What is Joy?
Webster’s dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires…and the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” Well-being is defined as “happy, healthy and prosperous.”
My first response to those definitions is that if you feel joy then it should show! As I look more closely at those words, I find that what the world would call joy is covered well in the first part – well-being,success and good fortune. Most people would agree that those are all good reasons to rejoice. But what if your life hasn’t been filled with good health, good fortune or success and prosperity? Is this reason to despair? Not for a minute! For believers, the rest of the definition is where we find our hope as well as our joy. “The prospect of possessing what I desire”…. eternity with Christ! No matter what life looks like today, we still have reason to be filled with joy.
Many years ago I knew a man who, for me, was the personification of joy. John was no more than about 5’5” and wore glasses thicker that pop bottles. What little hair he had left was white. He was severely diabetic and also wore a colostomy bag. Yet every time you saw him he had a smile on his face and a story to tell about the goodness of God. The man dancing in the aisles each Sunday morning during worship? That was John. He wasn’t healthy or wealthy but he was wise. He knew the source of his joy – that he would possess what he most desired – eternity with his Lord and Savior. Toward the end of his life, John lost his dancing legs to complications of his diabetes and yet on the day he went home to his Savior he was still singing songs of joy.
Psalm 118:4 “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
How will you express your joy today?
Last week I wrote in my journal, “Sometimes I feel invisible.”
Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing has any real significance – does any of it matter to anyone? If I were to just disappear would anyone even notice? Or am I already so invisible that it wouldn’t be evident to anyone at all?
Last week when I wrote in my journal, I had been experiencing an exceptionally challenging week. I’d known ahead of time that it would be difficult and I’d need God’s grace and strength to make it through. The circumstances were out of my control but my response to them wasn’t. I started with a good attitude, acknowledging my need for God’s direction. But as the week went on and I began to get tired, I also began to lose my perspective. By the time I wrote that I was feeling invisible, I’d allowed my focus to shift to myself. Then, as He does so faithfully, God intervened. The method he often uses with me is the written word. His, as well as others that He has inspired to write.
This time He used John 3:30. John the Baptist is speaking about his ministry when he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” The Lord also used a tiny little ninety page book by Nicole Johnson called The Invisible Woman, When Only God Sees. In this little book the author talks about the building of the great cathedrals in the 1400’s. Some of these magnificent structures took more than a hundred years to complete. Dedicated craftsmen spent their entire lives working on a project that they wouldn’t live to see completed.
The cathedrals are breathtaking to behold. But what’s even more amazing is to consider the thousands of skilled artisans whose names will never be known and who received no credit for their work even though they faithfully gave their talents for a lifetime. And the ultimate gift they offered? Some of them labored over miniature intricate carvings and then hid them behind walls…where they were intended for the eyes of God alone.
The question I find myself asking is – how willing am I to faithfully complete the tasks the Lord has given me? Am I willing to be invisible on purpose instead of whining about how unappreciated I can feel when no one seems to notice me or what I am doing?
My prayer today is, “Lord make me invisible so others may see You more clearly!”
Are You a Starter or a Finisher?
There are three possible answers to this question.
A starter is someone who sees the vision from the very beginning and jumps in with both feet. Enthusiasm may run high…for a while. Eventually the momentum slows down and then interest begins to wane. Maybe the task has become too challenging or maybe it has become tedious and …boring. Either way, it can be an easy thing to justify quitting.
Hebrews 10:35-36 says to the Starter:
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
A finisher is someone who sees the vision – see what the end result could be, but also sees all the obstacles that need to be dealt with in order to reach the goal. Hesitation to take the first step has the potential to cause years of procrastination.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says to the Finisher:
“He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.”
God wants us to be something more. He calls us to be overcomers. We can overcome our excuses and our obstacles. We can persevere through the challenges and even our own boredom. If we can say with Paul, that our desire is to finish the task God has given us, we will indeed be the victors!
Acts 20:24 – “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”