Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

Chapter 18: Joy

God Given JOY

We are called to always love God, love others, and then ourselves. And by doing this, we will not only gain joy for ourselves and help spread it to others, but God will feel joy for the joy that we found in him. ...

Quest for Joy: Six Biblical Truths

God made us to magnify his greatness - the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God's glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. ...

Don't Let the Enemy Steal Your Joy

God gives us the power through His Holy Spirit to live free from the entanglement of sin. He gives us the power to live strong. He gives wisdom and discernment to make the right choices. He gives joy deep inside. He offers the assurance, that no matter what we face, He is with us. ...

How to Choose Joy When You're Focused on the Negatives

We don't have to complain or focus on the negatives, because we've been given a choice. And that choice is to, instead, turn our eyes whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8). It's the choice we make when we need to have a better perspective (or a total attitude adjustment). ...

Joy and Godliness

Joy doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's directly related to godly living. Christ is its source; obedience is its sustenance. We see that in David's cry of repentance: "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation" (Ps. 51:12). Paul knew the joy of the Lord because he trusted Christ and obeyed His will. ...

Making Joy a Priority

The things we consider assets in this life often turn out to be our liabilities because they keep us from depending on God. What is the object of your confidence? Is it your intelligence, your financial security, your social network? None of these things will bring us indescribable joy-only dependence on Christ's strength can bring us joy. We must value our relationship with Christ and treasure our gift of joy in order to experience joy at its fullest. ...

The Secret of Joy: Psalm 126

This psalm shows us not only that "laughter" (Psalms 126:2) and God go together but also God and "joy" (Psalms 126:2-6). This psalm is written to help you discover the secret of joy. ...

 Chapter 18: Joy

God Given JOY

by Nitya R Jacob, Columbus, Ohio

"Joy is strength," to quote Mother Teresa. The definition of joy by the Oxford English Dictionary is "A feeling of great pleasure and happiness", but it was in last year's Ohio Malayalee Christian Congregation (OMCC) children's Christmas program that I learned a new definition of joy that made the most sense to me: that "true joy is putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself". 1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, "You received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit", supporting the idea that joy comes from the Lord.

But how does one practice JOY in a world that doesn't believe in the same? It is estimated that about 31.5% of the world is Christian. This may seem like a large number, but that means 69.5% of humans do not know Jesus or in the very least do not acknowledge him as Lord and Savior. Even within out 31.5%, there are people who say that they follow Christ, but do not practice good works or have true faith. We are often surrounded by those who do not know true JOY.

We grow up going to church with our parents and learn about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in Sunday School and within the parish, but what happens when we step outside into the real world? The same kid who answers the question "What does God want us to do?" with the words "Be kind" pushes another child to the ground; the same adult who tells their student to "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" holds a grudge over a petty argument. We forget that being a Christian is not a hobby, but a lifestyle. How are we to spread JOY and good news if we're only Christian every Sunday?

The first step to this, to true JOY, is to put Jesus first. Before we can truly talk about Him, we need to truly love and have faith in Him and believe that He died on the cross for the redemption of our sins. Without this step, we cannot move forward to any of the other steps.

Then we have the second step to JOY- being earnest in or at least being able to talk to others about Jesus. It can be difficult to talk about significant, important things sometimes let alone to talk about Jesus with anyone- but one should trust in the Lord, knowing that He is with them and will help them overcome their fears.

The O in JOY is for Others in that we are trying to spread His love. But to put others first, we need to be servants to one another. Lord Jesus even humbled himself to the point of washing a man's feet for him and, of course, dying on the cross for us; we are called to humble ourselves even to the point of loving our enemies and praying for those that persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and despite this, God still has the mercy and grace to forgive those who truly repent. Since we are called to be more like Jesus, we must strive to be more merciful and selfless to those around us.

The third step is perhaps the easiest to most, but hardest for others. The bible says to "love thy neighbor as thyself"; this usually applies to the concept of step two, to love others, but I would like to think that it applies to both parties. How can you love others as yourself if you cannot love yourself?

