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194

LVI

THE JOY OF CHRISTIAN LIFE

“These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”—John xv. 11.

WHO would not say that this joy is sorely lacking in our modern religious life? We may have a certain triumph of will. We may loyally hold to the sterner virtues. We may be cultivating a keener social conscience. But I think we lack the apostolic exhilarancy, their power of nimble rebound, their song, their praise, their joy. Our religious life is in many ways a good, solid, roomy structure, but somehow or other we often forget the lights. The solidity is there, but it is not radiant. The strength is there, but it is not winsome. We may be loyal to our God, but we are not delighted in Him. The virtues may be there, but they are not lit up. Truth is there, but it is not lit up. Patience is there, but it is not lit up. I must repeat 195my figure, we have erected our building, but we have forgotten the lights. Or shall I say we have too often built a solid crypt, and we have not carried it forward to the belfry, and when we have no joyful hallelujahs we lack the merry bells which might lead many a wanderer home.

Let us glance at one or two characteristics of the joy which is our appointed inheritance in the Lord. And, first of all, it is a joy of very startling independencies. It is perfectly amazing what this joy can do without and yet keep on burning. It can do without material treasure. It can do without friendly circumstances. We find it shining in the association of persecution and pain. The New Testament writers appear to love to startle us with the shock of a great surprise. We turn to its pages, and we are reading some black record of hostility to the Christian faith, a record of almost inconceivable suffering, and just when our spirit is sinking before the almost certain despondency and despair of the followers of Christ, we are aroused by the shining wonder of a strong joy. “The Disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.” “And they 196departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ.” This is the joy of the Lord which is strength.

What is its secret? Here is the secret: “Abide in Me, and My joy shall abide in you.” It is the joy of a deeply intimate communion with Christ. The deeper intimacy gives a larger freedom, and it is the larger freedom that gives birth to joy and song. And how do we get this deeper communion ? How do we pass into the inner rooms of the love of our Lord? We do it just by giving Him entry into the inner rooms in our own souls. We get no deeper into Christ than we allow Him to get into us. Indeed, what we really mean by getting into Christ is permitting Him to get into us. It is not our first concern to find room in Christ; it is really our concern to let Him have more room in us. Our intimacy with Christ is just in proportion to the surrender of ourselves to Him. If I would deepen my intimacy with Christ, the way to do it is to open another room. That is the primary secret; we open the doors and the Lord enters in. And the second secret of spiritual 197joy is this: the joy wells up within us in ever-deepening copiousness as we co-operate with our Lord in the service of His Kingdom. “Rejoice with Me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.” But would all the neighbours be able to rejoice with Him in equal measure? Suppose one neighbour had been out with Him on the wilds, and shared in the perils and mishaps of the search, would he not be the one who would enter most deeply into the joy of the finding? That is the principle; they who have shared in the toils of the quest will share in the joys of the conquest, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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