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

Haiti Mission 2014 – Day 2 – The Joy of The Lord

Day 2 of our Haiti Mission is coming to an end. The party outside at Bamboula Beach is crazy. There’s probably a couple hundred people out there. The music is loud, and its been playing since 3 or 4 this afternoon (I kind of know how Manuel Noriega felt). The A/C in our room, and the generator in the back yard help to drown out the sound, but the beat goes on. Still, it adds to the sense of adventure, and the people are celebrating, and that’s a good thing.
Today we got to visit the orphanages that we have been working to support. We were greeted by familiar faces, welcomed with love, and blessed to see so many improvements since our visit last year. The children have grown. Some have moved on. There has been sorrow and pain, and there have been times of joy, and God’s gracious hand has provided all things in His wisdom and time.
Today was a day of joy. It was difficult, don’t get me wrong. Arriving at the Center for Help, where the memorial funds for Mark Sarchet have helped to radically transform a struggling facility into a place where children can grow and thrive – it was painful. We spent time in prayer, thanking God for His hand that has upheld us in the midst of loss and pain, and taking even that hardship and allowing such good to come through it. We played and laughed with the kids – I cant think of a better way to spend the day.
And as I said before, under the surface of everything we did today was a spirit of Joy. These kids have faced more at 8 and 9 than most of us will ever have to deal with in this life. And yet they are full of joy.
Maybe that’s why I needed to come back, to be reminded of the joy that should dwell in my heart. So often I struggle with an identity crisis: I know what Jesus says about who he is and what he has done for me, but I tend to forget what that really means. Jesus said, “I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
The “These Things” Jesus spoke of was His death for us, and His sending His Spirit to us to comfort us and give us strength. He has done all this – why? – that our joy may be full!
There is something terribly inconsistent in the joyless Christian. Christ came that we might know joy, and that our joy may be completed in Him. He was abundant with joy, deep in His heart there was a joy that drove Him. Hebrews shows us this when we read, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).
When we trust in Christ for our salvation, when His Spirit moves in us and gives us life, we will know this lasting joy. It does not come ourselves, we don’t have to muster up a certain feeling. When we know and remember the truth of the Gospel, joy will prevail in our hearts. Joy is the work of the Holy Spirit within you, satisfying your soul in the presence of God – bringing delight in the inmost being.
Remember your catechism – What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!
SDG

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