It is important to recognize that one shouldn't love oneself too much, for you must put the Lord and Others first and humble yourself. Yet if you are a child of God- and even if you aren't- He loves you and you should value that dearly. His love is what made him die on the cross, so that we may be with Him forever. He stands beside you if you let Him, and by walking with him, spreading His love, and putting Him first, you will be able to experience true JOY.

This is not a journey that ends. We are called to always love God, love others, and then ourselves. And by doing this, we will not only gain joy for ourselves and help spread it to others, but God will feel joy for the joy that we found in him. It may not be easy, but with God on your side, you will always come out victorious.

Quest for Joy: Six Biblical Truths

by John Piper

Did you know that God commands us to be glad?

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
(Psalm 37:4)

1) God created us for his glory

"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth,... whom I created for my glory" (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God made us to magnify his greatness - the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God's glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

2) Every human should live for God's glory

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. So our first obligation is to show God's value by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).

3) All of us have failed to glorify God as we should

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

What does it mean to "fall short of the glory of God?" It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God, which is the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since sin came into the world we have all been deeply resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure (Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

4) All of us are subject to God's just condemnation

"The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).

We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude, distrust and disobedience. So God is just in shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever. "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The word "hell" is used in the New Testament twelve times - eleven times by Jesus himself. It is not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers. It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it at great risk.

If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless future. However, this is not where it stops...

5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners..." (1 Timothy 1:15)

The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans 3:25-26). "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.

6) The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19). "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

"Repent" means to turn from all the deceitful promises of sin. "Faith" means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus. "He who believes in me," Jesus says, "shall never thirst" (John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God's aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in us and we are satisfied in him - forever.

Does this make sense to you?

Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in your life.

What should you do?

Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you from the guilt and punishment and bondage. "All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). Start banking your hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin's promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God's promises. Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).

The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict between our happiness and God's holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (Psalm 16:11)

Bible Verses

Jesus replied: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 22:37)

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:3-4)

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his [1]; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalms 100:2-4)

...because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel... (Colossians 1:4-5)

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)

Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13)

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24)

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7)

Appearances of the word "hell" in the New Testament

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22 Jesus speaking)

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29 Jesus speaking)

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:30 Jesus speaking)

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 Jesus speaking)

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:9 Jesus speaking)

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15 Jesus speaking)

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33 Jesus speaking)

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43 Jesus speaking)

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. (Mark 9:45 Jesus speaking)

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, (Mark 9:47 Jesus speaking)

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5 Jesus speaking)

In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (Luke 16:23 Jesus speaking)

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 James speaking).

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 Peter speaking)

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society. "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark office by International Bible Society.

© Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org

Don't Let the Enemy Steal Your Joy

by Debbie McDaniel

Don't let the enemy steal your joy today.
He'll try you know.
You may not even realize it until it's too late.

From the moment your feet hit the floor, he'll do all that he can to distract you, to overwhelm you, to frustrate you, and to stir up worry and strife. Often his ways are subtle, other times they're more clear. It’s what he does best. Stealing. Killing. Destroying.

Just say "no."
Don't let him win.
We have a choice of who we listen to and what we believe.
Recognize who is at the root of it all, and push past his lies, step over his traps.

God gives us the power through His Holy Spirit to live free from the entanglement of sin. He gives us the power to live strong. He gives wisdom and discernment to make the right choices. He gives joy deep inside. He offers the assurance, that no matter what we face, He is with us.

His truth says this, 8 loving reminders:

"The joy of the Lord is my strength." Neh.8:10

"Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." 1 John 4:4

"No weapon that is formed against you will prosper..." Is.54:17

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Rom.15:13

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Ps.118:24

"For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Is. 55:12

May His grace, peace, and joy cover your day.

He is with you...

