I once worked at a place where you had to wear a dress shirt and a tie every day. There was a guy who didn’t like the rule. He would try to show up without a tie. He was told that each time he showed up without one, he’d be sent home to get one and would be docked that time on his check. Instead of simply complying, he decided to dig his feet in. He showed up the next time in a clown tie. It was extra wide and short. When confronted, he said that the rules simply said he had to wear a tie, and this was a tie. I refer to this behavior as compliant disobedience. He’s following the rules while being disobedient in the process. It was an outward expression of his internal attitude.
The book of Jonah tells a similar story. God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh to pronounce judgment on it. Instead of complying, he went the opposite direction in a ship. The Lord caused a great storm to rock the boat, Jonah was found to be the problem and they tossed him overboard. The Bible says the Lord prepared a great fish to come swallow him and return him to shore. The Lord told him the same instructions. He obeyed, but still had disobedience in his heart. When Nineveh repented, God forgave them. Once again his disobedient attitude showed through. God tried to get through to him, but we don’t really know how the story ends. The book stops with God having the last word.
How is your attitude toward what God has asked you to do? 2 John 1;6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in accordance with His commandments and are guided continually by His precepts. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should [always] walk in love” (AMP). God isn’t looking for compliant disobedience. He’s looking for you to obey out of love for Him. Our attitudes show up in our behaviors, but even still God always looks at the intent of our heart. Don’t be like Jonah or the tie guy. Trust God’s plan, be thankful He’s wanting to use you and obey while walking in love. He’s not done writing your story yet. How it’s written depends on your obedience.
When I travel to New Orleans, there’s a certain homeless person I like to say hello to. He always makes me smile and he never asks me for anything. He’ll say, “It ain’t gonna cost you nothing to come say hello. I ain’t gonna rob you!” I then walk over and say hello and he puts a smile on my face. Except on a recent trip he called me over and said, “You know I never ask for nothing, but could you go in there and buy me an orange juice and sandwich? I’m about to curl up on my cardboard and I’m hungry.”
When I handed him his dinner, he hugged me and thanked me. He then asked, “You know what I’d change about the world?” My mind began to think of any number of answers. No more homelessness. No more hunger. No more devaluing people. No more selfishness. But before I could decide on an answer, he grabbed my shoulder, looked up at the sky, smiled a big toothless grin, and said, “Absolutely nothing!” He laughed, thanked me again and walked away.
I thought about his answer as I walked back to my hotel. Here’s a man, for whatever reason, is sleeping on a cardboard mat on the streets of downtown New Orleans and is exposed to the elements constantly, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Even though he has absolutely nothing to his name, he has found a way to be content. He’s learned to choose joy instead of bitterness over his situation. It’s a lesson we all could learn.
Paul learned that secret and told us about it in Philippians 4:12. He said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (NLT). That secret is choosing the joy of contentment with where God has you. That joy gives us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. It takes us from being a victim of life to a victor over our situation. Don’t try to change your world. Change your attitude. The next verse tells us we can. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
I’ve been a sales trainer for a few years, and one thing has been consistent. When most people show up for training, they’re not happy. They want to know if class is really going to take the full time. By the end of class though, many of them change their attitudes. They’ll walk out and say, “Thanks. I didn’t think I needed this, but I learned something.” Our attitude towards training is much like our attitude towards troubles in life. We don’t want them or see a need for them. However, when we’ve made it through them, we find ourselves stronger.
I think James was trying to make that same correlation for us in James 1:2-3. He wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Joy is usually the last emotion that I pair with troubles and trials, but James says they’re an opportunity for us to have it.
I’ve said before that joy is not dependent on your circumstances, happiness is. Joy comes from deep within. It looks at your big picture, while happiness looks at the little one. Joy is something you choose to be no matter what. Each of us choose our attitude in our circumstances. If we don’t, our circumstances will choose our attitude for us. In most cases, it chooses the wrong attitude. Choosing Joy gives you the strength to endure whatever comes your way.
The second part of that verse is where we get our Joy from. We don’t look at the current trouble, but the end result. What do trials produce in us? Endurance. Verse 4 says, “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” If you can train yourself to keep the end in mind, you will learn to handle troubles a lot better. Don’t waste times of trouble. Use them for what they’re for: growth and endurance. By choosing the wrong attitude, you prolong your time in them, and miss what God has for you. Keep the end in mind, and choose Joy.