Week of July 13
Joy and Peace
I'll never forget many years ago when a so-called "brother in the Lord" tried to destroy our ministry in the former USSR. When I finally discovered the destructive schemes he was covertly planning, I was dumbfounded - stunned that someone I had worked with so closely could be deviously used by the devil. It was a true "Judas Iscariot" situation.
Thanks to God's Spirit alerting us to what was happening and to staff members who sensed something was wrong in the Spirit, we probed into this man's activities and discovered what he was attempting to do. Soon I found myself on an airplane with several key members of my team, flying to another city to deal with the consequences of his dishonest, deceitful, fraudulent plans.
As we flew that day to an encounter with evil that is forever etched in my memory, my staff commented on how joyful I was in the midst of this potentially devastating situation. I must admit, even I was amazed at the joy that exuded from down deep inside me that day! I knew the joy I felt was being produced in me by the Holy Spirit, for only the Holy Spirit could give such joy in a situation as difficult as the one I was facing that day.
That experience reminded me of Paul's words to the Thessalonians in First Thessalonians 1:6. He told them, "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." In most of Paul's writings, he associates "joy" with times of affliction. The word "affliction" used in this verse is the Greek word thlipsis. This word is so strong that it leaves no room for misunderstanding regarding the intensity of the afflictions the Thessalonians faced.
The word thlipsis conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation. One scholar says it was first used to describe the specific act of tying a victim with a rope, laying him on his back, and then placing a huge boulder on top of him until his body was crushed. Paul uses this word to alert us to moments when he or others went through grueling, crushing situations that would have been unbearable, intolerable, and impossible to survive if it had not been for the help of the Holy Spirit.
One of the ways the Holy Spirit helps in these situations is to give us supernatural "joy." However, it's important to understand that this divine joy isn't on the same low level of mere happiness. Happiness is based on circumstantial pleasure, merriment, hilarity, exuberance, excitement, or something that causes one to feel hopeful or to be in high spirits. These fleeting emotions of happiness, although very pleasurable at the moment, usually go just as quickly as they came. All it takes is one piece of bad news, a sour look from a fellow employee, a harsh word from a spouse, or an electric bill that is larger than what was anticipated - and that emotion of happiness can disappear right before a person's eyes! But joy is unaffected by outward circumstances. In fact, it usually thrives best when times are tough! It is God's supernatural response to the devil's attacks!
The Greek word for "joy" is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace. This is important to note, for it tells us categorically that chara ("joy") is produced by the charis ("grace") of God. This means "joy" isn't a human-based happiness that comes and goes. Rather, true "joy" is divine in origin, a fruit of the Spirit that is manifested particularly in hard times. Someone may feel happiness, merriment, hilarity, exuberance, excitement, or "high spirits," but all of these are fleeting emotions. On the other hand, "joy" is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best when times are strenuous, daunting, and tough!
In the example given in First Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great joy. In fact, the Greek strongly implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working inside them. Paul even called it the "joy of the Holy Ghost."
An interpretive translation of First Thessalonians 1:6 could be the following:
"You threw your arms open wide and gladly welcomed the Word into your lives with great enthusiasm. And you did it even in the midst of mind-boggling sufferings - a level of stress and intensity that would be suffocating and crushing for most people. But while you were going through all these hardships and hassles, you were simultaneously experiencing the supreme ecstasy and joy of the Holy Spirit."
The best that the lost world has to offer is a temporary happiness. But when the seed of God has been placed inside your human spirit, that divine seed produces a "joy" that isn't based on outward events or circumstances. In fact, when times get very challenging, the supernatural life of God rises up inside you to defy that devilish pressure! This supernatural "joy" will sustain you in even the hardest of times!
On the day when we faced that difficult ordeal with the man who was trying to destroy our ministry, there was something else I couldn't help but notice: Supernatural "peace" was ruling me and my emotions! Under such circumstances, most people would have been very upset, but I was completely controlled, level-headed, and at rest. My fellow associates kept asking me, "How can you be so peaceful in the midst of this situation?" It was simply a fact that supernatural peace had risen up from deep within my spirit, enabling me to be a rock in the middle of a terrible storm that was threatening to disrupt the outreach of our ministry.
I knew this "peace" wasn't something I was producing by myself; it was a fruit that the Holy Spirit was producing in me. Paul listed this supernatural "peace" in Galatians 5:22 when he wrote about the fruit of the Spirit. He said, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.…"
The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by eirene ("peace"), he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-racking, traumatic, or upsetting.
The Hebrew counterpart, the word shalom, indicates that this dominating peace ultimately gives rise to prosperity in one's soul. Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by eirene ("peace") is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing.
The New Testament is filled with examples of this supernatural peace that the Holy Spirit produces. One classic example is found in Acts 27, when the apostle Paul found himself in a ship that was being dangerously tossed back and forth by the raging waves of the sea. In fact, the storm was so severe that Acts 27:14 and 15 says, "But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive."