"Dear God,

At the start of each day, help us to recognize you above all else. Enlighten the eyes of our heart that we might see you, and notice how you're at work through our lives. Give us wisdom to make the best choices, fill us with a desire to seek after you more than anything else in this world. Let your Spirit and power breathe in us, through us, again, fresh and new. Thank you that you are greater than anything we may face in our day. Thank you that your presence goes with us, and that your joy is never dependent on our circumstances, but it is our true and lasting strength, no matter what we're up against. We ask that your peace lead us, that it would guard our hearts and minds in you. We ask for your grace to cover our lives this day. We love you Lord...we need you.

In Jesus' Name,
Amen."

About The Author:

Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Find her at http://twitter.com/debbmcdaniel.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

How to Choose Joy When You're Focused on the Negatives

by Lauren Gaskill

"Snowball fight!"

The kids cheered and giggled as they rounded the corner of the apartment hallway near me. Like most winter days I was walking my dog inside, trying to stay warm and away from the big frozen ice cube that had become the world outside.

Within seconds the kids ran past me -- snow pants, mittens, hats and all -- and burst through the door, where their winter wonderland adventure could finally begin.

They smiled and laughed as they catapulted white blobs into the air.

I looked at them and furrowed my forehead, feeling dazed and confused. As an adult, there's something about seeing children play in the snow that makes it hard for me to believe I ever reacted to winter in the same way.

Because here's the honest truth: I don't like winter anymore.

When we moved to Minnesota back in 2014, I put on a brave face and feebly embraced it. In my mind, if we were going to be true Minnesotans, I had to at least make an effort. I drove to the second-hand sports store and bought some hockey gear and snow boots. I let my hockey-playing honey re-teach me how to skate. I agreed to a two-hour, outdoor engagement photo shoot in February (he proposed to me on an icy lake in January).

I was all in. And then, suddenly I wasn't.

I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way I became a winter Grinch. I actually teared up when the first snowfall hit this year. And they weren't tears of joy.

When I stepped outside, my thoughts immediately grew as cold as the temperatures outside.

So what's a girl to do when she can't seem to focus on anything but the negatives in life?

She gets an attitude adjustment.

As much as I'd like to sit around and complain about winter, I know focusing on the negatives won't get me anywhere.

I have to have a different perspective.

Maybe you've been in a situation where you can't see anything but the negatives, too. It doesn't have to be a disdain for winter, but the irritation is the same ... that feeling of discontentment, despair and wanting things to be different than they actually are.

I think we all can learn a lesson from the kids who were having a snowball fight outside my apartment complex. And the lesson is this: Life is often what we make it.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Guarding our heart means we have to first guard our mind. Because what the mind thinks influences how the heart feels. If our thoughts are cold and bitter, then you can guarantee our hearts will eventually grow cold and bitter, too.

Life is not just what we make it, but what we choose to focus on.

If you're like me, it's tempting to cop an attitude, complain or be negative when life doesn't go your way.

But we don't have to complain or focus on the negatives, because we've been given a choice. And that choice is to instead turn our eyes whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8).

It's the choice we make when we need to have a better perspective (or a total attitude adjustment).

I wrote about Philippians 4:8 in an article for iBelieve.com a few months ago, but today I want to talk about what it looks like to practically apply that verse to our lives.

Instead of being all "Bah! Humbug!" about something, we can use Philippians 4:8 to help us shift our thoughts and change our perspective.

Here's what the exercise looks like (I'll use my disdain for winter as an example): Just take the components of Philippians 4:8 and write out a positive thing to focus on for each category.

WHATEVER IS ...

TRUE: Winter won't last forever and soon I'll be outside again.

NOBLE: Winter is an opportunity for me to be reminded of how amazing my husband is. He drops me off nearly everywhere we go!

RIGHT: Winter is a time to grow even closer to God, because more time inside means more chances to read the Word.

PURE: I might not like snow, but it's a beautiful reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross -- He washed our sins white as snow!

LOVELY: The weather outside is frightful, but with my space heater the weather inside is perfect for writing.

ADMIRABLE: Winter brings with it my two favorite holidays.

And suddenly, winter doesn't seem all that bad!

