Strive for Joy

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking
but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.””
(“Romans 14:17)

Meh.

I think that’s become my motto for life right now.  If you’re not familiar with the term, the best definition is “boredom or indifference” and whether or not you ever said, it, as soon as you hear it, you know exactly what it means when you hear it.

Sometimes life is “meh.”  Don’t get me wrong.  My life is anything but boring right now.  Between work, family, and all the kid’s extracurricular activities (church, sports, etc.) I feel like a dog chasing his own tail.

Yet in all the rush, I’ve found that all the meaning, all the joy of life, is somehow gone.

Deep in my heart, I know that life in Christ isn’t supposed to be “meh.”  I know that we have been given new life in Him, and that life is lived before a glorious God in the awesome power of His Holy Spirit.  I know that, in Christ, my life is part of a bigger picture, a grander story, the Divine Drama of redemption, love, and eternal glory.

But it’s too easy, in the midst of the unfolding of that drama, to get distracted.  I get caught up in the scenery, missing the forest for all the trees.  I lose my sense of purpose.  I’m too easily distracted.  I chase the rabbit trails, and pretty soon I find that all the joy of the journey is gone.

I was once warned to be on the watch for “joy-suckers,” those people who would attach themselves to you and rob you of all joy in the Christian walk.  There are some people who aren’t happy unless everyone else is miserable, and their burden is so great that it tends to rob you of your own joy.  Be warned, if you haven’t met them yet, they’re out there.

Still, there are also days when that joy hasn’t so much been sucked out of my life, as much as I’ve lost it myself.  I’ve taken my eyes off of the prize, and can’t remember where to find it.

I want the joy back!  I want to know the richness of a life of faithfulness before a glorious God.  I want to be satisfied in Christ, secure in God’s grace, strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  I long for the fullness of life – not the cheap and tawdry “health, wealth, and prosperity” of the honey-tongued, so-called televangelist – I want that deep and lasting, soul satisfying contentment that only comes from true communion with the Bread of Life.

Realize your life is meant for joy.

Throughout Scripture we see that we were created to know the lasting Joy of God’s presence.  This life wasn’t meant for drudgery and gloominess, with a promise of peace and joy awaiting us in the by and by. No, we were meant to know the joy and gladness of the Lord, even today.

Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

This joy that we long for, ultimately, is the gift of God.  It is a joy that comes from knowing that, by His grace and mercy, we are secure, we are established, and we are growing in love and righteousness by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Gal 5:22).  We were created to know and grow in this lasting joy!

Route out all sin that would  keep you from knowing His joy

If the joy that we long for is from God, then it stands to reason that sin will keep us from knowing His joy.  When we love something more than we love God, when we take our eyes from Him, turning to the left or to the right, when we desire the gifts more than the giver – we will lose sight of His joy.

When the tyranny of the urgent overshadows the importance of the eternal; when life is frenetic, chaotic, undisciplined, and out of control; when all of the passions of the flesh – relationships, status, appearance – take dominance over the Spirit of life, then the joy that we long for will forever be out of our reach.

If you want to know God’s joy, then

 “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self…” Ephesians 4:22–24

“let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”  Hebrews 12:1–2

 Take Care of yourself

I have been reminded recently of the truth that we were created to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Neglecting any of those aspects of life in our discipleship is detrimental to our experience of joy.  If I focus all my energy on keeping my body healthy, but ignore my spiritual health and become lazy in my study of God’s word, then I am not giving all of myself to the Lord.  Neglecting the body is just as much a sin as neglecting the soul.  To strive for the joy of the Lord, take care of yourself.

Exercise, sleep, and eat well – Pretty much self-explanatory.

Manage your Time – Turn off the distractions, delete the games from your phone.  How much time (and money) do we waist on the inconsequential, unimportant things, just to complete then next level of Candy Crush?  There is no lasting joy there.

