Prof. Barry Gritters
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." –
Many who don’t belong to a church try desperately to
convince themselves that they are happy. They fool everyone but
themselves. Or they know they are not happy and try to drown their
sorrow in drinking, drugs, sports, work or something else to keep their
minds off their unhappiness. We believe there is only one kind of true,
lasting, joy: "Christian Joy." We hope this pamphlet will guide them to
Others ARE church members, but find no reason for
joy. Many of these have been robbed of the true gospel of salvation by
grace alone, through faith. If that is true, there can be some joy—maybe a false, short-term joy—but not true, lasting peace of mind and
heart. Or, because of the weakness of their faith, and the temptations
that so easily beset, some have a hard time seeing the joy of salvation.
Our prayer is that God will use these excerpts from
sermons preached in our church to be a help for you in your life. May
you have "Christian Joy."
The Cross's Prescription
Have you ever asked yourself what it means truly to
be happy? We mean, now, TRULY full of joy! Do you know it? Is it your
experience? Do you wake in the morning able to smile?
A Christian can and does. NO ONE but a true Christian
can make that claim. A Christian says: "Yes, I know what true happiness
is. Even though life is not all roses, I am truly happy." Why can a
Christian say that? And why would anyone be so bold as to say that ONLY
a CHRISTIAN can be genuinely happy? There is one fundamental
reason—Jesus Christ gives us peace of heart and mind. Let us explain.
The only reason for all the Unhappiness today is that
men are not right with God. Men and women have "missed the mark" (that’s
the Bible’s description of sin). What is the mark men and women must aim
for? To LOVE God with all our time and energy, and love our neighbours
as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-38). That’s the bulls eye. When people fail
in that, they owe a GREAT DEBT to God, a debt that we must pay, or be
unhappy by God’s judgment. Now, why are so many people miserable today?
In simple language, they have failed God. In His anger, God rightfully
makes men miserable. SIN stands in the way of happiness. And if that sin
is not remedied, they will be miserable in the most utterly serious
sense of the word—forever.
Is that our life expectation? It is and must be
unless we understand and believe the next paragraph.
Here is the key: A Christian is happy, and can be
happy, NOT BECAUSE HE DOES NOT SIN. Don’t misunderstand. Christians
still "miss the mark." They still sin. So true. But Christians can be
happy because they believe their debt is paid in full.
How? Through the death of a man—JESUS CHRIST—Who is
also God Himself. He paid the debt by His perfect love to God and
sacrifice on the cross. (He "hit the mark!") Thus, the ONLY reason for
true misery is gone! To be happy (truly happy) you must BELIEVE that
this Man died to satisfy for YOUR failures. That’s why the Bible says
"Blessed (happy) is the man whose transgressions is forgiven, whose sin
is covered." (Psalm 32:1). How is this possible? Jesus Christ died on
the cross for the sins of those who believe in Him. Find joy first at
One Day At A Time
We all see a lot of failure when we look BEHIND us.
There are many mistakes; both deliberate and unintentional. We see the
misery we have caused others and that we have brought on ourselves.
But we believe that Christ has paid the price for our
sins. Christ took the punishment on Himself when He died on the cross.
And when we confess our failures to God daily, He daily forgives our
sins and gives us true joy—even when we look back and see how badly we
have botched our lives (Psalm 31).
But life is not so simple. We also need to look
ahead. And sometimes the future is harder to handle than the past.
CHRISTIANS CAN ALSO BE HAPPY WHEN THEY LOOK AHEAD.
It happens sometimes that we want to bite off a
bigger piece of life than we can chew. We do that in our spiritual life,
too. Let me use an illustration. A donkey can carry a large load of
straw—more than we can sometimes believe. But if we would pile five
times more straw on the donkey, he’d collapse, no matter how sturdy he
We do the same when we try to worry about what is
going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, or the next … The
Lord did not create us to worry about more than one day at a time. There
is enough trouble to care about today, enough burdens to occupy all our
strength RIGHT NOW.
Of course, that does NOT mean that we must not PLAN
for tomorrow. That would be folly. If we would not plan ahead, we would
be very unhappy when "ahead" came and we were unprepared. Rather, a
Christian should plan ahead, but then leave it to the Lord to "worry"
Christ teaches this in Matthew 6:34, "Take therefore
no thought for the morrow; for the morrow will take thought for the
things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." In plain
language: Don’t let tomorrow get you down!!! The PAST is taken care of
by Christ and His work. And because the FUTURE is also His, you may not
take that burden on yourself until it comes to you. Christ directs it
for the good of His people.