Notice verse 14 says, "…There arose against it a tempestuous wind…." The word "against" is the Greek word ballo, which in this verse means to throw, to dash, to hurt, or to rush. It indicates that a massive, terrible force of wind had come against them. He continues to say it was a "tempestuous wind" - which is the Greek word tuphonikos, a compound of the words tuphos and nikos. The word tuphos means typhoon, and nikos means to subdue or to conquer. Put these two words together, and it pictures a typhoon from which there is no escape. This is a storm so immense that it conquers and dominates everything in sight. Acts 27:14 tells us that this storm was called "Euroclydon" - the term professional sailors used to describe the deadly northeastern winter storms that blew across the Mediterranean Sea, causing many shipwrecks that resulted in the loss of many lives every year.
This typhoon became so fierce that Acts 27:15 says, "…The ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind.…" The word "caught" is the Greek word sunarpadzo, which means to seize violently or to seize and to carry away. This word lets us know that the sailors had lost control of the ship. The winds were so violent that they could no longer fight them. One scholar notes that it must have felt as if a monster had seized the ship and was tearing it to pieces. The situation was so completely out of the sailors' control that they "let her drive." In other words, they chose to let the storm take them where it wanted rather than try to fight the winds that could not be conquered. Their hope was that the winds would carry them into the smoother waters near the small island of Clauda, which was a mere twenty-three miles south of Crete.
Acts 27:17 tells us that, once in the smooth waters off the shores of Clauda, the crew had much-needed repair work to do before they could continue on their dangerous journey in the winter storm. The ship had sustained a substantial amount of damage because of the fierce winds already endured on this trip. Verse 17 describes the work they undertook to prepare for the rest of the dangerous, windy trip: "Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven."
The words "when they had taken up" are from the Greek word boetheia, which referred to the ropes or cables used to secure the ship in one location. Before work on the ship could commence, the ship first had to be securely tied in one spot. Once it had been secured, the crew began to repair and prepare the ship for the rest of its hazardous journey.
But notice that this verse also mentions "quicksands," which is from the Greek word syrtis, meaning terror. This referred to the sandbars that were located off the coast of North Africa. The fact that these professional sailors feared these sandbars, which were located four hundred miles south of their location at the island of Clauda, tells us that the winds they were fighting were strong enough to take them that far off their navigational course. Ships were constantly wrecked as a result of these sandbars, which were widely known to be the graveyard of countless sailors.
After all the crew's efforts to fix the ship and try to avoid the winter winds, Acts 27:18 continues to tell us, "And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship." The word "exceedingly" is from the word sphrodros, which means vehemently, violently, or intensely. The word "tempest" is the Greek word cheimadzoamai, which is the Greek word for a storm. But when you put these two words together into one phrase, as in this verse, it pictures a very vehement, violent, and intense storm.
In other words, rather than escaping the storm, the crew must have felt like they were driving right into it! It was such a serious situation that Acts 27:20 says, "And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away."
But right in the midst of all this hopelessness, Paul stood up and said, "And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of the God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not..." (Acts 27:22-24). Paul had heard from the Lord, which caused supernatural peace to rise up on the inside of him. Therefore, he was able to be a rock in the middle of a very serious situation. His peace brought strength to everyone on that ship!
As noted earlier, this kind of "peace" is produced by the Holy Spirit. Now think back on the meaning of the word eirene ("peace") in light of Paul's experience on that ship. Remember, this word expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by outward circumstances or pressures. It strongly suggests the rule of order in the place of chaos. When a person is dominated by eirene ("peace"), he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even though circumstances normally would be very nerve-racking, traumatic, or upsetting. Isn't this the exact quality Paul manifested that day on the ship?
I know that this supernatural peace of the Holy Spirit is what was working in me the day we were facing such difficulties because of that so-called brother in the Lord. That same peace has worked in me in many other difficult situations - and it will work in me many times more in the days that lie ahead!
So don't think you have to give way to upsetting emotions in difficult or challenging moments. If you'll let the Holy Spirit work in you, He will release a supernatural joy and a dominating peace from way down deep inside of you. These fruits of the Spirit have the power to keep you joyful, calm, stable, peaceful, even though you are facing circumstances that would normally push you over the edge! Why don't you take a few minutes today to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to produce the supernatural fruits of joy and peace in you?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I am so thankful today that You haven't abandoned me to my flesh and my emotions! Because Your Spirit lives in me, I can be empowered to walk in joy and peace in any situation. Forgive me for pandering to the whims of my flesh and for allowing it to rant and rave when Your Spirit inside me is longing to cause His supernatural joy and peace to rule my life. I turn from my past habits of worry and fear, and I deliberately choose to let the Holy Spirit flood me with Your unquenchable joy and incomprehensible peace!
I pray this in Jesus' name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am dominated by the fruits of joy and peace. Fear and anxiety have no place in my life; neither am I ruled by the temporary, fleeting emotions of happiness. Joy strengthens me and stabilizes me in every situation. Peace rules my emotions, helping me to maintain stability and eradicate emotional chaos from my life and surroundings. I am inhabited by the Spirit of God Himself - and as I yield to Him, He is controlling me more and more!
I declare this by faith in Jesus' name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a time in your life when you should have been very upset about something, but a supernatural joy came rising up out of your spirit that sustained you during that hard time?
- Can you also recollect a moment when the peace of God replaced the fear and worry that normally would have conquered you? What do you think would have happened that day if you hadn't been ruled by this supernatural peace?
- Do you think you have anything to do with the fruits of joy and peace operating in your life? Can your words or actions either stop them from functioning or release them to function more freely in your life?