As a Bible teacher, a verse that has impacted my life greatly is found gently tucked away in the depths of the Book of Romans:
"For whatever was previously written was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
Although Romans is known to be a book of unmatched theology, this one verse comes alive to me every time that I read it. The Holy Spirit chose specifically what events, people and circumstances were included among the pages of the Bible for our instruction, encouragement and hope as we live in the 21st century.
During these days of the pandemic of 2020, I have found encouragement and hope in the writings of Peter as he spoke to a church dealing with horrific persecution. The Bible was not written by men who were gifted writers, talented wordsmiths or by men who had large and impressive vocabularies. The Bible was written because the Holy Spirit spoke to and through common people. Peter was one such man.
The book of 1 Peter was written in about A.D. 67 from Rome as the great persecution under Nero had begun. Christians were being hunted down and killed while the church in Jerusalem was being scattered. Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers who would be facing trials. I believe that the book of 1 Peter might be just what we need today as we face a demonic virus that has paralyzed the world.
Peter was not only writing this letter to the early church, but the Holy Spirit was using the life and writings of Peter as a microphone to speak to those who live in the 21st century as well.
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, if for a little while, you have had to suffer various trials" (1 Pet. 1:6).
This is a life philosophy that is uniquely rare and decidedly uncommon; yet Peter and the Holy Spirit command that every believer in every juncture of history should embrace this way of life. We are known as the people who rejoice even when we are surrounded by the trials of life. We, as followers of Christ, are privy to a deep spiritual joy that remains unhindered regardless of what is happening in the natural circumstances of life.
There is no suffering or pain that escapes God's notice and His final authority; in that sweet knowledge, we are able to rejoice! We know God will always have the last word, and so we rejoice. We rejoice because there is nothing that is able to overpower the power of our God!
In my life, I have learned that joy is unable to flourish and grow in the same soul as bitterness. I have ascertained that joy is not able to hold hands with despair or with conflict. Joy refuses to party with pity, dance with criticism or converse with negativity. However, joy and pain can and do coexist! There are times when trials actually function as a fertilizer that will cause exponential growth to one's joy.
The phrase for "greatly rejoice" that Peter uses in this context contains the Greek word agalliao, which means to "jump for joy." Peter commands that the people of God respond to the distress of various trials by one singular action: jumping for joy! While others may cry, worry, withdraw, eat chocolate or panic, we, as the chosen children of God, are those who will jump for joy.
"And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8, NASB).
The world will tell you to give up when life is hard and that you have a right to complain when you don't like your circumstances. However, the Word of God instructs the body of Christ to greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible!
Joy is not just a feeling, but it is an action that bursts forth from a vibrant relationship with Jesus. I dare you to try it! Jump for joy while the world is in chaos. Jump for joy while the politicians bicker. Jump for joy and allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in your life!
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical, biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. Carol has written 11 books, including Significant, StormProof and Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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