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)


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).


Transitory Obsessions

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…”
(Philippians 2:9-10 ESV)

We are a people easily obsessed with the transitory.  Something new and sparkly catches our eye and we say, “Ooh, that’s nice.”  Over time, we begin to picture ourselves owning/using/wearing whatever caught our attention, and we think, “I’d really enjoy having that.”  Next we begin to think about all the good things we could do with this new object, how we could use it to help others, to make their life enjoyable, or simply to make ourselves more enjoyable to be around because we have “IT”.  Then we begin to obsess, we put “IT” on our wish list; we drop hints to family and friends when birthday/Christmas/anniversary is approaching; we become sullen and disappointed when we don’t get “IT” immediately.  We know we won’t be satisfied until we have “IT.”  Then we get “IT” and the world seems right.  There is nothing more we could need to be happy.  Then, something new and sparkly catches our eye…

The pleasures this world have to offer are gifts from God, gifts to be a blessing in our lives and to be enjoyed.  The problem is, because our hearts are so inclined to idolatry and evil, every good gift from God has the potential to become an idol for our hearts.  We become obsessed with the things that can only bring momentary pleasures, fleeting joys.  We think, “If only I can have “IT”, then I will be truly happy.”  But when we have “IT”, happiness quickly escapes us, and we are left disappointed and wanting more.

The simple reason for this is there is only one thing that can really satisfy our longing for true and lasting happiness in life.  We look for happiness in all the wrong places.  We look for happiness in the names we know – our relationships, our circle of influence, our social networking.  We look for happiness in the names we possess – name brand clothing or products – after all, “the label makes the man.”  We even look for happiness in the names we are called – the respect and honor given to us by our peers – “He’s a good man,” “She’s a beautiful woman.”  If you look to find your happiness and satisfaction in any of these, you will be left empty.

There is only one name that can truly bring us satisfaction and peace – that is the name of Jesus.  Only Jesus can answer the deepest longing of your soul, that need for completion, for fulfillment, for lasting joy.  How does Jesus satisfy?  The opening chapter of Hebrews tells us:

  1. He is the heir of all things… Here the word “Heir” is synonymous with the title “Lord.”  Everything that has ever been created has been created by and through Jesus, and therefore He is the Lord, the possessor, of all things.  Whatever we might need, Jesus can provide.
  2. He is the radiance of God’s glory… Man was created to reflect the glory of God.  Because we have sinned, and each of us knows our sins, for they are always before us (Psalm 51), we have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Falling short of God’s glory means that we do not bring glory to God as we ought, but it also means that we have lost sight of God’s glory.  We despise His glory and want it for ourselves.  We fear His glory and want it diminished.  We are blinded to His glory, and cannot recognize its beauty.  But Christ comes as the radiance of God’s glory, as the rays shine from the sun.  A.W. Pink wrote, “Were there no rays, we should not see the sun.  So, apart from Christ, the brightness of God’s glory could not be perceived. Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the dark concerning God.  It is in Christ that God is revealed.”
  3. He is the imprint of God’s nature – All that God is, in His nature and character, is expressed and manifested, absolutely and perfectly, by the incarnate Son.  All we need to know about God, about His love, about our salvation, is clearly revealed in Jesus.
  4. He upholds the universe by His power – We teach our children the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” but then we grow up and leave such thoughts behind.  We have a hard time swallowing the truth that Jesus is the central force that holds all things together.  But Jesus stands in the middle of it all, and holds everything together.  We were created to orbit Him, for our lives to revolve around Him.  When they don’t, that is when we begin to unravel and spin out of control.
  5. He has atoned for our sins – Only Jesus has paid the price for our salvation.  By coming to be with us, bearing our sins upon His cross, He has set us free from the guilt of sin and the power of death.  Now He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, prays for us, and promises to bring us to Him.

What other name can do all that?  Can your childhood sports hero claim any of these titles that have been given to Christ? Can the labels you wear do any of the things that Jesus has done?  Can the thing you want satisfy your soul in the way that Christ has?

Let us leave behind these transitory obsessions, and “fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith!”