The Joy of Believing
In the Psalms we can clearly see how varied the emotions of God’s children can be. David tells how he found the joy of believing in his life. When sin stung his heart, he suffered from it. When he received his sins forgiven, he rejoiced that grace belonged also to him, a fallen one (Ps. 32).
Today it is thought that a person has happiness and joy when he or she has good health, great wealth or fame and honor. God’s Word teaches that this is not so. Although it appeared outwardly that all was well with David, he was unhappy because his conscience was not at peace. In contrast, Paul and Silas had peace in their hearts, and they praised God in song, although they were shackled in prison (Acts 16:23–25). A person receives peace of conscience only through the grace of God. Jesus promised to give His own peace, that the world cannot give (John 14:27).
I have pondered what the joy of believing means to me, and I’ve realized it especially means that I can believe my sins forgiven. The gospel has always sufficed. It has given faith’s power and joy.
I asked a few young people what the joy of believing means to them. One said that he feels joy when he is among the children of God. For example, it was so nice to be at camp that he wanted it to never end. It was easy to believe amidst God’s children. Alone during the weekday there are more doubts, and it is not always easy to believe. These young people also found that it would be good to sometimes stop and consider what faith brings to the life of a child of God.
Entertainment media presents an image of joy and freedom that is far from the life of a child of God. In reading about this, there can come the idea that faith limits one’s life. A similar sermon came from the enemy of souls in Paradise (Gen. 3).
It offered a better life, but in reality, joy and contentment were replaced by fear. The enemy of the soul has been a liar from the start. It taunts us to reject faith by promising something better in its stead. It does not, however, pay to believe the enemy of the soul since it lies.
The joy of believing is a much richer and deeper joy than what the world offers. Faith does not hinder life, nor do we, as God’s children, lose anything that is necessary. On the contrary, God’s Word promises that the children of God receive already in this time hundredfold of all manner of good things and ultimately eternal life in heaven (Mark 10:30). Faith protects us from many evils and grants blessings.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It manifests in God’s children. Sins and sorrows often tarnish joy, but when we can believe sins forgiven, we experience peace, freedom and joy. God’s Word encourages us to rejoice in these great gifts, which God has granted.
Kingdom of Children
In our times, people have widely abandoned God’s Word. Today, some may even laugh at those who live according to God’s Word. God, however, remembers His children, cares for them and gives His children the power of the gospel. Although faith cannot be comprehended by reason, it contains the power of God. God’s Word directs us to believe simply (Luke 10:21).
In God’s kingdom there is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). The Good Shepherd walks among His own and encourages us to trust His guidance. We have a Savior who has overcome the power of the enemy of souls. When listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd, doubts and temptations subside.
God’s kingdom is the kingdom of grace, where is proclaimed the gospel, joyful tidings, to all (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7). Jesus taught that it is most important to find the Good Shepherd in His kingdom (Matt. 6:33). Jesus prepared the road to heaven for humankind. He redeemed our sins with His innocent sacrificial blood. He rose from the dead and gave His own the task of preaching forgiveness of sins through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 20:23). It is a simple sermon, but in it is hidden the power of God.
The heavenly Father directs our lives, and He allows us to experience trials and joys. He sees our every moment, for nothing is kept secret from Him. Amid trials, questions often come to mind: Why does God allow this? Have I committed some sin, for which God punishes in this way? Has God forsaken me? Believers in the Bible also had such doubts. For example, Job felt bitter, became depressed and blamed God for his tribulations (Job 21:7).
During difficulties we usually do not see God’s guidance, nor do we understand His intention. Sometimes we understand later what a certain trial meant for us and our loved ones. And while it is not even always clear later, we know that through trials life’s most important matter is illuminated.
At confirmation camp we began and ended our days with simple questions. The first question was: What is life’s most important matter? The campers answered in unison: “Faith.” It is our life’s most precious matter. Through trials, God directs us to think about faith and its meaning.
Current Reasons for Distress
There are many types of sorrows and distress. At confirmation camp it gave me pause to see how many young people experience fear and anxiety over climate change. One youth related that her friend left faith for this reason. Another admitted having anxiety for not being able to do everything he should on behalf of the climate. I would like to encourage young people to trust in God’s guidance.
God has promised to give His own a future and hope (Jer. 29:11). He encourages us to trust Him, the Lord of life and death, who has created the world and oversees it with His Word. It is completely correct to work responsibly in relation to creation. At the same time we can, however, trust that the world and all of creation are in the heavenly Father’s hands. He directs the fate of the world as He wishes and knows when the world will end (Mark 13:32).
We live not only for this time but above all for heaven. Our lives are but a palm’s breadth compared to eternity. Prophet Isaiah compared human life to the grass that blooms for a moment and then withers away. Likewise he reminded that God’s Word shall stand forever (Isa. 40:6–8). This compels us to look upon the coming reward in heaven.
Worries and anxiety can make believing difficult (Matt. 13:22) and become an obstacle to faith. When life’s most important matter is faith, trust in God’s care is preserved. We do not have to endeavor on our own strength to build our future, but rather we can trust that God has promised to take good care of us. He leads us also during times of tribulation (Ps. 71:20).