Read good literature: About God and also about people of God.  Read novels that are uplifting, that compel you to revel in the wonder of God’s world.  Read biographies of people of faith who have also hungered for this joy.

Surround yourself with people who love the Lord and love you.

Worship and Meditate daily on God’s word.

Be patient when it feels as though God is absent

There are times when it feels as though we will never know the Joy of the Lord again.  There are times when God seems distant, as though we’ve done too much, or gone too far.

But the constant reminder of God’s Word is that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ” (Rom 8:39), that we can never go so far as to escape the presence of His Spirit (Psalm 139:7–8), and He is “near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

Don’t be “meh.”  Don’t let the clamoring voices of the madding crowd drown out the still small voice of the Lover of your Soul.  Don’t sacrifice lasting joy for momentary pleasures.  Don’t give your heart to anything except that which will truly satisfy.

Strive for joy.  Long for it.  Desire it.  And look to God to satisfy.  “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

SDG

One Thing

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life”
(Psalm 27:4)

What’s your “One Thing?”

The world is filled with so many good things that it’s hard to really focus on the “One Thing” that really brings meaning and satisfaction to life.  We are so busy chasing after straight A’s, first place, the corner office, the tidy home – all really good things – that we often end up missing the One really great thing.  At the end of the story, we find that we’ve been majoring in the minors, and minoring in the majors; we’ve never really found the “One Thing.”

So what is that “One Thing?”  What brings meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives?  Well, if you remember City Slickers, Curly never told Mitch what that One Thing was, only that that’s what YOU have to figure out for yourself.  So according to that theory, your One Thing may be completely different from my One Thing.  If that’s the case, then our individual pursuit of the One Thing will lead us all in different, and often competing, directions.  If finding my One Thing, my happiness, my security, means trampling on your One Thing, well… that’s just how it goes.

I’m reminded of the song My One Thing, by Rich Mullins:

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think they’ve got it coming

Interestingly, Scripture does tell us, so much clearer that Curly ever would, what the One Thing really is.  If you want to know that inner peace, to find meaning and satisfaction in this life, to be secure even in the life to come, there is only One Thing you need: You Need to Know and Walk with Christ.

The rich young ruler, who in his estimation had kept the law without fail, asked Jesus what he needed to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus told him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).  This young man had everything he could ask for: he was financially set; he had lived a good and moral life; what more could he need?  He only lacked One Thing: following Christ.

Martha served Jesus faithfully; she even had the opportunity to host Him in her home.  She, no doubt, laid out the finest linens, served the most exquisite meal, and worked tirelessly to make sure that no detail was left out in the care of her Lord.  Yet there was her sister, Martha, sitting idly by at the feet of Jesus.  “Lord, couldn’t you tell Martha to get up and help out?”  Mary pleaded.  But Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).  All of Martha’s service and attention to detail was good, but she had neglected the One Thing she really needed – to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Even the Psalmist joins in this witness, telling us where to find the One Thing our hearts desire.  In Psalm 27:4 we read, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”  Dwelling in the house of the Lord, abiding in His presence – that is the One Thing.

The apostle Paul said something similar, when he writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Paul’s birth rite, upbringing and education, his righteousness and service – all of these “good things” were actually hindering him from knowing the One Thing he really needed, and so he gladly laid them aside that he might know Christ.  Christ Jesus is the One Thing we need more than any other.

What are the many things you are anxious over?  What are the many things that you chase after, only to find yourself wanting more once you’ve got them?  Are you running yourself ragged trying to maintain the all-so-many good things at the cost of having the One Thing; at the cost of the daily, quiet, sweet-communion with Jesus, the friend of sinners, the captain of your salvation?

Let all of these things go that you might follow Him.  Settle yourself at His feet that you might learn from Him.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” – let this be your One Thing – “and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

Rich Mullin’s song continues:

Save me from those things that might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with

My one thing
You’re my one thing
And the pure in heart shall see God

SDG