Beloved of our Lord,
And after the toil joy? Is this the order?
In a sense, and beyond measure, yes. But by no means altogether so. For while we look for that unutterable joy of the "Morning without clouds," even now, by His grace, there is a joy of the Spirit, of which it is said, "The joy of the Lord, it is your strength." The "it" is left out in both our versions, yet how emphatic it is. IT, the joy of the Lord, is alone our strength. There can be no strength apart from this present joy.
The romance of the New Testament is in its joy. All through it is a joyous book. Amid the storms of ill-will, persecution, hate, and the battle for the gaining of the soul, it is the confession of this company of harassed saints - "We rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But here we have purposely left out the dynamic centre and cause, "In Whom." For it is the joy of the Christ-Life: it is the fellowship of His JOY amid the fellowship of His sufferings.
Without this, Christian life and service are impossible. This joy of God comes instant and immediate to meet the pressure of the outward sorrows of the battle, so that the ground of our salvation being clearly revealed, the apostle says, "And not only so, but we rejoice in tribulations also." Extraordinary language! But it is the expression of the extraordinary character of the Spirit-born life. Faith (Abraham) begets laughter (Isaac). Oh, the joy of this fighting faith. It has its taste of victory amid the confusions of the conflict.
So it says, "The Lord loveth a cheerful, a hilarious, giver." Surely this is one who in all things sacrifices with joy, endures with joy, suffers with joy.
But how is this possible? It is impossible for the natural man; by which we mean, it is impossible for the Christian in the ground of nature. There are no such springs of joy in our "flesh." This joy springs up from the wells of salvation. It is of the Spirit; but of the Spirit as within us. Thus the second aspect of the celestial fruit of the Spirit is "Joy": "The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy...." The Kingdom of God, already a realised FACT in the Spirit, is righteousness, and peace, and joy. But the well-spring is the Divine Love. The children of God share so deep a fellowship with their Lord that the JOY of His accomplished triumph springs up within their hearts.
Did not He enjoy so intimate a fellowship with the Father here on earth that in the face of His anguish He was able to pass on the inheritance of His joy to His disciples, saying, "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be complete."
It is therefore His joy. Nothing else can sustain the Cross. We do not go through upon determination, stoicism. Between the upper and the nether millstones of God's will and Satan's, all flesh would be intolerably crushed. It is not in us to stand the pressure of the Cross. "The joy of the Lord, IT is our strength."
So He calls, "Rejoice with Me." He has triumphed, and He is triumphing. Rejoice! He has found, and He is finding: He is calling, and He is gathering: He is leading His flock like a Shepherd, and the Gateway of that Eternal Fold is close at hand. Rejoice!
Joy therefore, not our own: not selfish, springing from personal motives or achievements; but in captivities, straitenings, afflictions, sorrows, suspenses, delays, postponements, and seeming present defeats, JOY, that springs up in our spirit from the Eternal Heart, because our life is in that stream of the Love of His Purpose, which the Cross has already accomplished in the unseen, and which the Spirit is working towards in the saints in all the world.
As we seek to co-operate with Him in the building-up of the House may it be said of us, "The Lord made them joyful to strengthen their hands for the work."
"Rejoice, and again I say unto you, Rejoice."
Yours in this hidden Life,