Joy

Everyone wants to feel as though they have joy in their lives. But sometimes it can feel a little elusive. Sure we have our moments that we feel pretty good, but overall there is no general contentment. We are never quite satisfied with how our lives are shaping up or things aren’t turning out to be quite as awesome as we expected. We worry about what will happen to us or others. We are anxious and even afraid about where our lives are headed or what is happening around us in the world. Sometimes our fear can be really paralysing and we desperately want to find a way to feel in control. But nothing we do helps. All we want is to find that peaceful feeling that can bring us some joy and ease.

joy

Did you know that joy is mentioned at least 388 times in scripture? That includes all its variations including joyous, joyful, rejoice and etc.

 

The bible talks a lot more about joy than it does about happiness. Although you’d be forgiven for thinking they are the same thing, they are in fact quite different.

“Hap” means chance. It is the root of many different words. Happen, happening, haphazard, hapless, happenstance and happy. Happiness is actually a chance thing. Your circumstances dictate whether or not you feel happy. HAPpiness depends on what is HAPpening.

 

Joy however is different. Joy is not dependant on external events. Joy is inward. It is that peaceful calm you feel (regardless of your situation) when you know that God is present in your life. When you truly believe that all things will work out in the end because God loves you and will always look after you.

 

God actually commands us to be joyful. In Philippians 4:4 it says “Rejoice in the LORD alway and again I say rejoice!” The word rejoice here is a variant of the word rejoice. We are told we are always to be rejoicing in the LORD. It doesn’t say “whenever good things happen to you have joy” or “don’t worry, I know bad things happen and I don’t expect you to have joy in me at those times.” No. It says rejoice in God ALWAYS.

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On the other hand God doesn’t expect us to be happy all the time. He knows we go through hard times in our lives where being happy is impossible. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 it says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”.

 

So if joy is a lasting thing then can we lose joy? Yes! Joy is the trust we have in God outworking His mighty purpose. We can lose that joy in several different ways.

 

  1. When we stop studying the bible. When we stop putting God’s word in us every day we can quickly lose sight of the very real and very active hand of God. Reading the bible helps us see how God worked with people in times of old. It teaches us about His love for us and it tells us how He will work in the world around us now.
  2. When we sin. Sin can drive a big wedge between us and God. When we do something really wrong we can feel so guilty that we try to push God away. We feel we don’t deserve God’s love so we remove Him from our lives. We limit God’s mercy.
  3. When things go really wrong in our lives. Now I know I said that joy isn’t circumstantial and it doesn’t have to be, but sadly on occasion it can relate to what is going on in our lives. When something really tough happens it can be easy to blame God for it. To think He’s punishing us for whatever reason. Or to get mad at Him for allowing something so awful to happen to you. When we do this once again we can push God out of our lives thinking we no longer appreciate His input and try to solve things yourself.
  4. When we allow this world to take over our hearts. It is just so easy to do this. When something really big and exciting comes up in your life how easy is it to get so caught up in it that you actually forget all about God? When I have a big project I’m working on I just want to devote all my waking hours to it. All of a sudden when the project is over I realise that I have neglected the important things in my life and without the project taking up my time I am actually left pretty empty.  

 

Joy is largely composed of gratitude and trust. When we feel our joy lacking we have to step back from our immediate circumstances and see the bigger picture. We know what God has done for us. We know we can trust Him with the direction of our lives.

 

Despite things that may not make us feel very joyful we have something many people don’t that can bring us exceeding joy. We have a future hope. He has given us such precious promises that far excel anything this world has to offer. He is working with us in times of happiness and trials. Whatever is going on in our lives is happening for a reason. He is moulding us so we are fit for His Kingdom. This is a comforting fact which can bring us great joy no matter what.

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Worship

If I am going to be completely honest, I have found it very hard to be motivated to study the bible and pray like I should over the last two to three years. It’s not like I never do but I don’t feel as though my life is devoted to learning more about my maker and being more like Him like it should be. It is only when I start to feel guilty for not having done anything ‘spiritual’ or certain that every bad thing in my life is happening as a punishment that I make myself do something. Studying worship in the bible got me thinking deeply about what my motivation is to worship God and I have realised that I have been worshipping out of fear rather than love so this concept is what I have been focusing on for this study.

