Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.
“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)
His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.
“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.
What are the pressing issues in your life right now and how are they impacting your long-term goals? For most, these challenges have the capability of knocking us off path towards our ultimate life fulfilling goals and discouraging us from pressing on.
Paul, the apostle obviously struggled with his past failures to the point that he referred to himself as a ‘foremost sinner’, unworthy of the grace and mercy that God had bestowed on his life.
“…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1Timothy 1:15)
Paul goes on to say that this mercy that he received was a display of Jesus’ perfect patience that would serve as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
It is in this context that Paul encourages us to not make futile the gift of grace that has been poured into our lives by accepting our imperfections and inconsistent attempts towards fulfilling our goals and purpose. Instead, by faith, believe “…that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Our daily, pressing life issues have been sovereignly and compassionately placed in our lives by a loving Heavenly Father who knows its value and necessity in shaping our destiny while impacting those around us in their faith walk.
The point is that when we respond correctly to trials and sufferings, as Jesus did, we come through having gained more of Him than when we entered into the trial. (Philippians 3:8-9)
So let’s keep our life goals at the forefront of our life issues and follow the example of Apostle Paul who lived with the conviction of not wanting the grace that had been poured into his life to have been in vain. This, we are told, is how the mature respond to the call of God on their lives with all its imperfections:
“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Keep pressing on!
Image: The Light of Morning, brl.press
Christmas is a time of great joy and this Christmas joy is rooted in an announcement from an angel to shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock one night. That particular night God’s glory was unmistakable as the bible tells it; “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Have you noticed that when life gets dark, God’s glory shines its brightest when we turn to Him for help?
“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord was born on this day and the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This is the Merry in Christmas and peace to those with whom God is pleased. And how is God pleased? When we adore His Son Jesus, who is Christ the Lord.
Honor, devotion and worship are qualities of adoration towards someone. If your heart desires to honor God in all that you say and do, you are pleasing Him. If you are devoted to keeping God the priority of your life, you are pleasing to Him. If you are willing to live a life of worship to God by submitting to His will, you are pleasing to Him.
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is our good news and great joy, the Merry in our Christmas. His glory is unmistakable!
Image: Old Design Shop
Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.
So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.
Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.
Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.
God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.
The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)
Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!
“…give us this day our daily bread…”
A spiritual giant of a man that we’ve all heard of at one time or another once said “When the heart sees what God wants, the body must be willing to spend and be spent for that cause alone.” Oswald Chambers was a man completely abandoned to God, he understood what it meant to be a true follower.
A true follower accepts the authority of another and obeys by placing himself in submission to the instruction or orders given. As a Christian we have been asked by God to:
“…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
In other words, I must offer up my life, give it away as a living sacrifice in order to truly fulfill God’s purpose for my life. I have been made holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This is my spiritual worship, a reasonable response to God’s amazing grace deposited into my life.
How does this look in my daily walk and growing relationship with my Heavenly Father? And how will I know that I am fulfilling His purpose and will in my life? We are to follow by setting ourselves apart from this world by renewing our mind with His Word, accepting the tests that come our way that God will use to give us wisdom and discernment to know His will. All this by living in the world and yet apart from it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Only then can the heart begin to see what it was created to be spent for.