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.”
“Is God Good?” That is what we call a rhetorical question…like “do birds fly?” Our response is instant. “Of course birds fly.”
Is God good? Our affirmative response comes just as quickly. But the real question is – do we believe it in every instance? Do we believe Psalm 119:68 ? “You are good and do good.” Period.
I think we are quick to say we believe that God is good and we’d like to believe that everything He does is good. The problem is that life is full of circumstances which, from our limited perspective, don’t look so good. Our question to ourselves during those times becomes “Is God still good?” His Word has already told us that He is. All the time. In every circumstance. Our lousy circumstances don’t turn God into a lousy father. Our Heavenly Father turns our lousy circumstances into good!
No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we must resist the temptation to evaluate God in light of our trials. He doesn’t change. He is always good and everything He does is good. He can’t go against His own character. We need to adjust our perception.
Four of my seven sons are color blind. When they look at an object they don’t see what I see. When they look at a cardinal in the pine trees in our backyard and the bird blends in with the branches because they can’t distinguish red from green they can make a false assumption that what they see is correct. However, if I tell them the bird is red and the tree is green – highly contrasting colors to a normal eye, they have two choices. They must either believe me even though their perception is different, or argue that their point of view is correct. But whether they see red or not doesn’t change the facts.
We do the same thing every time we doubt that our circumstances can be used for our good. I would never lie to my children and toy with their color deficiency – pretending to see colors that they cannot see. God would never lie to us. He would never tell us something that looks bad to us is really good – unless it’s the truth.
Our problem is that we look at our circumstances the same way my sons look at the bird and assume our perception is the correct one. We need to take our eyes off the circumstances and focus on what we know to be true.
Is God good? Take a good honest look at your circumstances for a moment and then lift your eyes to the heavens, above your circumstances, and gaze into the face of your Heavenly Father and ask the question again. “Is God good?” God’s response to your heart’s cry will be a resounding “YES!”
On Sunday morning while in worship at my church I was given a glimpse of what worship might look like to God. We stand in our churches week after week, participating in corporate worship often without giving thought to the fact that believers all around the world are doing so, as well. Now I know Sunday morning isn’t the only time believers worship, but for the sake of illustration, imagine with me for a moment. Picture the earth as it turns, gradually bringing daylight to each part of the earth, a perpetual sunrise. Now imagine that believers all around the world arise and head to their chosen place of worship. Picture the gradual passing of time bringing each congregation into an attitude of worship and praise.
Do you see it? Have you ever witnessed the “wave” at a sporting event where all those in the stadium participate, raising their hands in succession all around the stadium in one fluid motion? Could it be one way God sees our worship? As one perpetual “wave” of praise going around the world? And not just on Sundays but every day that we choose to rise and offer praise to God as we start our day.
Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
You may be part of a large church or you may be just standing in your living room on a Monday morning, but no matter where you are, you always have the opportunity to be a part of a worldwide “wave of praise” being continually offered to God.
Choose to be part of the wave!
Today I begin a new season in my life. I believe the Lord has been speaking very clearly to me about what is to be the theme of this season. He began with this simple question “Are you a funnel or a storage unit?”
I believe this is a question all of us would do well to consider. It’s a pretty simple process to make the connection between this word picture and our spiritual walk. We have all been given many gifts, blessings and talents that God intended us to use to further His kingdom. What we do with those things answers the question.
I believe that my honest answer for too many years is that I have been a storage unit. God has given me a desire to write and for the past 20 years I have been storing everything. I have notebooks full of writing that I have kept to myself.
Recently God has been showing me that it’s time to unlock my storage unit and become a funnel instead. He has much to say and He desires me to be a willing vessel – a funnel through which He can speak.
The motivating factor for my past behavior has been fear. Now I must come face to face with it and decide if it’s worth the risk to allow the things the Lord has spoken to me to be used to encourage someone besides myself. Today I begin to share and to pray fervently that those who read my words will be encouraged and challenged to search their own hearts to find the answer to the question for themselves.
May I be so bold to ask…are you a funnel or a storage unit?