Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I'm Always Rejoicing in the Lord

I'm always rejoicing in the Lord...NOT. Believe or not, there are some mornings when I don't exactly have that joy in the Lord feeling. Perhaps others often think that of me; however, keep in mind my joy look can be mistaken for a look of anger. :-) It doesn’t take me long to do things without rejoicing. If my eight-year-old requires multiple reminders that it's time to get out of bed, I am not exactly rejoicing in the Lord. Having only decaf coffee in the apartment does not make me jump for joy. If I open up my inbox to find an email of a less than joyous nature, that can certainly put a damper on my spirit. Even the activities I find most enjoyable in life can be experienced with displeasure due to my sinful heart. Prior to a knee injury last year, I used to really enjoy playing soccer, but I would get pretty perturbed if my teammates didn’t play defense. I enjoy fishing, but I have a few stories of fishing trips that don't include any fish. I can even worship God with others and start thinking of how someone has wronged me.
I find encouragement in the Apostle Paul’s testimony, and I look forward to learning more from him in Heaven. Here was a man who found joy in the most difficult of circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 he says, I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. In Colossians 1:24 he says, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 
How could Paul make these kinds of statements? First and foremost, Paul learned this from Jesus. Luke 6:22-23 says, Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Paul knew his earthly troubles would be temporary and that He would be rewarded with great treasures in Heaven. Paul took his eyes off his circumstances and remembered the truth, the words of Jesus.
How does one produce the kind of joy Paul talks about? Where does it come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit. Man is unable to produce it. Galatians 5:22 says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. All those who have placed their faith in Christ have the Holy Spirit and through Him can have this joy in their life.
Perhaps this seems like basic stuff to you; however, we need these reminders. I need these reminders. We are quick to take our eyes off of the cross and forget what God says. Philippians 4:4 says, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let me say that again. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Did you realize rejoicing is commanded and not optional? What is amazing about Paul's statement is that he said it in a prison cell that wasn't exactly a five-star hotel. How was he able to do this? Again, through the Holy Spirit. 
What if we do not desire to fight for joy in the Lord? What if we are struggling to have that joy? 2 Corinthians 1:24 says, Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. If we do not desire to fight for joy in the Lord, we must tell others and cry out to the Lord. He desires for us to find joy in Him. We are not to act as if we have it all together. We don't. You have junk, I have junk, we all have junk and moments when we do not feel very cheery. When I am not feeling particularly joyful, there are a few key people in my circle of friends who listen to me, pray for me and with me, and who point me to the Word, to the good news of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the body of Christ. We are not meant to be independent but are made interdependent, for community. This includes introverts like me. We need one another in order to live life joyously in the Lord.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2