This is how we give ourselves a better perspective and an overall attitude adjustment. This is how we keep our hearts from growing cold and bitter. I hope this exercise encourages you, and I hope you'll make it a part of your daily life.

We can feel negative emotions, but we don't have to become a slave to them.

About The Author:

Lauren Gaskill is an author, speaker and host of the Finding Joy podcast. She  is in the process of publishing her first non-fiction inspirational book. When she's not writing, Lauren loves to cook, bake and go on hikes with her husband.

Source:Christianity.com

Joy and Godliness

by John MacArthur

"I rejoice and share my joy with you." (Phil. 2:17).

True joy is directly related to godly living.

Philippians is often called the epistle of joy-and rightly so because the believer's joy is its major theme. Paul loved the Philippian Christians and they loved Him. When they learned that he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, they were deeply concerned.

Paul wrote to alleviate their fears and encourage their joy. Of his own circumstances he said, "Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me" (Phil. 2:17-18).

Often a Jewish animal sacrifice was accompanied by a libation or drink offering (e.g., Num. 15:1-10). The animal was the greater sacrifice; the libation the lesser. Drawing from that picture, Paul placed greater significance on the faith and spiritual well-being of his readers than on his own life. To suffer for Christ's sake brought him joy, and he wanted the Philippians to understand that perspective and rejoice with him.

He also wanted them to understand that joy doesn't operate in a vacuum. It's directly related to godly living. Christ is its source; obedience is its sustenance. We see that in David's cry of repentance: "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation" (Ps. 51:12). Paul knew the joy of the Lord because he trusted Christ and obeyed His will.

The scarcity of joy and godliness in the world today makes it imperative that Christians manifest those characteristics. As we do, others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

This month we will highlight various aspects of joy and godliness from Philippians 1:1-11 and Colossians 1:9-12. I pray you will be eager to learn from God's Word, and willingly obey what you learn, for therein is "joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to use our daily studies to strengthen your joy and increase your godliness. Seek to emulate Paul's attitude of preferring others to yourself-a key element in joyful living.

For Further Study

  • Read the book of Philippians, noting each reference to joy.
  • What brought joy to Paul? On what or whom do you rely for joy?

Source: Grace to You.org

Making Joy a Priority

by Dr. Michael Youssef

When was the last time you evaluated your priorities? Have you recently looked at your commitments, goals, and checkbook to list your assets and liabilities? When we do not discipline ourselves to stay focused on our eternal priorities, we can easily become bogged down by earthly concerns that are unimportant.

When the apostle Paul was in prison, he took the time to evaluate his own life. Before Paul became a Christian, he was a Pharisee with prestige, power, and wealth. After he began His ministry for Christ, Paul endured frequent attacks, imprisonments, and hunger as he traveled from town to town. Yet because Paul kept his focus on Christ, he found a joy that gave him a heavenly perspective on life and priorities:

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

As Paul discovered, the things we consider assets in this life often turn out to be our liabilities because they keep us from depending on God. What is the object of your confidence? Is it your intelligence, your financial security, your social network? None of these things will bring us indescribable joy-only dependence on Christ's strength can bring us joy. We must value our relationship with Christ and treasure our gift of joy in order to experience joy at its fullest.

Only Christ's resurrection power can satisfy our empty hearts. Only His power can defeat our temptations and turn our trials into triumphs. Only His power can exchange our weaknesses for His strength. Any earthly assets that we draw on are rubbish compared to Christ's power.

As imperfect humans, it is easy for us to revert back to our independent ways, especially when things seem to go well for us. We quickly forget about Christ's strength and joy when we find comfort and happiness in our circumstances.

But we must be on guard against spiritual stagnation. We must place our relationship with Christ first in our lives. We often shy away from spiritual growth because we know that growth is often accompanied by pain. We want to run from our troubles rather than pressing forward. But the Bible tells us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

Paul encouraged the Philippians, "But one thing I d Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, 14). While we may have to strain our spiritual muscles in order to grow, we will find joy in the midst of our struggles if we focus on Christ.

