Sometimes we quickly read the verses in Romans 12 that talk about being a living sacrifice. Because being a sacrifice is not fun. Then it is not easy to find joy in Christ when it is painful to follow Him.
Following God’s plan is not easy. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24 NKJV). Putting the Word of God into practice does not just happen. Putting it into practice takes an effort on our part. It requires us to make deliberate and sometimes difficult choices to stay on the course God has given us in His Word.
The widow in 1 Kings 17 was not dancing when Elijah asked her to take what she had left to feed him. She told him that it was all she had left and that she and her son were going to eat it and then die. Giving her food away didn’t enchant her. It must have taken a lot of effort, but she did it. And God’s provision followed.
In Matthew 12:42-43, another widow also gave all she had in an offering, and Jesus praised her effort. Giving those pennies couldn’t be easy. She didn’t dance with joy as she gave it, but there must have been peace in her heart and assurance that God would provide.
Does this contradict 2 Corinthians 9:7? “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (NKJV). No! Your offering may be difficult to give, it may even sadden you for giving it, but despite your heartbreak, you will have the joy of obeying His Word. You will be in joy because you will have the assurance of God’s provision. We don’t necessarily have the joy to give, but we will have joy in giving.
When Jesus says to rejoice if we are persecuted (Matthew 5:12), that does not mean that we should laugh out loud when we are going through difficult times. What we do, in obedience to God’s voice, is not always pleasant. Jesus did not dance for joy when He was on His way to the cross! But our joy does not depend on circumstances, it is permanent, and it remains stable, whether we are in difficult times or glory. “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13 KJV).
Because let’s be honest: following the will of God is not easy. Jesus said to put His words into practice, not to be lulled by His words. Paul tells us to be a living sacrifice; there is nothing fun about being a sacrifice! Sometimes God asks us to give a special offering that breaks our hearts momentarily but then brings us joy because we have faith that our obedience pays off. Refusing to give in to our fleshly urges can be difficult. Having to break-up your love affair with a non-Christian is heartbreaking, but God never said it would be easy to follow Him. But we have to make those efforts. We have to be willing to swim against the tide, to have the [joy that comes in obedience], the joy that comes with our faith in God (not our circumstances).