist. Christians don't talk about suffering unless they also talk about the joy of suffering. It is the joy that makes the cross worthwhile, for it gives us the strength to bear it. As Nehemiah said, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)...
 

A ninety-year-old missionary... who had been a missionary for seventy-two years... [once said]: "The joy of the Lord is your strength. When the joy goes, the strength goes!"



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