Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

The Gift of the Present

Posted: July 16, 2011 by clairer in Contentment, Joy

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

I’m a planner. I like thinking about my future: things that I want to do in my next semester at college, where I will be a year from now, and what my long-term future will hold. I like having my life scheduled out. My daily planner is full of multi-colored notes on what I’ll do each day and I enjoy making, remaking, and rearranging spreadsheets with my possible course sequence for my next few years of college.

But is there a problem with this? Isn’t planning ahead a good thing? Well, yes and no. The problem surfaces when I spend so much time contemplating the future and planning my life that I forget to throw myself whole-heartedly into the present — when I forget to treasure the conversations I’m having, the activities I’m participating in, or the time I’m spending with family and friends now in anticipation of things coming up in the months and years ahead. It’s an issue of contentment.

God has given us the circumstances, challenges, joys, and trials of each and every day of our lives. He has put these circumstances in our lives to help us to grow. Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Our challenges in life produce endurance, character, and hope. Our challenges should not be wished away or overlooked in anticipation of the future, but should be embraced as ways for us to learn and grow.

If we spend time and attention planning and contemplating our futures, we are distracted from the present circumstances God has placed around us. If we are distracted from those circumstances, we will not be investing as thoroughly in the friends surrounding us, or embracing the opportunities available to us, or discerning lessons we should be learning.

Not only will we be missing opportunities currently available in our lives by constantly planning ahead, but we will also be investing in something we have no guarantee of. Whether or not we want to think about it, we have no guarantee of tomorrow. The only thing we can be sure to experience is the present. Jesus warns about this in a parable:

The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him,’Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? (Luke 12:16-20)

While I have much to learn about walking this out in my own life, I’m seeing that it is important to invest in what I have right now: the present. There is much value in planning and preparing for the future, but I shouldn’t forget to be content with (and enjoy!) where God has placed me currently.

Got Joy?

Posted: July 24, 2010 by clairer in Joy

Picture something that makes you really happy.  I’m not talking about just sort of “happy” but pure jumping-off-the-wall-with-joy happiness.  What is that for you?  For some people, that happiness may derive from success.  Perhaps getting perfect grades in school, or winning a contest, or seeing your team win the World Series or the Super Bowl makes you happy.  Maybe you find happiness when you’re hanging out with friends or making a lot of money.

But no matter what it is that makes you happy, there is one very important question that we all need to ask ourselves: Does God make you happy?  And if you say yes, then how happy does God make you?  How excited do you get when you think about God?

In Psalm 4:7, David declares to God that, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.”

Now, while we may not appreciate David’s comparison in this verse (not many of us get excited about grain and new wine abounding), we have to understand that during David’s time, grain and new wine abounding would represent abundance, success, and riches.  In other words, put into a modern context, David is saying that God fills him with more joy than everything and anything in his life that would make him extremely happy.  That’s an enormous statement.

But why does David find so much joy in God?  What had God done for David to cause such an extreme sentiment?

Well, to begin with, if you read through 1 and 2 Samuel , you will find that God saved David – not just once, but time and time again.  Through the books of Samuel, God saves and preserves David’s life – whether saving David from the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Sam 17), or from the wrath of King Saul (1 Samuel 18-27), or from his very own son Absalom (2 Samuel 13-18).  No matter how dire the circumstance, God was with David and kept him from all harm.

God also guided and spoke to David through the prophets.  David’s future as king was set when God spoke through Samuel and told David that he would replace Saul as the king of Israel (1 Samuel 16).  When David was fleeing from Saul, God spoke through the prophets and told David where he would be safe (1 Samuel 22:5, 23:4).  The Lord guided David in the perfect timing to become the king of all of Israel (2 Samuel 2:1).  God communicated with David – in His sovereignty He spoke to him and guided him in all of his steps.

Perhaps the thing that gave David the most joy in God, though, was that God poured out His Spirit on David – a rare occurrence in the Old Testament.  As it says in 1 Samuel 16:13, “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.”

So, that’s great for David.  God did a lot of things for him – He saved him, spoke to him, gave him His spirit – so of course David would find joy in Him.  But why should we find joy in God?  Well, if you think about it, God has done the same (and even more!) for us.

God saved David from bodily harm, but God saved us from eternal punishment.  He sent His son, Jesus, to die for our sins on the cross, so that we can live forever with Him in heaven instead of suffering in hell for our sins.

As if that wasn’t enough, God didn’t just leave us to figure out His plan of salvation on His own.  Just as God spoke to David through the prophets, God speaks to us through the Bible.  He gave us the Bible so we can learn about Him, come to salvation through Him, and be guided in our day-to-day lives by Him.

Also, just like David, God has poured out His Spirit on each and every one of us who put our faith in Him for the salvation from our sins.  That rare gift that was given to David is now a free gift to anyone who asks.  We now have the Holy Spirit to be our helper – to empower us to do all that God calls us to do, to convict us of our wrong-doing, to help us to grow in becoming like Christ.

So if David found joy in God for all that God did for him, we should find at least as much (if not more) joy in God for all that God has done for us!

At the beginning of this post, I stressed the importance of asking yourself about whether you find joy in God.  But why is this such an important question?  The thing is, most of us, if we’re honest, will have to admit that often times we find more joy in other things than in God.  We can easily be so consumed with the gifts that we forget that we should find the most joy in the Giver.  Does this mean that we shouldn’t derive any pleasure from things other than God?  No, God gave us what we have so that we can find pleasure in those things.  However, we must be sure that our ultimate joy – our heart – is found in God, since, as it says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”