"Could you be happy around Christmas if you had no money in your pocket, no home of
your own, and no gifts to give or to receive?" - I ask my students sometimes. Some
usually say that they could. Many think that they couldn't. Then, I confess that there was
a time when I was rejoicing during the Christmas Season under such conditions.
"For, in 1956, I was spending most of the Christmas Season in a US refugee camp." - I
continue. "Thus, I remember how I was walking up and down the isles of those old army
barracks turned into a refugee camp, and admired the beautiful decorations the American
soldiers put up for us thinking: 'although I don't have a penny to my name, or a home of
my own, nor even a gift to give to my little daughter; still this is the happiest Christmas
Season of my life!'
Why? Because for the first time, I am free. I'm free spiritually
"Physically, because for the first time in my life I was spending this season free from
persecution. As in my homeland - since my father was a converted Jew and as such was
preaching the Gospel - I experienced several kinds of extreme hardships; from the
Jewish to the Christian persecution. But that will be over here. Spiritually, because it
was during February of that year that - with the help of a lady - I invited Jesus into my
heart, and asked him to forgive my sins; and he - as a result - moved into my heart,
forgave my sins, and granted me a place in Heaven. Thus, I received spiritual freedom
also." - I explain.
"For, the fact that my sins were forgiven; I didn't have to fear death, because I had a
reserved place in Heaven; and that Jesus - through his own Holy Spirit - lived in my heart
and helped me to live to his glory; gave me such joy, which could not be obtained with
money, or a beautiful home, or gifts whatsoever. As this is a deep, permanent joy. A
joy that is present even when I'm burdened by the hardest trials, or sob due to an
unbearable pain. In other words" - I conclude - "it is a constant joy that doesn't
depend on circumstances."
But I'm not the only person who is able to rejoice during hardships.
In the Bible we read
about several. For example, the prophet Habakkuk wrote about his joy during famine
when he said:
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though
there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet will I be
joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he
makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to go on the
heights." (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV.)
While, the disciples rejoiced when they were imprisoned, threatened, and beaten for
witnessing about Jesus Christ. In Acts 5:41-42 (NIV) we read:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been
counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after
day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never
stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the
Then, the apostle Paul spoke of a joy he possessed in spite of sufferings, when he said:
"...as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great
endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beating;
imprisonment and riots; in hard work sleepless nights and hunger;
... dying and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful,
yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing,
and yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:4-10 NIV.)
As a mater of fact, how real Paul's joy was even during great hardships was proven by
what happened in Phillipi. For, while spreading the Gospel with Silas in that city, he
delivered a girl from a spirit of fortune-telling, and
"When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making
money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into
the marketplace to face the authorities... The crowd joined in the
attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be
stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were
thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them
carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell
and fastened their feet in the stocks." (Acts 16:19-24, NIV.)
And what did they do? Did they immerse themselves into self-pity? Did they condemn
their persecutors? Or did they blame God for allowing them to go through so many
difficulties when they are serving him? NO! According to Acts 16:25, in spite of their
wounds, pain, the stocks and hardships:
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns
In other words, they were rejoicing in the Lord.
Thus, is it possible to rejoice in spite of famine, homelessness, persecution, beatings
and pain? The answer is: Yes it is! However, not everyone is able to do that.
In that case, who is able to?
- We may ask.
Only persons who invited Jesus into their heart already; asked for, and received his
forgiveness and a place in Heaven; and yielded themselves totally to him.
Attention please! Permanent joy is not available to anyone who leaves out even one of
the above steps. Therefore let me repeat. Only people who (1) invited Jesus into their
heart; (2) asked for, and received forgiveness of sins and a place in Heaven; and (3) totally
yielded themselves to God can rejoice during trials.
Because only such persons will constantly feel the indescribable joy over their
forgiveness and place in Heaven.
Furthermore, only such persons will bring forth the fruit
of the Holy Sprit, the first of which is joy.
In addition, only such persons
will have a reason to be happy knowing that their Lord will bring forth some kind of a
blessing from every trial. (Romans 8:28)
Moreover, only such persons will be able to
believe that one day all trials and pain will be over, and then they will live in eternal joy
with Jesus in Heaven forever.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth
disappeared, and the sea vanished.
And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming
down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her
husband. I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne:
"Now God's home is with
mankind! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with
them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be
no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared." Then the
one who sits on the throne said,
"And now I make all things new!" He also said to me,
"Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted!"
Do you have such a lasting joy? Or do you loose heart, or accuse and attack others,
or blame God when trouble hits? If you have this joy, then you know how valuable this
deep, lasting, inner joy is and may want to praise God for it now and forever.
However, if you don't posses it yet, I plead with you: invite Jesus, the Savior into your
heart now; ask him to forgive your sins; and yield yourself totally to him. As a result, he
will immediately move into your heart; forgive your sins; give you a place in Heaven; and
take over the throne of your life.
Then, you too will receive the joy of forgiveness, eternal
life, and the joy of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the joy of the Lord will become real
to you, even in the midst of the hardest trials.
God bless you richly!
"Whoever wins the victory will receive this from me:
I will be his God, and he will be
But cowards, traitors, perverts, murderers, the immoral, those who practice magic,
those who worship idols, and all liars - the place for them is the lake burning with fire and
sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelations 21:7-8)
How wonderful the Lord is in all His acts!
Glory to His Holy Name!