Count It All Joy

Updated: May 18

Dr. Stephen Phinney



My mentor, Dr. David Jeremiah, was led by the Lord to write a book titled “Count It All Joy.” It stopped me in my path and made me think.

 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)


Now, think about it. How can Biblical James encourage others to be joyful when he was suffering horrid persecution and distress? Worse yet, all the disciples suffered tremendous persecution, yet each proclaimed this message to new believers.


I received a two-page letter from an anonymous sender – packed with threats of my life, our ministry, and family. The letter was populated with lies he planned to spread throughout the community. This man lives in the community we live. These threats were of such magnitude that it gained the attention of the FBI. While I appreciated the government stepping in to help, I asked them NOT to let me know the outcome of their investigative results and possible prosecution. Within a short period, our mainframe computer system was hacked many times. They installed a reverse tracking system on our computers to catch the bandit in action. We were notified that they indeed found him and his dark web partner.


The guts of this matter set off multiple years of “fighting” rumors & lies that quickly spread throughout the community. Many damaging results affect us to this day. While the matter is challenging enough, the worst of this attack set in motion the Lord asking me to consider it all Joy. Are you serious, Lord? I realized I needed Divine Wisdom, which compelled me to ask for it.


But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)


All authentic believers face circumstances that wage war with our Joy in the Lord. Honestly, I believe this is a leading torture technique used by Satan’s demons. If our strength is found in the Joy of the Lord, when Joy is absent, so is our strength.


People tend to throw the word “joy” around like a kind of “fast fix” to our dark moments. We muster up a little self-manufactured joy that lasts until the next dark hour or the next time we look into the mirror. I attempted to use this falsified version of joy many times. It remains a temptation to this day.


 

SELF-MANUFACTURED JOY


What is fake joy? How can we tell the difference between fake and real Joy? How is it possible to live a persecuted life and remain steadfast in our Joy in the Lord?


These are all great questions!


No real Christian should be ashamed to say that we suffer a lack of Joy in the Lord. It is the starting place of receiving it. Being an indwelt Christian comes with certain “rights” that Christ has being the Son of God. Since the masses of the Christian world are clueless about the “how” to experience Joy amid circumstances, they fake it until they make it.


Anything that is self-manufactured comes from self-life. Self-life is the leftovers from our Adamic nature that remain in our minds, the condition we were born. When the believer is NOT walking in and after the Spirit from within, we default to the aftereffects of our Adamic nature. Yes, once indwelt, the Adamic nature is crucified with Christ. However, the aftereffects are not. It is impossible to crucify memories. It is in this single fact that Satan finds his playground. The blunt reality is it works most of the time.


Why does God leave our memories in place of Adamic nature?


This is beyond a great question. I, too, have asked the Lord this many times. Now, if I was God, God forbid, I would have whipped the hard drive of the Old Nature upon salvation. Logically, it makes perfect sense. In my mind, this would be the perfect “fix” to granting Satan access to our weaknesses. Although, this was NOT the Lord’s plan.


Fake Joy produces fake Christians. Ouch! That sounds harsh. Well, it is true. Believers of self-manufactured joy look something like this. Each put on a smile when, in reality, they are battling hardship or “depression.” On the inside, they are committing a sin of disbelief in trusting the Lord in all circumstances. They are wearing a mask that LOOKS like a victorious Christian on the outside. They fear being “real” with people they love OR distrust. The result is they manufacture fake joy to protect themselves from the rejection of others. This forms a habit of empowering themselves with people, places, and things that produce momentary joy in due time. A joy that fades shortly after they look into the mirror.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)


The problem? Believers who produce fake joy are stuck living off of the milk of the Gospel. In other words, they continue to function as a child, refusing to become men and women in Christ. In this, they tend to refute what Paul admonished us to do.


When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)



REAL AUTHENTIC JOY


What I am about to say might tempt you to stop reading. If you stay engaged, you will see my point directly from the Holy Scriptures.


Then the trees of the forest will sing for Joy before the LORD; For He is coming to judge the earth. (1 Chronicles 16:33)


Can you imagine trees singing for Joy? Better yet, singing for Joy because the Lord is coming to judge the earth? I can. Authentic Joy is birthed through a guarantee that God will judge those that afflicted and defiled the earth. Joy is the evidence of proof that the trees, rocks, mountains, and its people trust in the ways of the Lord. We all know that trees do not have eternal souls. They can’t choose to trust. The trust is embedded in their creation - built into their created structure. The wind blows them to, and fro, fires destroy them, seasons demand partial death each year, and humans cut them down and use them for their pleasures. However, the Lord communicated in several passages that IF the people don’t cry out in Joy, creation will. The point is simple. Humanity tends to fall to the depressive elements of darkness – nature does not. Nature takes the abuses of fallen man and Satan, while in their creation, know that their Creator will have His moments of revenge in the end. The bottom line is trusting in the Creator under the heavy load of distress.


Nehemiah said, “For the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Fact one, he wrote this when the people of God were under severe attack by their enemies. They were being persecuted on every side. Their lack of Joy was affecting their strength spiritually and physically. As noted in the Scriptures, they were tempted to give in to the enemy and become enslaved once again. An objective the enemy had in stealing their Joy in the God of the Hebrews.


One man’s remaining Joy infected the whole of God’s people. After Nehemiah refocused the people, they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had once again given them great Joy due to placing their focus on God versus the enemy. As Nehemiah 12:43 states, “joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.” I hope you got that. Because a single leader refocused the people of God, their Joy of the Lord was a testimony that echoed through the nations of the earth. Joy’s purpose became the greatest threat to their enemies. People who understand wars know this, take away the opponent’s Joy, and you can conquer their land, their people, and their beliefs.


“Behold, this is the joy of His way; and out of the dust others will spring.” (Job 8:19)


Like Job, when he shifted his focus from the ash pile he was sitting in - to the Joy of the Lord’s ways, he sprung up, out of the dust, to a lifestyle of victory unknown to him. Not only did God bless him three-fold in land, children, wealth, and reputation, Job became a hero of faith to this very hour.


Dear reader, this is the mystery of victory. It is not in changing the conditions of earthly circumstances but in remaining in the ashes, blistering sores, grief, and betrayal until a God-sized trust moved him to exalt the Lord through horrid distresses. It is no wonder why the book of Job was the first book written in the Old Testament. It is as if God wanted to start the journey of the Hebrew people with a message of endless trials to come for His people.


Jesus said these life-changing words, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)


How many of us would sell everything we own to obtain the indwelling Life of Christ? This is particularly true when we know that such a life would produce greater sorrow before buying the field. The answer is shocking. Few, if any. Since God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit knew this perplexing challenge – God made it free for those in want.


Open the gate, silly woman!


“When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.” (Acts 12:14)


The servant-girl (Rhoda) of Mary is like most of us. Sometimes our manufactured natural joy overpowers us; we neglect to open the gate to the messengers of the indwelling Joy of the Lord. While those inside thought Rhonda was “out of her mind,” it is true that some of the more neglected messengers are those who teach that real Joy comes from the indwelling Life of Christ from within. There is a massive difference between natural joy and a Joy that manifests through Jesus.


“Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:16-17)


Natural joy should never be considered evil – it is normal, natural, and neutral. God embedded it in His created beings. It is much like the embedded joy in trees that ultimately sing out in a song of joy. Although, as Paul was stating in our passage, supernatural Joy is not in the things of