Yesterday was one of those days when joy overflowed in me; even though it was raining hard from dark skies and my arm hurt from the blood draw at the lab! I love those days, don’t you? How do we account for them? Is it all chemicals in our brains? Is it the work of the Spirit? Is it our choice? Probably it is some of ‘all of the above.’
There are choices that help me to remain joyful in life. My experience shows me that I am much more likely to be happy when I do certain things, when I am active in dealing with life rather than just letting ‘it’ push me around. Several years ago, John Ortberg, pastor, wrote a book that is worthy of a second read, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. It sounds like a self-help book, but isn’t. Ortberg outlines the choices we make that allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of transformation. Christianity, he insists, is about heart change, real and lasting transformation that leads to what Jesus called the ‘abundant life.’
If we want to live the life that God has planned for us to live, if we would find deeper satisfaction and lasting joy, we must make some consistent decisions about how we pass each day. Ortberg suggests 7 important choices that help us to live in the joy of the Lord.
1. Begin NOW!
Stop waiting for joy to find you or waiting for a perfect set of circumstances to create joy. Believe what the Word declares, that “This is the day the LORD has made” … and when you believe that… then go on to the next step…”let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, NIV) Sing a song, look up, not down – now!
2. Find a ‘joy’ mentor.
Experiencing joy is a learned response. Our world is full of people who would be miserable, regardless. They are conditioned to complaint. Ingratitude is a work of the sinful nature. So, let someone who knows the joy of the Lord, not the ‘happy talk’ kind, but the real, deep satisfaction of faith, coach you.
3. Set aside a day a week to celebrate.
Make sure your “Sabbath” includes JOY as well as worship. Eat ice cream! In moderation, it won’t hurt you a bit. Revel in beauty. Appreciate a sunset, a work of art, a musical composition. So, make sure you celebrate regularly to break out of the monotony of life.
4. Unplug from the steady stream of ‘bad news.’
Depression is an epidemic among us. Might it be because we are trying to deal with the ugliness, the sin, the suffering of the world all of the time? Yes, there is plenty of misery around us. But, if we marinate our minds in the negative drone of CNN, FoxNews, or MSNBC; fear will replace joy.
5. Let the Bible’s perspective become yours.
The great lie that breaks our spirit is that ‘we are all that we will ever be.’ Life cannot change. But, God is greater! God says that when we let the Holy Spirit work in us that “…we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18, The Message) Not happy with who you are, what you’re like today? Work with God and He’ll change you. Overwhelmed by the sorrows of life? Fix your thoughts on the promise of Christ’s coming Kingdom! Wrongs will be made right, the reason for sorrow will be revealed, and the curse of sin will be removed. “Lord, let your Kingdom come!” Don’t ‘whine’ that prayer. Declare it! That perspective will keep the disappointment and sorrows of this day from overwhelming you.
6. Pray for the fruit of the Holy Spirit (the evidence of His life) to be created in you.
What is that fruit? “Love, JOY….” Yes, second on the list is JOY! Holiness (not pinched piety, but real devotion to God) creates fertile soil in which JOY grows. If we walk willfully, at a distance, and indulging our sinful nature, we will be spiritually dry, fruitless – and yes, joyless.
7. Practice joyfulness.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15, NIV) When you hear yourself griping about life, when you are tense with frustration, when you are ungrateful- go in a different direction. Look up, not down. Speak with faith, not from fear. Thank God for what He’s given you, instead of complaining about what you perceive that you lack. Yes, our sincere praise is like a sweet sacrificial offering some days, but our Father will release the joy of Heaven when we offer it.
You dance over me
While I am unaware
You sing all around
But I never hear the sound
You paint the morning sky
With miracles in mind
My hope will always stand
You hold me in Your hand
Lord I’m amazed by You
Lord I’m amazed by You
Lord I’m amazed by You
How You love me
How wide how deep
How great is Your love for me (oh)
Jared Anderson © 2004 Integrity Worship Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))
CCLI License # 810055