A slave of Christ

Intimacy with God means emulating Jesus, which means observing how He lived and what He taught. It means soaking in the truth and then applying it to our lives. Consider the following words of our Lord and Saviour, and the implications for our lives:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NKJV; Matthew 20:25-28).

Let’s break this down so we don’t miss the significance:

If you want to be great? Be a servant.

If you want to be first? Be a slave.

If you want to follow Christ? Lay down your life to bring others into God’s sheep fold. 

The closer you want to get to God’s heart, the more He will ask of you. How close do you want to get to Jesus? Are you prepared to: lay down your comfort, security, dreams and even loved ones to take up your cross to follow Him? 

The pioneering missionaries of old understood this. They packed up their lives, including their own coffin, walked onto a boat, waved farewell to loved ones and sailed away, often without surety of ongoing provision, to take the Gospel to the world. They gave up their life to ransom a few through the sharing of the Gospel. 

God is in a season of refining my heart still further. All selfish ambition must go. All care of my reputation in the world must go. All hold of worldly goods must be cast aside. Any hope for security must be set aside.

How close do you want to get to your Saviour’s heart? I am far from being a slave or giving over my whole self, but it is the prayer of my heart that I shall be made willing.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but onewhich are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind (NKJV; Philippians 3:7-15a).

Take up your cross, and follow Him

 

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Test the fruit

There are some truly hard teachings when you get into the Word of God. I think that the church skirts around these too often. For those of us pursuing the Father, we cannot set these aside.

Some of the hardest teachings are found in the Gospels. Many paint a picture of Jesus that is not Scripturally accurate. Too often He is painted as someone who will condone all sin in the name of love. I say “in the name of love” because that is what it is – what people name love, not what love truly is. Pure love does not condone sin. Those walking in the love of God do not condone sin. Walking in step with the Spirit means bearing fruit of repentance. It means walking the narrow road. It means standing up for truth despite the personal cost.

Looking at our fruit production

A perfect example, which has been on my heart lately, is found in Matthew 7. Let’s go through some of the hard verses.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14).

Are you willing to walk by the narrow road? Many in the church today cannot be distinguished from the world. Can you? Do you know Scripture? Do you know the teachings of Christ? Do you apply them? The gate to salvation is narrow – and the way hard – that leads to life; believers should not be expecting an easy life in this temporal existence. We are called to lay down all we have, all we are and all we desire, to follow Christ as He leads us.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus tells us that we can recognise false prophets by their fruit. It is easy to get carried a way by a charismatic leader, or someone with strong giftings. Before you fly away on their words, pause and look at their character.   First line up the fruit of their life to what Scripture says will be produced by those walking according to the Spirit. God can still use false prophets and teachers through their gifts, but we should not attempt to immolate their lives! And we must be very careful to discern what is good and sound, and what is erroneous, of their teaching.

The African Horned Melon grows quickly and looks intriguing, but is bitter in taste

How can you look into someone’s character? See how they respond to stress, or how they react when no one is looking – particularly the home life/ family. Consider what works of the flesh are apparent in their lives:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Let’s see that list again through a modern translation (Galatians 5:19-20, Amplified Bible*):

Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. 

If the above are the fruit f the flesh, what is the fruit produced by someone walking according to the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:122-23).

Producing sweet fruit

The passage in Matthew gets even tougher and should inspire godly fear in our hearts. Those walking with the Spirit and whose hearts seek God and seek Christ have nothing to fear, but those who preach the Gospel for self-gain, and walk according to the flesh should take note:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Let us not worship God in word or deed only, but through our very being. We are to present our whole selves as a living sacrifice and walk contrary to the ways of the world.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

How can we be wise? How can we produce good fruit? Get into the Word, reading it with the Spirit. Pray and ask God to help you to read and study the Bible. Ask Him to speak application to your heart. Don’t know where to start? Start with one of the Gospels – which follow the life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Revelation is also a great book to see Jesus, our coming Conqueror; I hope to do a blog series on it soon.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

May we be recognised as children of God by the fruits we produce.

Bear fruit in keeping with the Spirit

 

*Amplified Bible (AMP); Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.

