Our Wednesday Fellowship tackled the opening lines of James last night. What meaty food from the Word. There is a line, familiar, but still challenging: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2, NIV) Choose Joy! Think Joy! Be Joyful! What fuels the joy of the Lord in us, especially when life is tough? James tells us that we can be joyful not because of the trials, but because we know that God can use them to create new strength in us. “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” (James 1:3, NLT)
I need to remember, often, that just as much as ‘love’ marks me as a Christian, ‘joy’ is also the evidence of the Spirit’s work in me. There are some practical decisions we all can make, regardless of circumstances to give joy fertile soil in which to grow in us.
The following is borrowed from John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted.
- Begin NOW!
Stop waiting for joy to make its way to you, or waiting for something you hope for to happen. 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)
2. Find a ‘joy’ mentor.
Experiencing joy is a learned response. Griping and complaining comes naturally to the sinful nature. So let somebody who’s grasped the joy of the Lord coach you.
- 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’ from the world for a week.
Depression is an epidemic among us. Might it be because we are trying to deal with the ugliness, the sin, the suffering of the whole world every day? Those 24/7 news channels might keep you informed, but they may also be a great hindrance to joy as you find yourself confronted with terror, tragedy, and woe from the four corners of the earth.
5. Discipline your mind to see life from the Biblical perspective.
Today is not all that will ever be. Change is happening, that is the assurance of the Word. “…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. Keep hope alive by reminding yourself of Christ’s coming Kingdom! There is coming a day when wrongs will be made rights, the reason for unexplained sorrow will be revealed, and the curse of sin will be removed. “Lord, let your Kingdom come!” 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! “Oh, God, teach me to celebrate, to live joyfully, because You live in me.”
7. Practice joyfulness.
Yes, when you hear yourself complaining, when you’re chafing against situations, when you are ungrateful- make a choice, by the power of the Spirit, to 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.
“Lord, thank you for being You and for being Joyful over us.
Wherever we are, in whatever state we find ourselves today,
may our response to you be gratefulness for your faithfulness.
When our hearts are broken by real suffering, by hurt visited on us
by cruel people, heal us and hold us close.
When we are selfish, touchy, and full of irritability –
convict us and help us to listen when you say, “Get your heart right!”
Do the work of transformation in us, so that the joy of the Lord will be evident in us.
In this you will be honored and the world will know that we are people of faith.
Jesus, we pray this in your holy name.