Happiness and Joy in Daily Life
Psalmist Asaf wondered why the ungodly can enjoy their lives, but he must suffer. Then he understood that true happiness and joy is found only near God (Ps. 73). Trials, sorrows and joys travel hand in hand. Faith is a much more valuable matter than temporal life’s joy and pleasures. Even those who are depressed can turn their hearts toward the joy of believing.
Joy is often tied to the smallest things. Do we notice the things that bring joy in our everyday lives? David admired life as a great gift of God (Ps. 139:14). Each life has meaning. Each person has a reason for thankfulness. God wants us to live with joy for the gifts He has given. Family, home, workplace, health, study, school and hobbies are all God’s gifts, and we can give thanks for them.
Faith Is Not Based in Feelings
Faith is not feeling but believing. We may hope that we would experience more strongly the joy and peace that come with faith. However, the Bible presents the life of God’s children as a battle against sin and the lusts of the flesh. In this battle, wounds come as sin besets and slows the journey. At such times we can easily think that other believers are better than me. The Bible believers had those same thoughts. Apostle Paul felt deeply the effect of sin within himself and said he is the greatest of sinners (Rom. 7:18–24; 1 Tim. 1:15).
Jesus related how during the final judgement the righteous will wonder when it was that they served Jesus as they were said to have done. They don’t feel deserving of a place in heaven. The self-righteous, however, will wonder when they have failed to serve Jesus (Matt. 25:31–46).
Feelings of weakness and poorness are thus one of the hallmarks of God’s children. With this we must be content. According to the Bible, a person with even a mustard seed of faith could command a tree to be plucked up and planted (Luke 17:6). Jesus knew a child of God’s feelings and began His sermon on the Mount comfortingly: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Although we are weak in ourselves, in Christ we are perfect.
The Joy of Participating
Sin dwells in us and attempts to take us farther from God. Therefore, it is important that we want to keep a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:19). When we believe the gospel, God cleanses the conscience of all sin. Faith and the journey are lightened.
Today there is much talk of communality. God’s kingdom is more than a community, because it also contains a spiritual dimension, which can only be understood through faith. Faith is always personal. We believe and we know that by traveling in the throng of God’s kingdom we will one day arrive at our destination in heaven.
The youth with whom I visited were concerned that after confirmation school many no longer participate in activities with believers. The young people expressed that especially during these times it would be important to encourage one another to believe and to participate when the children of God gather. In the discussion we noted how meaningful the texts are that we send to friends. A WhatsApp group text “Let’s go to services” can create a positive ripple effect in the friends’ group. If on the other hand a text is sent that says, “I don’t feel like going,” others answer with “Well not me either then.” I encourage the young ones to support each other in faith.
I know that many struggle with feeling alone. But no one is entirely alone. The Savior travels with you. We pray that lonely ones would find an escorts, a friend, with whom to continue the journey. God sees the suffering and gives help in His time.
A connection with God’s children is important for preserving faith. Without connection to God’s kingdom it is impossible to get to the destination in heaven. Without walking in the light people cannot partake in God’s kingdom nor the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7). In the throng of God’s kingdom, the pure stream of the gospel flows among us (Heb. 12:1).
Raising Children with One’s Own Gifts
Many parents feel like poor childrearers and they ponder how they can raise their children correctly. These times are not merciful to parents, as they are subjected to many demands. God has given them the task to raise their children and the necessary gifts for this task. We can trust in God’s care even in this task of raising children. He sees our weaknesses and shortcomings and wants to help us.
Many parents have shed tears and blamed themselves for their children leaving faith. But think of Jesus: He was a perfect teacher and still all the disciples did not remain believing. Faith is always a personal matter. And with God all things are possible. The seed of God’s Word sown at home can germinate in a child’s conscience even years later. We can turn to the heavenly Father and pray that He would invite those who lost their faith back to the kingdom. Even in this matter, we may leave our cares and sorrows in His hands.
Rejoice in the Lord Always
In the battle with the world, our flesh and the enemy of the soul’s temptations, doubts come to mind: will I ever get to heaven. It seems I have so little faith, I wonder if there is any to be found at all. In the storms of the world it may go as it did for the disciples who were in a boat on a lake when a storm came. Jesus saved them when they cried to Him for help (Matt. 8:24–26).
We do not have to fear. God is our comfort and helper in the moment of distress (Ps. 46:2). Jesus encourages His own to take heart, although they experience tribulations in this world, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We do not have to defeat the enemy of the soul, for Jesus has done this on our behalf. His power is greater than the power of the enemy of the soul. We also do not have to trust our own strength. We can simply take comfort in God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9).
The Good Shepherd encourages everyone to believe and trust in His power. He has said that no one can pluck God’s children out of His Father’s hand (John 10:29). We have a refuge in God’s kingdom, where God protects us with His armor (Eph. 6:13–17). We can trust in the power of the gospel. One day we will enjoy perfect bliss in heaven’s home and praise God for His great love.
Originally published in Finnish in the SRK’s 2020 yearbook of current topics Yhteyttä rakentamassa (Building a Connection), Ed. Juha Luokkala and Ari-Pekka Palola (SRK, 2020). Translated and published with permission. Translation: S. Pylvainen