The Talmud-the Jewish book of instruction and tradition-states the following: The Holy Spirit rests only on one who has a joyous heart.
I can't say I believe that entirely. I believe God's Holy Spirit, His comforting Presence, dwells with us no matter the circumstance. I've felt His hand upon me during my most ecstatic moments and have certainly been aware of it when I felt as though the world were falling apart.
The future king of Israel, David-having been rescued from the killing hands of a man he loved like a father, King Saul-penned these words:
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears. ~~Psalm 18:1-6
David's first words, though life seemed to offer him anything but reasons to rejoice, were in praise, love, and adoration to his God.
The name David used for Lord in verse one is Jehovah...David's All-in-all. His very reason to be joyous.
A Look Back At Parts One through Four
We began this series by looking at a verse of Scripture from 1 Peter, which reads:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6b, 7)
The question raised was: In what do we rejoice?
By looking back at verses 3-6a we discovered we can rejoice because:
1) We have new birth into a living hope.
2) We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven just for us.
3) We serve a God of mercy.
4) We have been given the precious gift of faith, which when tended properly, grows like a lush garden.
In What Else Do We Rejoice?
After Peter writes "who through faith..." he continues with "are shielded by God's power."
Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? They're fun, giving one a feeling of being truly alive and free. You feel the wind as you force yourself against time and space. Maybe you even get a few bugs in your teeth (gnats taste sweet, don't they?) or tangles in that part of your hair, which-if long enough-hangs out from below the rim of the helmet. If the weather is warm you sense its heat. If the weather is cold, you feel a chill in your bones. Either way, you feel the ride.
I enjoy motorcycle rides. (I called them cycle biking.) I remember dating a young fellow back in high school who picked me up on his cyclebike, drove to the nearest service station, put a whole quarter's worth of gas in the tank, and away we went! I also remember the day another young fellow called and asked if I wanted to "go for a ride" on that beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was way behind on a school report so I declined, but suggested he call my neighbor and friend. He did, they went, and when a dog ran out in front of them, they hit the road doing about 45.
I visited them that evening in the hospital.
That's the thing about cyclebikes. If you wreck, there's nothing between you and the brutal, unyielding road. Not like with a car, with its steel reinforcements, air bags, etc. And, of course, the bigger the car, the less chance of getting mangled along the way.
Who is Keeping You Safe?
Did you know that "riding with God" is a lot like cyclebiking-only with reinforcements? There's freedom. We feel life! Yet we are completely protected, hedged in, surrounded...shielded, 1 Peter 1: 5 says.
The word Peter uses is phroureo (pronounced froo-reh'-o ) and it means so much more than some type of covering. This word is defined as "to guard...as in military guard." In other words, we are surrounded by a military guard. A heavenly host of warrior angels.
Look at this powerful story from 2 Kings:
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, "I will set up my camp in such and such a place."
The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: "Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there." So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, "Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?"
"None of us, my lord the king," said one of his officers, "but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom."
"Go, find out where he is," the king ordered, "so I can send men and capture him."
The report came back: "He is in Dothan." Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see."
Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
I am a writer, and as a writer I must have a vivid imagination. When I was a little girl I raked the pine straw in the backyard into the blueprint of castles and fortresses and within the high stone walls I became a princess-the daughter of the king-and lived out many adventures.
Years later, when I joined a drama class, our director said after one of my class performances, "The thing about her acting is: she can have absolutely nothing around her, but can clearly see those things which should be."
It's called imagination.
So imagine with me. Close your eyes and imagine that right here, right now, no matter what your circumstances-good days or bad times-an army of Heavenly beings are surrounding you. They stand tall, their bodies fit for battle. Their swords are drawn. While some have their backs to you, others face you. Their eyes dart side to side. You know, like you've seen the Presidential Secret Servicemen's do. Nothing is getting past them. You are well protected.
Now open you eyes. Can you still see them? They really are there. If you have that faith we talked about in the last installment, you can see them. Not physically, of course, but with your spiritual eyes. There's nothing to be afraid of. We're not talking New Age stuff here. We're talking about your Father, the King, ordering his men to protect you.
There's more to the definition of "shielded" than I mentioned earlier. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon concludes the definition with this: [to guard] by watching and guarding to preserve one for the attainment of something.
What is that "something?"
Peter says: you, who through faith are shielded (surrounded, guarded) by God's power (His Heavenly warriors) until the coming of the salvation.
Salvation! The very reason we can live a life of joy! Because Jesus has saved us and we are being preserved-protected, defended, and cared for-until that time when we see Him face to face. God the Son, our All-in-all.
In this we can truly rejoice!
Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows, and the upcoming Shadows of Light (Barbour Books). She is an award-winning national speaker and can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at PenNhnd@aol.com or you can go to her official website.