September 30, 2008
"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy....and no one will take away your joy" (John 16: 20, 22).
I may be a glutton for punishment, but I'm kind of a news junkie, and the news isn't so good these days. Today alone, my e-mail box has been clicking over the House debating a $700 billion bailout plan, stocks taking nosedives, and I just got one about a "massive" 7.3 earthquake that just hit New Zealand. FOX News says that the average American is not really aware of the gravity of our economic situation and that we need to take things seriously. I agree. Use a lot of wisdom. Trust God.
And what about the situations that don't appear in your e-mail? What about the stuff that pops into your mind the moment you wake up in the morning? Or wakes you up in the middle of the night? The personal stuff? The stuff of life that isn't so public? Things like family problems, illnesses, addictions, job losses, infertility, not enough money to make the bills this month, broken dreams, broken promises and broken hearts? All of this is just about enough to suck the joy right out of you....or is it?
I've heard the letter of Paul to the Philippians called the book of joy. The word "joy" itself is used four times, "rejoice", eight times, and "glad", three times. In his letter, the apostle said that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Did you notice that? "Whatever". He said that he "had learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." (Phil. 4: 11, 12) I believe that because Paul had learned this "secret", he could experience the joy. Maybe if we could learn the "secret" ....maybe we could learn to live on this side of the grass with joy.
No other verse in my Bible explains the source of overcoming, in-spite-of-my-circumstances joy, better than Psalm 16: 11. "In thy presence is fullness of joy". (KJV) The kind of joy that we're looking for, the kind of joy that brings victorious living in the midst of...is found in the presence of the Lord. The Hebrew word used here for "presence" comes from the word "panah" which means "to turn; by implication, to face, i.e. to look". When we turn and face and look at God...there is fullness of joy! We can choose to look at our troubles and our circumstances. We can choose to look at what the "experts" are saying on the evening news. We can choose to give attention to the "woe is me" folk around us. Or we can choose to purposefully place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and apprehend joy!
Moses, called the man of God at the outset of Psalm 90, knew the principle. In verse 14 he said, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days." Moses faced some pretty difficult situations in his life, but he knew that if God loved him, he could have joy. God loves YOU! Be satisfied with that truth at the outset of each day ("in the morning"), and you will live a life of joy.
David, the man after God's own heart, knew the principle too. In Psalm 63: 6-7 he said, "On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." God is YOUR help. When you can't fall asleep or when you're up "in the watches of the night" thinking about your problems, turn to, face and look at the Lord. Remember Him and you will sing with joy.
From morning till night, and every moment in between, a life lived in the presence of the Lord is a joy-filled life. That's the secret that I believe Paul had learned. And it's a secret that God has called me to learn and practice on a consistent basis. Can I tell you....it works! You can wallow in your problems or you can meditate on the unfailing love of the Lord. You can feel hopeless or you can be assured and meditate on the FACT that God is your Helper. You can be panicked with the rest of the world or you can live like a citizen of the Kingdom of God, which is a matter "of righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14: 17)
There may be tears in your eyes and an ache in your heart today. Sow your tears and your breaking heart unto the Lord and praise Him. Meditate on His goodness. Look full in His wonderful face. Get into the presence of the Lord. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of JOY, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126: 5-6)
"Jesus, our Savior King, restore to us the JOY of your salvation (Psalm 51: 12). You said in John 16 that no one can take away our joy. You said that we could ask in your name and we would receive. Give us Your joy. You promised that You would give us what we ask and that our JOY will be complete. Give us Your complete JOY. The JOY that You died to give us. A JOY that nothing or no one can ever take away. Thank you that I am a joyful person. Thank you for your unfailing love. Thank you for being my Helper. I will now sing for JOY and be glad all my days."
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