Friday, August 21, 2015

Joy - Always

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Like I said yesterday, sometimes joy just tries to escape me.  People try to steal my joy.  Situations try to steal my joy.  Satan tries to steal my joy.  It is difficult sometimes to "choose joy" all the time.  But Paul reminded the churches to rejoice always.  But he also gave the reason we can choose joy:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

We choose joy because of the Lord.  We choose joy because there is a God.  We choose joy because God is who God is.  God gives us many, many reasons to choose joy.

I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. (Psalms 9:2 NIV)

Sometimes I go to church services just to sing the worship songs.  I know this probably sounds strange coming from a preacher/teacher who never seems to run out of words to say.  But it's true.  When I participate in corporate worship, I sing God's praises.  I re-calibrate my mind with God at the center of everything.  I put God in His rightful place in my life.  When I do this, it helps me choose joy no matter what is going on in my life.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!" (1 Chronicles 16:31 NIV)

You see, when I go through my week I lose perspective.  I start listening to the opinions of the people around me, the people in media, and the people who have written books.  While this isn't always bad, it can be bad if there perspective starts with an assumption that God does not exist.  It can wear me down when I listen to them.  Not only that, it can take me off course when they believe God exists, but they want me to follow them instead of God.

Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalms 96:10-13 NIV)

When I let God be in charge of my life, it is much easier to choose joy.  When I let God take care of God's jobs and I take care of mine, it is much easier to choose joy.  When I trust God to provide air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, and shelter from the storms, it is much easier for me to choose joy.  When I envision God seated on His throne, high and exalted, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it is much easier for me to choose joy.  My part of His plan is a much easier burden to carry than all the other parts that people try to heap on my shoulders.

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalms 32:11 NIV)

All I have to do, then, is hold on to the thoughts from God and throw away the rest.  I need to listen to God, wait when God tells me to wait, and act when God tells me to act.  When I do this, I am choosing joy.  God's Spirit produces joy in my mind and heart.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David. A Song. Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. (Psalms 68:1-3 NASB)

When I listen to the thoughts that set me against God, it steals my joy.  When I harbor those thoughts store them away in my heart, they create anger, bitterness, fear, lust and any other number of distractions.  They do not produce joy.  When I act on those distracting and tempting thoughts, my words and actions are used to steal someone else's joy, too.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Psalms 31:7 NIV)

Even when we are inflicted with joy-stealing thoughts, words, and actions of others, God gives us the tools we need to choose joy.  We can take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.  We can compare the thoughts, words, and actions to the truth and then let the truth set us free.  We can send away spiritual enemies by simply resisting them and drawing near to God.  We can release the hurt from others sinning against us by simply forgiving.  God gives us all the tools we need to choose righteousness.  When we do, we are choosing joy.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, "The LORD is great!" (Psalms 40:16 NIV)

God even gives us what we need to choose joy when we screw up.  Sometimes the pain, anguish, and suffering we go through is not because of outside influences.  Sometimes it is the result of our own choices.  We knew it was wrong.  We knew it was rebellion against God.  We knew there would be consequences.  We did it anyway.  When we did, we did not choose joy.  But even then, God has a plan for bringing us back to a place of joy.

I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:21-24 NASB)

God exists.  God is creator.  God is sustainer.  God is ruler.  God is savior.  God gives us reason after reason after reason after reason to rejoice.  We have many, many reasons to choose joy.  And in the end, when this life is complete, we will be given even more reasons to choose joy.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:6-7 NIV)

How about you?  Do you rejoice in the Lord always?  So you see reasons to choose joy?  Do you choose joy?