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Strengthened by Joy

The battle we are all in “…today for …the sanctity of human life, or the building of a moral culture” (John Piper) is waged against overwhelming natural odds, with many defeats.

This is so in South Australia as we proceed on the campaign of prostitution law reform to see the Nordic model introduced into this State. To keep going we need to be strengthened by the Joy of Jesus (Phillippians 4:4). 

But how does this Joy work? 

In his article ‘His Stubborn Joy Brought Slavery Down’, John Piper provides a great example from the life of the foundational Christian reformer William Wilberforce.  

Against overwhelming odds, Wilberforce campaigned for 20 years from 1787 for the abolition of the slave trade, which finally happened in 1807. He then worked for the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, which occurred in 1833 only a matter of days before his death.  

In the 20 years of the fight against the slave trade he was opposed by powerful interests, most of his parliamentary colleagues, subjected to personal attacks and innuendo, but he kept going to victory.  

His secret? Piper says “It is the root of childlike, self-forgetting joy in Christ. The testimonies and evidence of this in Wilberforce’s life are many. 

A certain Miss Sullivan wrote to a friend about Wilberforce around 1815: ‘By the tones of his voice and expression of his countenance he showed that joy was the prevailing feature of his own mind, joy springing from entireness of trust in the Savior’s merits and from love to God and man… His joy was quite penetrating’.”   

And it was the great doctrines of the faith of Christ, especially the foundational truth that we are justified –fully accepted by God-by the faith of Jesus (Philippians 3:9) which sustained him in joy

“From the beginning of his Christian life in 1785 until he died in 1833, Wilberforce lived off ‘the great doctrines of the gospel,’ especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone based on the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is where he fed his joy. Because of these truths, ‘when all around him is dark and stormy, he can lift up an eye to Heaven, radiant with hope and glistening with gratitude’ (A Practical View of Christianity, 173). The joy of the Lord became his strength (Nehemiah 8:10).” – John Piper 

Today in South Australian and the rest of the country, the work to which we have all been called is a practical, hard slogging, work. Meeting with MPs, writing emails, praying in the face of often discouragement, is not glamorous work.  

But it is work rooted in the “great doctrines of the gospel.”  Wilberforce said that “There is a ‘perfect harmony between the leading doctrines and the practical precepts of Christianity.’ And thus it is a ‘fatal habit’ — so common in his day and ours — ‘to consider Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines’” 

Ours is not just a Christian values work.  It is because we are justified by faith, it is because we are eternally secure, that we can abound in “doing good to all men” with joy, knowing that “our labor is not in vain” in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:58), and so can and will keep going until victory comes. 

Be Strengthened by Joy

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