Do you worship out of fear or out of love?

For this topic I have found it useful to look at the life of Job. I believe that Job was initially worshipping God out of fear, at least partially anyway. There are several verses that suggest this:

Job had offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had done anything wrong – “Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (chapter 1:5).

In chapter 3:25 Job says, “For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me”.

In chapter 31:23, he lists the good things that he had done saying, “For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty“.

I don’t think that worshipping out of fear is entirely a bad thing. If there were no consequences to our sins, and no fear of death, then it is unlikely that we would ever worship God so I think the things that we have to fear are, in part, there to draw us to Him. But if you only look at it that way (and I must admit, this has been my mindset at times in the past), then you are probably going to view God as an angry God, threatening people with death if they don’t worship Him and you will be completely overlooking the real reason that God wants us to turn to Him.

In Jeremiah 7, God wants the people to worship Him and not other gods because He knows that those gods can’t do anything for them, not just because He just wants to be praised. Really these people are only hurting themselves: 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame?

In Deuteronomy 30:20 it says, “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

God wants the best for us even though He is the only one truely worthy of all good things. He wants us to live forever and inherit the land, how could we not praise Him for that?! I have found that remembering this while doing this study has made worship come naturally, rather than by force and I believe that true worship is a natural response to understanding that God’s commandments are in place for our own good and for the good of others.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome”. It is so hard to worship God properly when we are only doing it because we don’t want anything bad to happen to us. As 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.

1 John 4:23-24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

As Iron Sharpens Iron…

Looking through my life I can see so many beautiful blessings of people who God has sent into my life who have changed me.

 

Some of them have been amazing examples of character. They are so trusting in God that He has complete control over their situation and watching them makes me want to cast aside my worries and doubts and yield everything to Him. Some have been amazing examples of wisdom. They can expound the word so brilliantly and clearly that it excites in me a passion for His word and His purpose. I’ve known some amazing servants who humbly do all they can to give to others and meet other people’s needs.

 

There is also the reverse of that. Some people can really push my buttons but in doing that teach me patience and to be long-suffering. Through mistakes they can show repentance and teach me to be merciful.

 

The people around you really do have a profound effect on who you are.

 

There are plenty of example in scripture of this. Here are just a few

  • Ruth was converted and saved because of her beautiful friendship with Naomi.
  • After being around Paul and Silas in their prison cell and seeing the way they behaved the Phillipian jailer was converted and baptised.
  • How many times did Israel begin worshiping false gods because they allowed themselves to get too close to the nations around them?

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God tells us in Psalms 27:17 that “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

 

God is telling us here that your friends will be sharpening your countenance. I think that is pretty revealing how important of the relationships I choose to have are.

 

Friends (like iron) are supposed to sharpen each other. They should be mutually developing each other constantly to improve the other’s countenance to look more like God’s.

 

As I thought a little more about this verse I could help but reflect and do a little examining of myself.

  • Who are the people in my life that are sharpening me?
  • Do I surround myself with these people as often as I should?
  • Are there people in my life who are actually having a negative effect on me?
  • Do I behave in a way that sharpens the people around me?
  • How could I help to sharpen other more?

 

I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful people I have in my life who sharpen me. My husband, my family, my beautiful lady friends and my ecclesia. I have such a wealth of support but after really meditating on this I don’t think I take enough opportunities to be these people as I could.

 

I also discovered that perhaps I’m not doing everything I could for others. There are more ways I could be helping to sharpen the people I am closest to.

 

From this very idea bloomed this blog. This blog is a place where we can encourage each other in studying the word. We can share what is exciting us and sharpen each other’s countenance.

 

One day soon we will meet our Lord. In that day I hope we are all standing together, having sharpened each other so that we are joyful and excited to meet him. I pray that he will see our countenance as a reflection of him.