Choosing intimacy

December seems to be the month of relaxation. Christmas time can be hard for many, due to absent loved ones, but overall the season is one where people relax. Work slows down. School is out. Beaches (in the Southern Hemisphere) are full. This year we noticed that it was also a season where many people seem to take a spiritual holiday. I found this an interesting observation, given it is meant to be when we remember Emmanuel, God come down to be with us.

This year, I realised that I was amongst the spiritual vacation-ists. I certainly spent plenty of time reflecting on what Christ did for us, and had fun starting to teach my toddler about Christ’s birth, the Word made flesh. Yet, as church activities wound down for the year and many of our congregation went away to their family homes, I noticed that my form of relaxation also took me away from intimacy with my Father. I reflected on the story, but didn’t engage with our God, the centre of the story! It was easier to enter my usual form of escapism – reading fiction. (Perhaps, for you, it is social events, computer games, beach time, cooking, . . .).

Book worm disengaging

Now, don’t get me wrong, reading wholesome novels in itself is not bad. The fault lay in that I became completely absorbed in them, taking all my free time (not much with a toddler!); there was no time left for conversing with my Father. I put myself before God. I didn’t trust Him to fill up my cup, which was feeling mighty empty at year’s end.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11).

The Spirit started prompting me. He started gently reminding me of my need for time with Him. My soul cried out for more time in His presence.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

It is easy to ignore the Spirit’s nudge and choose not to return to a place of intimacy with God. It takes effort to engage in any relationship; effort I didn’t feel I had the strength for. I hope that if you are feeling similar promptings that you will prick up your ears at this point. Thankfully this time I am choosing to heed the gentle nudge. If you’re in a similar place, thinking it easier to put it aside for “tomorrow”: don’t. We need God daily. We need to interact with Him daily. He is our daily bread. He is our sustenance.

Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11).

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:35-36).

Choosing to submerge yourself again into a deep relationship with God can seem tiring. It is tempting to continue to pursue your escapes – whether wholesome or worldly – but they will not satisfy. God is the One who satisfies the longings of our souls.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:5).

More satisfying than rich food

So, as this new year starts, choose to renew your relationship with God. Choose to make time to sit and dwell in the presence of the Almighty. Seek Him. Meditate on His Word. Sing songs of praise. Intercede for family. Listen to His wisdom for your work, family, finances, free time. Enagage in Bible study. Listen to Bible teachings. Allow Him to mould your character into that of Christ.

when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:6-8).

Yes, it will take discipline of mind and body, but this is part of being a child of God. Self-control appears repeatedly in the epistles as a fruit of the Spirit, and a part of a godly life (1 Cor 9:25, Gal 5:23, 1 Tim 2:9, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:3, 2 Pet 1:6). Proverbs sums up the alternative, what we’re like if we choose to live an undisciplined life:

Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control. (Proverbs 25:28; ISV*)

It takes discipline to cut off the areas in our life that hold us back from intimacy with God. Do you have such self-control? Do you think God worth pursuing? Cut off what holds you back and enter into the presence of the King of kings. Make a commitment to escape into daily times of intimacy with God and enjoy the rewards. 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:2-5).

 

*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996-2010 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.

Walking without sight

for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

This verse’s context is awaiting our eternity; until we die the first death, we must walk by faith and not sight.

This has been a theme for me as I have studied Deuteronomy again in preparation for teaching it this month. It is also a theme God has been stretching me in. But the good news, for those of us walking with God, is found in verse 5 of this passage:

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor 5:5).

The Spirit is our guarantee of the life that is to come. He is also the One that enables us to walk without stumbling during this short season of blindness. It is His voice that must be our guide – even when it goes against all our natural instincts and human understanding.

The Spirit guides us along the path God has for us. God gives us some further helps as well, which are strongly reflected in the book of Deuteronomy. Here are a few of the gems He is giving me from Deuteronomy:

  • Trust in God’s character plays a large part in walking by faith. The Word of God is our guide to God’s character and then personal experience cements our understanding of His worthiness of our trust.
  • Understanding of God’s character leads us to love Him and it is from love that obedience flows most successfully. It is easy to obey a loving Father.
  • Remembrance of God’s past faithfulness also increases our faith in Him and breeds further trust and reliance on God.

