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by Sandy Fields

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3 NIV)

My brothers, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. (James 1:2-3 Good News)

    Webster might not define “happiness” and “joy” with much difference, but it makes sense that there are different levels of emotion for these words. Maybe because we use the word “happy” more often in our language, it’s easy for me to give “joy” the more special meaning. Anyway, I’ve easily adopted two different emotions for these words. Happiness is just the light feeling you get from seeing something funny, having a day when everything seems to be going your way, when you develop your film and all the photos turned out great, and the shoes you wanted happened to be on sale at half price. Joy is something deeper to me. The feeling that all is well, no matter what the day is like — joy runs deeper than circumstance for me. It’s that conviction that this earth and my trials on it are only temporary and I rest in the faith that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is mine in Christ.

    I ran my first marathon last year. A whole year I trained for the 26 mile monster. That last mile was total agony for my body. My legs kept cramping from the knees down; both of them at the same time. I would hobble over to the closest thing to hang onto and just try to stretch them out. When people would speak to me, I couldn’t say anything back without crying the words. I wasn’t crying from pain, but from sheer exhaustion. While the onlookers had been smiling and cheering all through the course, at this point they were looking at me with pity, trying to give me encouraging words with sincere faces.

Joy runs deeper than circumstance.
    If I had been out sightseeing or working on a job, there’s no way I would have put myself through that torture without stopping. But, this was different. I had a goal, I had a finish line to cross! And when I could see that finish line, and I had the cramps worked out for the final time, I’m telling you... that emotion was joy! I had a smile on my face even through the pain. I’m now realizing that I also had a smile on my face 5 hours earlier when I started the race, but I think that must have been a “happy smile”. This finish line smile was definitely of a different nature. I had persevered. I had endured the hardships. I had finished the race.

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds onto us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the JOY that was waiting for Him, He thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and He is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

    There are plenty of things on this earth that can produce happiness. But pure joy, well that is produced by the Spirit. It’s deep and heartfelt. It’s constant, even when we’re going through unhappy trials in our life. I think it’s the emotion we can enjoy at all times when we know that “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

    Because Jesus poured His Spirit into my life, I have His joy... even in that last mile of my worst marathons!

 
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      © 2002, Sandy Fields. Used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Sandy Fields
      Publication Date: September 6, 2002


 
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