by Leonard Ravenhill
This morning I was meditating on Hebrews 12:2 — “Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” together with Revelation 22, where at the end of history “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” calling us here and now to hasten to that glad fulfillment. I would have written something about it, but I could never put it better than the late Leonard Ravenhill did in this essay.
Joy! What a scarce commodity this is.
There are many who say that they are abiding in Christ. There are few who show that they are abounding in Him. Joy! How elusive.
How indescribably blessed is the believer who has his soul filled with it.
Isaiah had predicted, “With joy shall ye draw waters from the wells of salvation.” Our blessed Lord in His high priestly prayer requested from His Father for His disciples, “That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Notice this is a “brand” joy — ”my” joy. He prayed this for every soul that should ever believe on Him “…for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20).
This joy was not a passing emotion such as happiness may create. It was not to be partial but complete “may be full.” Happiness depends on happenings. I have seen men in the pulpit seemingly filled with glory. I have seen the same men an hour afterwards filled with gloom. The joy Jesus gives is not effervescent, not a high emotion riding the crest of a fatuous wave.
This joy is as real at the graveside as at the fireside.
It does not evaporate under the heat of adversity.
It does not collapse in the presence of calumny.
It does not wither at the onslaught of calamity.
It does not panic in the presence of perfidy.
It does not sour under the test of poverty.
It does not die at the cruel hand of tragedy.
It does not falter in the presence of misery.
Joy is not created by possessions, or by positions, but by a Person — Him! Let me add, however, that joy is not an inflexible, invariable thing. It is not a deposit placed in the soul after salvation without any chance of deterioration. It can stand all pressures Satan or circumstances bring against it; but, and ponder this well, the sun of joy in the soul can be eclipsed by our own disobedience.
Joy requires at least two conditions: submission and service. “If ye abide…” — submission — means staying put when it might seem smart to quit. It means “having done all to stand” when there is only a toehold. It means believing God when it appears far wiser to believe everybody else. It means defying one’s feelings and fears and saying triumphantly, “Thy will be done!”
Joy comes through service. Most Christians are activists; they get caught up in some kind of church work. But not all of it is good. Not all of it is essential. Even missionaries find themselves tangled in lesser things than winning the lost. Un-prayerful souls soon get diverted from the supreme task He appointed for them. This is why submission is also necessary.
Let me summarize it this way. The way to enjoy indestructible peace and joy is to determine:
- To do whatever God commands, however difficult.
- To endure whatever God appoints, however severe.
- To obtain whatever God promises, however seemingly unattainable.
- To die daily, however costly the crucifixion.
- To love my “enemies,” however misunderstood in this.
- To pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.
This will give one a healthy soul and a conscience void of offense before God and man. Otherwise we may cry with Joel:
“Joy is withered away from the sons of men… Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?” (Joel 1:12, 16).
Joy is not in having possessions. Definitely not! Treasures in the material sense can be comforting one minute and killing the next. Investments, the best of them, can fail. Houses and lands are subject to change and decay. They all are exposed to taxation and other burdens. They all may pass in one nuclear blast — then what?
Positions. These are certainly insecure. The top flight executive may be eliminated in a merger of companies. The skilled doctor may be eclipsed by the appointment of some brilliant and maybe brash young rookie. A throne can topple in a night. A dictator lives in constant fear of assassination. The athlete, long the idol of the crowd, may lose his form and be dropped and in a week become a nonentity.
But joy is a Person — Him! Joy is maintained by abiding in Him, by believing in Him, by obeying Him. A prospective missionary, long years in training and straining, had weathered a thousand doubts, and a hundred storms lashing his soul; he had survived them all, only to find that when the ship cut the shorelines his “joy” died. Not really. His feeling of joy died. He should have searched his soul before capitulating to the circumstance. Not only had the shoreline been cut, the lifeline had been cut, too; his sense of security with his family and the church folks had been severed. Now he was alone, yet not alone. God was with him.
Jesus knew the supreme anchor for this joy. The Scriptures say, “Who for the joy that was set before him.” Joy?
Joy, hanging naked and burning in the heat of the sun on a cruel Calvary?
Joy, amidst the cry of a rabble?
Joy, with all the team having run off in the hour of testing?
Joy, with no visible legacy to give to His disciples?
Joy, to die framed between two law-breaking criminals?
The joy that was set before Him. What was it? Well, look for a moment at the joy that was behind Him:
He had never deviated from doing the Father’s will — that was a stupendous joy. If I am doing God’s known will right now, I, too, shall have joy (though circumstances may be cruel at the moment).
His ministry had brought liberation to many. Has yours? Then rejoice! Of the thousands of souls He had touched, He had injured not one. What a joy!
He had spoken everything that the Father had requested despite criticism and vilification.
What a joy!
The joy before Him was:
This was the will of the Father.
This cruel cross which “he endured, despising the shame” would mean liberation from sin for millions of souls.
This ignominious death would mean eternal life for whosoever would believe on Him.
This life lived in constant conflict with the devil would fight its last battle and triumph gloriously.
This humiliation would mean the exaltation to resurrection for “a multitude no man could number.”
This death battle would mean that He would overcome “by the blood of the Lamb“ and the ”word of his testimony” that He was the Son of God.
This “shame” would mean glory forever for the redeemed.
This identification with sin would mean emancipation from it for all who would avail themselves of His triumph.
Christ’s defeat of the devil would mean that He could lead captivity captive and give gifts to men — “gifts of power and of ministry. His supreme gift would be the gift of the Holy Ghost “and love, joy, peace” to empower the Church for world evangelization. Blessed be God, for He was and is God.
“The Joy of Jesus” is chapter 1 of Revival God’s Way by Leonard Ravenhill (Bethany House, 1983)