Pursuit of Joy
The great musical work by Johan S. Bach “Jesu, Joy of Men’s Desiring” is one of the best known musical works in the Christian church. It has been the processional march for thousands of brides for their weddings. I think one of the reasons it is so well loved is because it captures the thought and hope that every human heart responds to, the pursuit of joy.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we may well wonder how the life of Jesus could serve as a model for joy. He was born poor, the son of a village carpenter, the resident of a tiny town in the rural area of an occupied nation Isaiah. The prophet, described him as “a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief and suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). When He attempted to preach love and compassion to his own people, His life was cut short in the most humiliating manner possible in His day.
So we ask where was His joy? By our standards, He really never had a responsible job. He did not convert great multitudes. Jesus, however, did not measure His life in terms of economic or numerical success. He was ultimately concerned with the quality of light and truth that He could bring to human souls.
He really did not enjoy the things of this world. He was not wealthy in a material sense. What He did enjoy were the beautiful gifts of God in this world. “Consider the lilies of the field” He said, “even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”. (Matt 6:29)
He really did not experience much friendship. People came to Him, to hear Him, to use Him, to get something from Him, but they were equally willing to leave Him when He needed them. In His darkest hour in Gethsemane, He was totally alone. The most important friendship was with His father in heaven and that never failed Him. His friendship with His Father sustained Him through His trials and crucifixion.
What about freedom? He was tied up, beaten, put in prison and finally nailed to a cross. He would appear to be a man of misery, a captive of the world’s most merciless people. The reality is that He was freest of men. He had the power to completely control others, yet He chose not to.
On closer inspection, it appears that our Savior was a man of joy in the deepest sense. He had the most permanent kind of joy which comes from being in total relationship with His Father.
In our lives, we waver from frustration to fulfillment, pleasure to pain but we need to remember that our ultimate joy comes from the joy which Jesus knew – joys like calm waters of the ocean depths which pass undisturbed beneath the surface storms which rage above the surface. It is the joy that we experience when we know that we are living out God’s great design for our own lives.
Pastor Hans Lillejord