If you have been struggling with finding your joy, spend some time today examining your priorities. Is Christ first in your life? Are you placing all of your confidence in Him alone? Be honest with yourself as you rank your priorities on the lines below. Which are your assets and which are your liabilities as God sees them? Ask God for forgiveness if He is not your first priority. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reprioritize your life so that God is first and your joy may be full.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Source: Leading the Way

The Secret of Joy: Psalm 126

by Josh Moody

Scripture: Psalm 126

A Joyful Return to Zion

126 When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
4 Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
5 Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
6 He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
- Psalm 126 (NKJV)

Spurgeon was once criticized for putting too much laughter into his sermons. Frivolous. Lacking gravity. His reply to the woman who had button-holed him was classic: "My good lady, if you only knew how much I restrain myself." This psalm shows us not only that "laughter" (Psalms 126:2) and God go together but also God and "joy" (Psalms 126:2-6). This psalm is written to help you discover the secret of joy.

Mistaken Notions of Joy

When the psalm refers to joy, it does not mean the tendency that some people have, because of their temperament, to be happier than other people. For one reason or another there appear to be people who are more naturally wired to smile, who can wake up in the morning singing a cheery song, and who look at their breakfast cereal and simply clap their hands with delight. You may feel sympathy with the Snoopy T-Shirt that was popular when Charlie Brown was all the rage - "I hate people who sing in the morning" - but then others get up early because they like it. Some people are morning people, some people are evening people, and some people seem to feel happier than others. They are wired that way. However, the joy here is not this matter of temperament.

Nor is this joy about faking it, the sort of pretend joy that plasters a smile on your face while inside you growl. Nor is it imposing joy on others by going up to someone who that moment discovered his best friend had a car accident and telling him to "rejoice in the Lord always," to which the understandable reply might be, "Let me punch you in the nose and see how much rejoicing you're doing then." Nor is it the deep Christian joy that is so deep—soooo deep—that to find it you practically have to set up an oil well. Drilling, drilling, deeper, deeper, deeper. Ah, we have struck oil; there is a smile down there; it was deep Christian joy.

Living the Dream

No, this joy is not a matter of temperament (your natural predisposition), an experience that must be manufactured for yourself and other people (faking it), or something so deep that it is not really happy (where the smile goes down rather than up). Instead, this joy is a result of being "restored" by God (Psalms 126:1)—not happy because of your genetics but happy because of what God has done for you. This joy is based upon an objective, real, God-given restoration. And those who have this joy are "like those who dream" (Psalms 126:1). The ancient world, when it referred to dreams, did not, first of all, mean a daydream. They meant an actual dream, the sort of dream you have when you are asleep. So when the psalmist says this was like dreaming, he is comparing joy to a very good actual dream. He is saying that this joy is like that. This joy is so good that when you experience it you think, "I am living the dream." Such is the joy that this psalm is talking about.

So throw away all ideas that joy is found in things apart from God, or that God is the serious, gloomy, despondent, negative, critical sort of religious freak who will smack you over the wrists with a wooden ruler as soon as you step out of line. This psalm, first, describes the dream and then, second, tells you how that dream comes true.

The Dream

First, the dream:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
(Psalms 126:1-3)

Zion, as the last chapter explained, stands for the whole story of the people of God that finishes in the heavenly Jerusalem—"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion," that is, when God brought back God's people to where they should have been all along. Notice there is a parallel between Psalms 126:1 and Psalms 126:4. Psalms 126:1 says, "When the Lord restored" or "When God restored." Verse 4 prays, "Restore our fortunes, O Lord" or "Please God restore." So the first part of the psalm is the dream, what happened when God restored. The second part of the psalm is how to live the dream, asking God to restore your fortunes.

