The sweetness of JOY

How did you start off this new week, this Monday morning? Did you gripe about going work, snap at the kids, and shuffle out the door staring at the floor?  Here’s my challenge for us today – our thoughts can be directed, our emotions shaped. The old cliché about seeing the glass half full or half empty has much truth for us.  Two people can share the same space and one sees the hardship while the other sees an opportunity. Celebration is included in the spiritual disciplines – a practice of remembering and making a habit of joy!  Our Christianity is to be characterized by incredible joy, among other things.

Today let’s remember what Jesus said of His mission. He came to bring us ‘abundant life’  so that our ‘joy may be full!‘  Yes, He was a Man who entered into our pain and who suffered on our behalf but He also laughed!  The Gospels show us a joyful Man who loved children and they liked him. Kids don’t do not want to hang around grumps.  

I find some jokes hidden in Jesus’ teaching, that we sometimes miss. When He poked fun at the Pharisees who were so scrupulous about external holiness telling them – “you strain the gnats out of your drinks but swallow camels” the absurd metaphor was truly funny. I know the crowd must have laughed with Him.

Let’s also remember that Scripture commands us to rejoice! “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV) If joy were simply the result of uncontrollable circumstances as many of us think, then this command would be unfair or impossible. Joy is a choice for the Believer, regardless of the ‘happiness content’ of the day.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with regard to joy is to put it off.  They convince themselves that life will be better when … (you fill the blank).  Confusing joy with happiness, they believe that a new job, boss, car, house, or spouse will finally make them happy. In fact, Christian, joy is possible right where we are. That is why the Word teaches that “This is the day the LORD has made” and when we grasp that  we will be able to go on to “rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, NIV)

God gave His people a gift called ‘Sabbath.’  It was to be a day unique in the week, when no work was done, a day belonging to the Lord. Do you practice the “Sabbath” principle? Do you hit the pause button on life’s responsibilities just to worship, to return your appreciation to the Lord? 

One of the blessings of our time is our ‘connectedness,’ our smartphones and laptops that allow us to take work with us wherever we go. And one of the curses of that technology is that millions lose the importance balance of work and rest, of output and renewal.  Joy requires not just collapsing on the couch in exhaustion, but actually looking up to drink of God’s Spirit in gratefulness.

Joy requires that we develop perspective and a sense of proportion about our world. If you form your idea about the state of the world from a steady diet of news channels you will soon be convinced that all Hell has broken out. While it is true that there are hardships, that there are bad people who commit crimes, that accidents happen … let’s remember that the sun came up this morning, that billions of people will go about life, normally and doing their best to live and love.  Thinking with crisis mentality will make us depressed.  Keep things in perspective by remembering, by extending grace, and by anchoring your true hope in God, our Father.

Christian, an evidence of Christ’s life in us is JOY. The list of the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit begins with love and second on the list is JOY!  Make no mistake. I’m not selling rose-colored glasses or naïve refusal of reality! There is much to grieve, life has its share of disappointment.

However, we are children of God who promises to love and care for us. Jesus told a story about our intimate connection with the life of the Spirit – like a branch draws life from the Vine – and then said this. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11, NLT)  

Our deepest experience of joy is a result of something supernatural that happens to us as we live in faith, keeping our hope anchored in the promises of the Lord. So, when you are tempted to complain, when you are rubbed wrong by things you do not like, when you feel miserable – make a choice, by the power of the Spirit, to change the tune, to CHOOSE JOY.

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.

Here is a word from the Word. Do not breeze through it without thought. Receive the truth and live in it.
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!
Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side,
working with them and not against them.
Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers,
letting God know your concerns.

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness,
everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

(Philippians 4:4-7, The Message)

____________

Pray with me today …

“Lord, I worship You in all Your power and Majesty,
and I am thankful that You are Joyful over me.
Wherever I am, in whatever state I find myself today,
may my response to You be one of gratitude.

Help me to lean into Your faithfulness.
When my hearts is broken by real suffering, by hurt visited on me
by cruel people, heal me and hold me close, a beloved child.

If I grow selfish, touchy, or full of irritability –
speak quietly, insistently to me, inviting me to fullness of Joy.

Do the work of transformation in me,
so that the joy of the Lord will overflow from my life to refresh others.
In this You will be honored and the world will know that You are good.

Jesus, I pray this in Your holy name.
Amen.”

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