This year God has stretched our faith in Him to provide on time. In fact, throughout my life walking by faith God has always perfectly matched provision to need. This past season He has deepened the lesson that we can afford to give hilariously (2 Cor 9:7 – cheerful can be rendered “hilarious”) where He leads us because it isn’t our money, but His, and He has plenty more in His storehouse for our needs! We have had several large provisional breakthroughs this year; all supernatural and all on the back of obeying His call to give in an extravagant manner (for our personal income and possessions) that had us laughing with incredulity!

He had also had us step out in faithful obedience to chase a ministry vision that is impossible without God’s input. Remembering Him doing the same in my life when calling me to co-found Redefined Ministries DRCongo and pioneer YWAMs Bible School in Rwanda is a good example of remembrance building future faith. I hold on to how these two ministries have grown since their birth when I am discouraged by lack of  (perceived) momentum in this current season. Again, Glenn and I are walking by faith and not sight in this area as we put money into converting our home into a mission hub, able to host visiting mission teams.

Walk by faith in God

It seems that God hasn’t finished with my lesson in this area yet. We fly out on a mission trip Thursday, but are still awaiting a passport to arrive. We both have peace not to change flights or make other plans, yet it is stretching us! Walking by sight would be allowing anxiety to creep in, change flights, or make alternative plans. Waking by faith means holding firm to the peace God has placed in our hearts that Thursday is our flying date. Again, remembering past lessons helps somewhat. I am racking up quite a few last minute miracle stories, but two memorable ones include:

  1. My first Rwandan visa coming through so last minute that I had taken a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg without it and had to run to my gate with my check-in luggage on my person.
  2. My son’s visa for a trip last year coming 10 minutes after the close of business day on the last business day before we flew.

I hope this post is an encouragement to some of you who might be trusting God for things that seem impossible by the physics or understanding of this world. Let’s keep in step with the Spirit, walking by faith and not sight!

 

As an addition (02/10/2018):

God came through with the passport and we are all set to go.

Last night and this morning He challenged me with these questions: “What is your understanding of Me and My character? Am I the Living God? Am I a God who keeps His Word? Have I not promised you it will come? Will you trust in Me and My word?” Yes, I trust Him and His word.

It was no longer a question of whether or not I should go; God had spoken to me that I should go on this trip. It had become a question of trust and – I felt God saying that, because I had written the blog post – it had also become a matter of His faithfulness to His Word. It had become about His character, not whether I had heard Him correctly. And, as we see, He is a God who keeps His Word. He is the Living God! 

Fasting

Developing discipline, developing character

God sure stretched me last season, but what sweet fruit it produced and is continuing to produce! God disciplines us in many ways because He loves us; read Hebrews 12:5-11 if you don’t believe me! God’s discipline develops our character, producing godliness and righteousness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Producing sweet fruit

I’ve never been a fan of the spiritual discipline of fasting, but it was one of the avenues God used to shape and direct me this past year. I’m finding the more I faithful heed His call to fast (and do the fast HE chooses), the more I enjoy them and, indeed, look forward to them.

At the moment my fasting isn’t the one we all think of – abstaining from all food – I think because I’m still breastfeeding a little one. God calls us to fast from all sorts of things. Some of the things He has asked me to fast from include: my phone for a month (which I use for business, too!), milk in tea/coffee, caffeine, sugar, eat only soups, eat only vegetable and grains, fast lunch etc. Glenn often gets called to fast from YouTube, or Facebook. Others I know often get asked to fast from T.V. or social media.

The purpose of fasting can very greatly. You might fast to from a hunger to draw close to God. You might fast as an act of repentance and to find healing for your soul. God might ask you to fast so that you can devote more time to interceding for others, or He might ask you to read through certain Scripture and dwell on His Word. We can’t put God in a box! This is why we must walk in step with His Word and His Spirit.

Time in the Word

I’ve also found that there is no one way that God directs or works in my fast. Sometimes the breakthrough happens only at the end. Sometimes breakthrough comes when the fast is still only an intention for the coming week. This last time God gave me prophetic dreams, daily images, and words. Sometimes He calls me to intercede for others, and sometimes for my circumstances.

If you are hungry for God and truly want to live your life solely for Him, then I suggest asking Him what He might want you to fast from and when to do so. Maybe He wants you to intercede for your spouse or children. Perhaps He wants you to put Him first in your life again. Maybe He will speak to you about your next step, or maybe you will be asked to give up something in your life for Him.