"One day at a time" is the Lord’s second lesson for
Christians On Trial
Not a very nice thought. Who would care to sit before
a judge and be declared guilty of a crime? Yet there are many who know
what that’s like. There is ANOTHER kind of trial that Christians
experience. And if we understand what it means that God puts US "on
trial," we will have come another step in maintaining or finding TRUE
God sends afflictions to His people to put them "on
trial." The prophet Isaiah writes that God’s people were "chosen IN THE
FURNACE OF AFFLICTION." (Isaiah 48:10). God’s people often see more
trouble and pain than non-Christians men and women (Psalm 73). Some
people experience sickness, ridicule, persecution, loss of homes or
families. Sometimes to the point of saying, "I’m going to give up." THIS
IS GOD’S TRIAL OF A CHRISTIAN’S FAITH.
But God’s trials are not like jury trials. He doesn’t
need to find out the GENUINENESS of your faith. He doesn’t need to see
whether your faith will fail under stress. Faith is God’s gift. He knows
Rather, the Bible likens the trials of our faith to
the purifying of gold (I Peter 1:6-7). Gold is tried to purify it and to
God sends trial to PURIFY our faith. When God gives
us faith, we might add to it our own ideas about Christ, our own carnal
beliefs about salvation, our own notions about prayer and church, about
fun and happiness. God sends us afflictions to burn away these FALSE
BELIEFS, and bring us to our RIGHT BELIEFS.
Then it makes sense that the man of God says, "It is
GOOD for me that I have been afflicted …" (Psalm 119:71). The Lord sees
what His children need. Knowing this brings us closer to true CHRISTIAN
JOY. Thank Him for His care of His people.
Peace And Prayer
ANXIETY and its child DEPRESSION are a couple of the
most feared words in the world today. But they are probably two of the
most common ailments that men and women face. Who doesn’t know the black
feeling when things are not going right, when troubles loom large and
unsolvable—when the job is lost, the wife is gone, the children rebel,
the friends leave …?
The Lord recognizes that His people face troubles and
the potential for great anxiety. So He encourages us to handle these
situations PROPERLY. In the negative, He says not to worry. "Don’t be
anxious about your problems. Do not fret about them." In fact, we are
told not to worry about ANYTHING. We might all be able to think of some
exceptions where we would say: "The Lord would understand that I MUST
worry about this …" But the Lord says: "No, don’t worry about ANYTHING!"
Someone might say, "That’s good advice, but I haven’t
yet found the switch to turn off my emotions. As soon as I do I will
take the advice of the Lord not to worry." Valid objection. How do we
turn off our worry? The answer is: We don’t; the LORD does. How? Prayer.
Too simple? If you look at it from our point of view,
it is. But God is bigger than we are. Let me explain. God says: "Don’t
worry." We say, "How?" The Lord answers: "Pray. And believe Me." In
other words, on of the means, (not the only one, surely) that God uses
to wipe away worry from our minds, is prayer.
The Lord does not promise to take our troubles AWAY
by prayer. And we must not pray for that first, either. The Lord does
not tell us to do that. He tells us that when we bring our troubles to
Him in prayer, He will give us peace of heart and mind about them. He
will give the ability to face them with His strength. Prayer does not
Prayer changes us, because God blesses prayer by
giving us His peace to guard our hearts and minds from worry.
Worry in your life? Who does not? Follow the
instructions of the Lord: don’t worry about anything, but "in
everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God that passes all
understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"
"These Things … Do"
If you want a full-colour picture of true peace of
mind (joy), you must look back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
The walked with God in the cool of the day, talked with God about their
entire life, and loved each other in perfect harmony. Not a moment of
misery, not an ounce of grief. Imagine that? A marriage with perfect
harmony? We can’t. Not completely, anyway.
The beginning of all problems—both personal and
family—is found in Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God. To put it
in simple yet clear language that a child can understand: they disobeyed
God and became miserable. Sound familiar? This is the story of the world
today. There is no peace in disobedience to God.
Men and women today learn about peace in the same way
Adam and Eve did: we look in faith to the cross of Jesus Christ. There
is peace of mind and heart for us, too. (see "The Cross’s Prescription")
Why, then, are true Christians still "in the dumps"
sometimes? Partly because they fail to understand a basic principle of
the Bible found in Philippians 4:8,9. The life of a child of God is not
a smooth glide and first-class ride to heaven. It involves WORK.
If we think that all we have to do is pray ("Peace
and Prayer") and enjoy the "peace of God that passes all understanding,"
but still live like we want, we are seriously mistaken (and probably not
Christians). God is a holy God who calls His people to loving OBEDIENCE.
Requiring obedience, God rewards DISOBEDIENCE with a loss of peace and
joy. How many times doesn’t this happen to so many of us?
Philippians 4:89 says we are to "think on" everything
true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. But thinking is
not enough. Verse 9 says, Think on these things and, thinking, do them.
Oh, yes: Pray for grace to believe in the cross, to live a day at a
time, to pray, to bear up under trials. But if we truly understand the
cross, out of thanks to God we will also pray for strength to obey God’s
will. And the God of peace shall be with us!