Wednesday, February 27, 2008

That Your Joy May Be Full

When ever I am under stress, my joy reserve depletes quickly. Recently (under stress) I feel the Lord speaking to me about my attempts at adding to the blessings of God. About my being unsatisfied with the blessings God has provided and my trying to come up with something better, more in line with what I think would be a blessing de jour. The blessing of the day. When I was healthy and modestly well off financially, more money would have been a blessing. So I tried to work more money into my theology and find Scriptural applications for God blessing me financially. When in an unhealthy period, now good health became my priority and I searched for Scriptural application for God blessing me with good health. I bring God along to bless me by giving me that which I think is lacking in my life.

Is this what Jesus meant when He said, Jhn 10:10 "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly."? Or Jhn 16:24 "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."

Remember when Jesus sent the deciples out on their first little missions trip? They returned rejoicing that "even the demons obeyed them". Jesus gave them a rebuke and said, Luk 10:20 "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.". Joy, full life to the deciples, as with all of us, was obtaining more than you have at the moment. They did not understand that true joy was knowing and understanding what Jesus had really provided ... acceptance and forgiveness before a just, righteous and all powerful God.

Before Jesus came few if any men clearly understood what God is really like. Would understanding what the creator of all things is really like bring men joy? It would seem so. Before Jesus came man had no means of permanent redemption and acceptance by God. Should God's permanent redemption and acceptance of man bring man joy? I would think so.

Does God provide for our financial, health and relationship blessings as we walk through life? A yes answer is inescapable while reading any version of the Bible. But these blessings come not from seeking after the blessing itself but in relying on and trusting in God's provision through an understanding of who God is and through acceptance of God's redemption through Jesus Christ. After all, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!"

Let's be real. Many Christians don't have joy because their God ship has not yet come in carrying all of God's blessings: new cars, bigger houses, better children, more money, better health. How many had a sister, wife, mother suffer and die from cancer and as a result they stopped believing in a loving God because a loving God would not let such a horrible thing happen. We are blessing experts. We know a blessing when we see it and death by cancer is no blessing; therefore, God does not exist. To a lesser but equally joyless extent, some are still struggling financially and can not have joy until they see the money. Some still drive that old junker ... no joy here.

Yet there are plenty of Christians who trusted God and were beaten, imprisoned, martyred and yet their joy was full. Full because they understood who God is, what God is like, and were assured of God's acceptance and forgiveness. They rejoiced that their names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Their joy was not in what they could get from God but in their relationship to and understanding of God.

When a child wishes to run out into traffic but is restrained by his parent, the child is in a joyless condition. I want it and can't have it so I am unhappy. Many of us live our lives this way. No matter how mature we feel nor how seemingly clear is our understanding of a situation, we will never have the entire picture from God's point of view. We do not understand the traffic. As long as we insist on running the railroad we will live in a derailed condition, Christian or not.

Have you heard someone talk about how much closer to God they were during times of distress? Did they mention a clearer understanding of God? Was some strange sweet joy during a time of trouble mentioned? I have experienced this myself and can attest to the truth of it. Is there some oddity of the human condition that we understand a thing better when we lose it or lack it.

I love this little poem by Emily Dickenson:

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

This poem is not a direct application to experiencing the Joy of the Lord but there is a point well taken. Is it possible that man has difficulty seeing and understanding the true Joy of the Lord while he possesses the world's joy? Maybe our joy vision is clearer when we lose our worldly joy and lie defeated, dying. Maybe only then can we hear the distant strains of God's triumphant joy being celebrated in the distance. Can what we lack in the here and now be a blessing of the eternal kind?

So again I must remind myself that my Joy is in the Lord, knowing who He is, knowing what He is like, and trusting in Him. Then I must let God decide what is a true blessing for me. My joy can not be dependent on what the blessing looks like or what form it takes or when (if ever) it arrives. My joy is in the Lord.

BigHugeThing needed a BigHuge attitude adjustment.

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