Caffeine free zone . . . for a time!

And when the start of the fast is hard, remember the fruit that it is producing in you!

Below I’ve listed some fasting Scriptures, but Isaiah 58 is the one I come back to over and over again when I think of fasting. It shows that our heart motive is what God looks to more than anything else, and it also calls our attention, once again, to caring for the poor and lowly.

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:3-5)

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,  if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:8-11)

Here are some Scriptures (not a complete list) that involve fasting:

  • 2 Samuel 12:23 – David fasted as he interceded for his son, but acknowledged God’s sovereignty in the situation.
  • 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 – Fasting as a nation to seek God’s help and intervention.
  • Ezra 8:21 – Humbling the people before God and seeking His protection for their journey.
  • Esther 4:16 – Seeking God’s favour on behalf of Esther as she went before an unbelieving king on behalf of her nation.
  • Joel 2:12-14 – Calling the people to repent and seek God’s mercy.
  • Matt 6:16-19 – Fasting is done for the Lord, not for man, accolades, or praise. We are to fast with all humility, seeking only God’s attention.
  • Matt 9:14-15 – There were times when Christ called His disciples not to fast, but celebrate His presence with them.
  • Luke 18:12 – Fasting is worthless before God if our heart is not right.
  • Acts 13:3 – The church in Antioch were fasting and worshipping God as a congregation. From the fast, they felt they were to set apart Barnabas and Paul for a specific work, and sent them off.

 

Loving the lowly

God has Glenn and I on an amazing journey towards loving the poor, lowly and broken hearted. It is a journey of dying to one’s self, gaining Christ’s compassion through trials and frustration, learning patience and humility, laying down preconceived ideas of ministry style and culture . . . and many other humbling lessons!

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10)

I love where God is taking us, but I must admit it is not always a comfortable journey. God constantly demands more of us – not in busyness, but pride, thought, heart, intention, finance, and inner motives. He calls us to sacrifice our own desires and dreams, laying them at the foot of the cross. Even as we do so, we pick up His desires and walk more and more into His purposes. We gain His heart. And what is His heart? Obviously, salvation of all people. But we also see in the Word – both in the New Testament and in the Old Testament – that His heart is for the poor and lowly. 

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18).

I can’t say I have “arrived”. I know this journey will be life long. I don’t have much to give this blog other than to challenge you to join me. I challenge you to completely surrender to God, one small step at a time.

What is out of your comfort zone in His call to love and serve the poor? Is it helping at a food shelter, talking to a homeless man, inviting a foster child into your home, moving to a poorer area to live and serve your neighbours?

Sewing ministry of Shalack

God calls us to love that knows no bounds.

There are those who argue that grace requires no works. They are correct in the truth that ONLY grace is needed for our salvation. They are incorrect when it comes to the “working out” of our salvation. The Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation (1 Cor 1:21-22), and so, if we have the Spirit within us, we are going to keep in step with the Spirit!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal 5:22-23).

Jesus, Himself, gave us the commandment to LOVE – love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31). Love is not an emotion, but a challenging accumulation of traits – just read through 1 Corinthians 13 if you don’t believe me!

So let us learn how to love in truth and deed. Let us learn to love without bounds. Let us call out to the Father, asking Him to give us a love that crosses culture, social status, age, nationality . . .

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Sewing ministry of Shalack_learning straight stitch making bunting

The Happiness Myth

“Nothing is worth it if you’re not happy” said a post on Facebook the other day. This seems to be a commonly held view in society, but I beg to disagree. Let the world pursue happiness, Christians have something better – joy. Joy in the Lord is our sustenance. Unlike happiness, joy springs within us independent of circumstances.

Consider what Apostle Paul endured:

but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).

Yet Paul could declare:

. . . In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (2 Corinthians 7:4).

James agreed with Paul:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Joy enables us to consider the needs of others, taking the focus off of our own needs:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

We are called to a life of joy in the Spirit, not a life of happiness. I can testify that the season where the most people have commented on seeing my joy was during the season of greatest heartache. They weren’t seeing a feeling that came of circumstance, but an inner condition gifted by the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).

Joy may come with costs, but it far surpasses temporal happiness. Seek after intimacy with the Holy Spirit and receive His joy.

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Psalm 4:7).

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Are you pursuing joy or happiness?