In Chapter 9 "The Scriptures and Joy" of Profiting from the Word, A.W. Pink contends that "[i]t is the sovereign decree of heaven that nothing can make sinners truly happy but God in Christ." As part of my family devotional study of this book, I've decided to post my thoughts chapter by chapter and to include portions from the book that are helping me improve my daily Bible reading and study. You can read my notes from Chapter 1 here, Chapter 2 here, Chapter 3 here, Chapter 4 here, Chapter 5 here, Chapter 6 here, Chapter 7 here, and Chapter 8 here.
A man profits from the Word of God when he:
- Perceives joy as duty--"The Holy Spirit here speaks of rejoicing as a personal, present, and permanent duty for the people of God to carry out. The Lord has not left it to our option whether we should be glad or sad, but has made happiness an obligation. Not to rejoice is a sin of omission...It is not a carnal joy which we are here urging, by which we mean a joy which comes from carnal sources. It is useless to seek joy in earthly riches, for frequently they take unto themselves wings and fly away...No, if we are to “rejoice evermore” it must be in an object that lasts forevermore...it is an intelligent, steady, heart delight in God Himself. Every attribute of God, when contemplated by faith, will make the heart sing. Every doctrine of the Gospel, when truly apprehended, will call forth gladness and praise."
- Learns the secret of true joy--"It is only where there is much faith and consequent love that there is much joy. 'Rejoice in the Lord alway' (Phil. 4:4). There is no other object in which we can rejoice “alway.” Everything else varies and is inconstant. What pleases us today may pall on us tomorrow. But God is always the same, to be enjoyed in seasons of adversity as much as in seasons of prosperity."
- Understands the great value of joy--"Joy is to the soul what wings are to the bird, enabling us to soar above the dregs of earth. This is brought out plainly in Nehemiah 8:10: 'The joy of the Lord is your strength'...My dear readers, there are tasks needing to be performed, service to others requiring to be rendered, temptations to be overcome, battles to be fought; and we are only experimentally fitted for them as our hearts are rejoicing in the Lord. If our souls are resting in Christ, if our hearts be filled with a tranquil gladness, work will be easy, duties pleasant, sorrow bearable, endurance possible."
- Attends to the root of joy--"The Gospel works joy, because the soul is at rest in God. But these blessings become our own only by personal appropriation. Faith must receive them, and when it does so the heart is filled with peace and joy. And the secret of sustained joy is to keep the channel open, to continue as we began...Daily do we need to pray for afresh realization of the preciousness of the Gospel, a fresh appropriation of its blessed contents; and then there will be a renewing of our joy."
- Maintains joy--"But the joy to which we are exhorted is not limited to any set of circumstances or type of temperament; nor does it fluctuate with our varying moods and fortunes...If we are to maintain our joy, we must keep from grieving the Holy Spirit. When Christ is supreme in the heart, joy fills it."
- Avoids hindrances to joy--"It is only as we walk with God, in the light, that the heart can truly be joyous. It is the deliberate allowance of things which mar our fellowship with Him that chills and darkens our souls. It is the indulgence of the flesh, the fraternizing with the world, the entering of forbidden paths which blight our spiritual lives and make us cheerless...Oh my brethren and sisters, if we are to be kept from such a fall, if we are not to lose our joy, then self must be denied, the affections and lusts of the flesh crucified. We must ever be on our watch against temptation. We must spend much time upon our knees. We must drink frequently from the Fountain of living water. We must be out and out for the Lord."
- Preserves the balance between sorrow and joy--"If the Christian faith has a marked adaptation to produce joy, it has an almost equal design and tendency to produce sorrow—a sorrow that is solemn, manly, noble. 'As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing' is the rule of the Christian’s life (2 Cor. 6:10). If faith casts its light upon our condition, our nature, our sins, sadness must be one of the effects."
Under his first point, that joy is a matter of Christian duty, Mr. Pink does not allow the Christian to hide under the excuse of uncontrollable emotions dictated by circumstances. He writes:
"'Rejoice in the Lord' is a Divine command, and to a large extent obedience to it lies in one’s own power. I am responsible to control my emotions. True, I cannot help being sorrowful in the presence of sorrowful thoughts, but I can refuse to let my mind dwell upon them (2 Cor. 10:5). I can pour out my heart for relief unto the Lord, and cast my burden upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). I can seek grace to meditate upon His goodness, His promises, the glorious future awaiting me (Col. 3:2). I have to decide whether I will go and stand in the light or hide among the shadows. Not to rejoice in the Lord is more than a misfortune, it is a fruit which needs to be confessed and forsaken."
I had never before considered joy a duty even though I've read 1 Thess. 5:16 countless time; therefore, it never occurred to me that my lack of joy is a sin to be confessed and forsaken. This is something that I will need to be mindful of and prayerful for as I continue my walk with the Lord. It helps to remember that sanctification is progressive and I will not be perfected until death.
As he talks about maintaining joy under his fifth point, Mr. Pink exposes the sin in my heart when he writes:
"If we expect people to pet and pamper us, disappointment will make us fretful. If we desire our pride to be ministered unto, we are dejected when it is not. The secret of happiness is forgetting self and seeking to minister unto the happiness of others. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35), so it is a happier thing to minister unto others than to be ministered unto (Matt. 20:28)."
This chapter was not only convicting, but also encouraging. As a Christian, joy should be a fruit of the Spirit that predominates my life, regardless of my circumstances and emotions.
"And he [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me," (Luke 9:23).