Category: Christian Life & Discipleship
"Joy" is one of the biggest buzz-words of Christianity, yet it is commonly misused in the rhetoric of the church. A false "joy" has fallen into the repertoires of rock band and comedian alike, and is the reason for labels like 'happy clappy' being given to Christians. Being a melancholic person himself, R. T. Kendall attempts to dispel the myth that "joy" is a burst of happiness, a mere emotion which, if we find it, will magically banish all suffering. For the most part, he succeeds.
The book's cover blurb says "R. T. Kendall explains the four different kinds of joy that come only from our Father: Pure Joy in times of trial; Pure Joy by the immediate witness of the Holy Spirit; Pure Joy by the knowledge you have pleased the Lord; and Pure Joy that will come when we meet God in Heaven". On page 6 he writes, "The Christian faith and message promise joy - pure joy. Not what people call happiness, but joy. Not health or wealth, but joy. Not an easy ride and fun, but joy."
Where I feel Kendall doesn't quite cut it, is in his first chapter, "Dignifying the Trial". Using the idea that God allows us to go through trials for our development (which, by the way, is a biblical one), he argues that God wants to bring us to the end of each test, as if it were an exam. "Are you... being tested?" he asks on page 49, "Are you experiencing the hiding of God's face? ...be encouraged. God is calling you to pure joy... 'no-one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen' what God will do for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9)".
The problem with paraphrasing such verses is that they are easily misunderstood. Kendall seems to promise a 'light at the end of the tunnel' for those who are faithful to God during trials. He implies that our joy should come from the promise that God will — in this life — bring us into the benefits of the trial. Whilst he doesn't promise "health and wealth", he does suggest that God will bless us with greater "anointing".
What about victims of persecution who will never see such anointing? Surely their motivation to persevere through suffering should come not from personal benefit, but from the desire to selflessly follow the footsteps of Christ, wherever they lead? Ultimately, of course, their greatest hope is the joy of Heaven, compared to which any earthly joy is a bland foretaste. Kendall uses his last chapter to say this, but by then, it seems too late for such an important point.
In spite of my reservations, this book contains valuable principles about what constitutes authentic joy. Kendall says that "Pure Joy" is steadfast, like faith: it doesn't mean a smiley face, but an unshakeable confidence in the Father's love. We would do well to understand and apply this truth to our lives.
Mark Burnhope, February 2004
Mark Burnhope is a graduate of London School of Theology. He is a 'trying' novelist and poet with a Masters Degree in Creative and Transactional Writing from Brunel University, and an alternative worship/emerging church obsessive.Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
|Reviews Index | EU Bookshops | UK Bookshops|