“What do you have to smile about? How can you be so calm in the midst of crisis?”
Have you ever heard (or said) those words to someone when life seemed to be crashing in and yet she is so calm and offers an enigmatic grin? How can anyone have joy when the negative medical diagnosis is given, or the job loss occurs, or a friendship is fractured, or people are attacking for no good reason. Where can one find joy in the depths of crisis?
Rhoda was a woman of joy. Actually, she was a joy-filled servant girl. That’s the only thing the Bible tells us about Rhoda. Her story is found in Acts 12. She was a believer in the early church during hard times. James the Apostle, a leader of the church, had been executed by Herod. Peter was in jail and Herod intended to execute him as well. A lot of people in that day relished the idea of putting Christians to death. The church gathered to pray through this season of persecution. Unbeknownst to them, an angel orchestrated a prison break for Peter. Once freed, he went to the place of prayer and knocked on the gate hoping to get in and share his good news with the church. Rhoda went to the gate and God filled her heart with joy when she realized Peter was free.
She is so full of joy that she forgets to open the door and let Peter in! She is so full of joy she has to tell others right away. Even when the church folk tell her she has lost her mind and has only heard Peter’s ghost, she will not be deterred. After all, she’s filled with God-given joy! It is a joy that fills her heart, mind, and soul and gushes out. It is a joy that will not be diminished by common sense, worldly wisdom, or even Christian skeptics. It is God’s joy which will not be contained. She will not quench the Spirit nor let others cause her to doubt. This is the effect of God’s joy in the heart of His child.
You can’t explain it for it is so wonderful it puts a lightness in the heart that faces hard situations and gives way to a chuckle and grin. God’s joy befuddles others but to the recipient of joy, it is His assurance that He has been and will always be faithful to His child. For you see, God-given joy arrives through God-given hope. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).
This joy brings confidence in God and what He is doing. It doesn’t really matter what man does. Herod had his plans. God had His plans. Guess whose plans prevailed? As a matter of fact, even as Herod executed James, God was in control and working things out to His glory and for the advancement of the Gospel. As the old hymn states, “He cannot fail. He must prevail. Have faith in God. Have faith in God.”
In the course of this past year, I have experienced this joy in increasing measure. As I stated, it is inexplicable. I’m not going to write down the details because they aren’t that important. What’s important is God’s faithfulness and the unexpected joy He gives by His grace and mercy. It is so powerful in the face of circumstances that I can’t help but smile. It can only come from God. His joy in my heart has given me courage, faith, and hope. God’s joy inexplicably flows out when things seem to be going downhill and He brings to mind how much grace He continues to pour out on my life. In His joy, I am reminded of His Son’s sacrifice for my salvation. He brings to mind of how He has cared for me and provided all my needs through the years. He reminds me that He has brought me this far for His purposes and He’s going to see me through this life and usher me in the next. He does this not because I am worthy, but because He is gracious.
I cannot explain this joy. I cannot manufacture His joy in my life. I can only receive it when He sends it and celebrate His merciful joy. His joy brings the assurance of hope, the blessing of peace, and the promise of His grace and mercy.
When God-given joy comes, I only want to praise Him. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).
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