Being Restored

"Fortune" here doesn't mean luck or chance. It is not saying, "I've been playing the gaming tables and finally I got lucky." It is not saying, "I've been down on my luck and finally I got my lucky break." The word "fortune" here mirrors the word "restore," so "When the Lord restored our fortunes" (Psalms 126:1) means something like "When God restored us to a restored situation." We find the same in the Psalms 126:4, which is parallel: "Restore our fortunes, O Lord," meaning, "Restore us to this restored situation, O Lord." This matters because people think they are "living the dream" when they have bought a new vacation home or a whole new wardrobe from Savile Row. Truly such people are missing real joy. Joy is not financially living well or looking good. Joy is about being restored, that is, brought back to who you were designed to be.

Laughter

If joy is being restored, what is being restored like? "We were like those who dream." What sort of dream? Now the dream is described: "Then our mouth was filled with laughter" (Psalms 126:2). See the laughter clearly in your mind. This laughter is not a little tweak of the lips. This is not a polite living-room chortle. This is not a snigger behind your hand. This is not a mild happy laugh. This is a slap-your-thigh burst-out in laughter, LOL, giggle fit. "Our mouth was filled with laughter"—wide open, yawning chasm, filled with laughter.

Wide-mouthed laughter is how the psalm describes the dream. This is not one of those church-bulletin blooper jokes you can find online. You know, "The epistles are wives of the apostles," "The fifth commandment is humor thy father and mother," "Lot's wife was a pillar of salt by day but a ball of fire by night," "Noah's wife was Joan of Ark," and the rest. This is tears rolling down your face, laughing out loud, together—not just "my own" but God's people together—engaged in wide-open-mouthed laughter. This joy makes you laugh so hard that there is no room for anything else in your mouth!

Shouts

"And our tongue [was filled] with shouts of joy" (Psalms 126:2). Other versions translate this "songs" (not shouts) of joy, but if it is singing, it is the volume you hear that lifts the roof at a sports stadium. This is the fist-pump shout when you score a touchdown, or hit a home run, or score straight A's on your tests.

Witness

There is still more to this description of the dream: "Then they said among the nations ‘the Lord has done great things for them'" (Psalms 126:2). When they started laughing out loud, really loud, and shouting songs of joy, then everyone around looked at them and thought, "Whoa something good's going on there. I want to be a part of that God thing." The people of God agreed with this verdict: "The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad" (Psalms 126:3).

I do not think there is anyone who, if they truly understand this psalm, would not want the dream it describes. Whatever your temperament (morning person or not), whatever your situation (tough or easy), do you not desire to have a constant joy that is so amazing and so obvious that people all around you say, "I want some of that joy juice he's on"? The dream is described as God's restoring his people, which causes laughter, joy, and witness.

The Dream Come True

Second, the dream come true:

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalms 126:4-6)

Psalms 126:4-6 develop a model of praying for the dream to come true and a contrast of what it is like when that dream does come true. To begin with, "Restore our fortunes, O Lord" (Psalms 126:4) mirrors the description that runs from Psalms 126:1-3 of fortunes restored. Having described that dream in the first half of the psalm, now in the second half the psalm begins to model the surprising contrast of being restored. Being restored is a contrast "like streams in the Negeb" (Psalms 126:4), Negeb meaning "parched" or "dry," the southern part of the country. So "like streams in the Negeb" contrasts water with a desert. We find another contrast: "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalms 126:5-6). So tears contrasts with shouts of joy. Psalms 126:4-6, then, model asking God to restore his people. They tell us that God's restoration contrasts water flowing in a desert and shouting with joy after crying. Let me explain this model and contrast of joy with the mnemonic H-A-P-P-Y.

H - humility. Joy begins with humility. To say, "Restore, O Lord," requires the humility to admit that you need restoring. Jesus said "Blessed [or happy] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:3-6). This psalm is saying that restoration begins with having the humility to ask for it.

