Joy for the Fight?

King David ArtAnd now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:6, 14 ESV

Some things that gave us joyful feelings as children still, rightly, may. Others we may have outgrown. Some things that we enjoyed before we became Christians we still, rightly, may, and some of those, in Christ, are even amplified to us, while other things that we rightly aim to set aside, we perhaps struggle to. But Jesus surprised his disciples when he told them on one occasion not even to rejoice in successful service, ‘Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you ,but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’ (Luke 10:20).

When the Psalmists encourage us that we may find strength in God; strength for the Fight, strength to endure in pain and to be courageous in trouble, the note of joy is often also present, not just in success, but, perhaps surprisingly, at every stage of our experience. While they tell us that, ‘Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ (Psalm 30:5) and while there are many examples of celebrating victories with joy (like Psalm 27 above) there is the note, later developed in the New Testament, that, ‘steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice…shout for joy,’ (Psalm 32:10-11) and, ‘may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (Psalm 40:16).

Paul makes this connection of  rejoicing in God even during the Fight, in his letter to the Christians at Colossae when he writes,  ‘And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light….To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1: 9-12; 27-29 ESV).

This echoes Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90:14, 16-17.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

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