A - advice. Notice it is "our" (Psalms 126:4), not "my," fortunes. The psalmist is doing this in community. Let me make a pastoral sidebar here. In my view there is a medical condition called "clinical depression." I have known people, very godly, holy people, who are clinically depressed. This is not because they are sinning. It is not because they are not praying enough or trying hard enough. It is because there is a medical condition called "clinical depression." If you have felt sad for a long time, and you talk to someone who cares about you and knows you well and they say, "Well maybe you should go and see someone," then just do it. You have nothing to lose other than your pride. That is different from being temperamentally slightly melancholic or Eeyore-like. That's a personality type, a glass-half-empty kind of person. Fine. But if it's more than that, get some advice.

P - Perspective. There is a perspective going on in this contrast. Negeb, streams flowing in the desert. Tears, leading to joy. So far in these Psalms of Ascent we have been through the dark side of the emotions, asking for help, now we are coming to the bright side of the emotions: joy, happiness, in God. The perspective here is the story line of the Bible. What we are really talking about is the gospel. So this is not merely a contrast of a cathartic effect—weeping then rejoicing. This is saying, "Because of who God is, because of what the gospel is, if you turn to God he will restore you."

The story of the gospel is that God has come to rescue us in Christ. Part of experiencing true joy is keeping that perspective your perspective. It's working hard at whatever is noble and true and thinking about such things (see Philippians 4:8). The point of Paul's words there in Philippians is not just looking at a flower rather than at a depressing piece of news, though that can be wise at times. It is looking at the flower and asking, "What does that tell me about who God is as the creator?" It is asking, when you hear that bit of bad news, "What does that tell me about the fallen world, and how glad does that make me that God is going to make a new heaven and a new earth, and he is redeeming his people through the gospel?" Perspective, perspective. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depression says, "The trouble with Christians is they listen to themselves when they should talk to themselves."1 Talk to yourself, that is, in the sense of adopting a gospel perspective of what is happening.

P - Prayer. This is a prayer: "Restore our fortunes, O Lord." Some of us need to slow down to make room for prayer. Let me ask you a direct question: are you having a regular, daily quiet time? I don't mean with four other people in the room in a Bible study, good as that is; or with your family in devotions, excellent as that is. I mean you on your knees or in your favorite chair, with the Bible open, quiet around, and connecting with God in prayer and saying, "Lord, would you restore me to joy?"

Y - You. I wrote a book called The God Centered Life, so why am I now talking about you? 2 I am, because to be truly joyful, you (or "our," as in the psalm; it is "you" in the plural) need to be restored to who you were designed to be. It is restoration, coming back to the way you were meant to be as designed by God. It is a God-centered you. The gospel enables you to become you as you were meant to be, the new creation. It is to be reconciled to God, to be in Christ and Christ in you, to have your sins removed and his righteousness yours as you are in Christ. This restoration happens as you become a Christian; it happens more and more as you follow Christ.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were out camping. Holmes woke up Watson in the middle of the night and pointed up at the stars. Watson blinked the sleep out of his eyes as Holmes asked what he deduced.

Watson said, "Well, astronomically, I deduce there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I deduce that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I deduce that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What about you, Holmes," he said, "what do you deduce?"

"Watson" said Holmes slowly, "I deduce that someone has stolen our tent."

Joy is both very complex and very simple. I studied the Puritans at Cambridge University. My teacher was a senior, eminent professor toward the end of his career, a brilliant man. I remember talking to him once about the caricature of Puritans as a dour and despondent lot, the puritanical myth. He said to me, "Whenever you meet a Puritan [he used the present tense meet, for he knew that there are still Puritans today, even if they wear jeans and have tattoos instead of wide brimmed hats and buckled shoes], you meet a happy person."

We tend to think that being happy is being trite, and the more miserable we are, the more profound we must be. Nothing could be further from the truth. God's ultimate destiny for us who will believe is not miserable profundity but joyful severity, a thrill that reverberates with the truth that

"God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).

For those who will put their trust in God that is their destiny, and it is one filled with joy.

Notes

1. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns, 1965).

2. Josh Moody, The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today (Vancouver: Regent, 2007).

Source: Taken from Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent , by Josh Moody. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.

Source: Beyond Sunday Devotional

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