On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress ratified a document known as the Declaration of Independence. It was a formal declaration that the 13 colonies would no longer live under British rule or be subject to the decrees of the monarchy. They had enough of the tyranny and taxation without representation and decided to fight back. They knew there would be a difficult road ahead and it was filled with uncertainty. They knew that the odds were against them, but they also knew that freedom was worth it.
The birth of the United States of America is an inspiration to me in life and in my spiritual walk with God. You see there comes a time in our lives when you and I have to decide if we want to continue living under the old law. We have to choose whether we want to be bound to the dictates of the flesh or be set free. The moment we choose Jesus to be our Lord, we choose to throw off the chains of the flesh. Just like the colonies, that Declaration of Independence will be a declaration of war.
Galatians 5:17 says, “For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do” (GNT). How God wants us to live and how our flesh wants us to live are two completely different ways. If we choose to declare our independence from our human nature, then we will need to live how the Spirit wants if we want true freedom. Verse 18 says, “If the Spirit leads you, then you are not subject to the Law.”
If you’ve decided to accept Jesus as your Lord, but haven’t ratified your Declaration of Independence, let me encourage you to do that today. After you’ve done it, read Romans 7 and 8. These two chapters will help you understand the war you’ve just started and give you the keys to victory. You are not alone in this war for your spiritual independence. You have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit and you have Jesus interceding on your behalf. You also have a whole body of believers in the same trenches as you are fighting the same battles. It was for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1), so let’s declare it today!
Positive reinforcement is a great tool to encourage people to continue doing what they’re doing. It rewards them for a job well done. Many companies are like mine where they give bonuses if you meet the goals the company sets for you or if you help the company meet their goals. For me, that last one comes once a year. It’s easy to forget several months in that I will be rewarded next year if I help the company achieve its goals long term. Sometimes it feels like a chore having to do the things I have to do because I forget about the reward at the end.
In II Chronicles 15, King Asa must have been feeling the same. He was the first king in a while to remember God. He got rid of most of the idols and shrines. He even removed his grandmother from the role of queen mother because of her love for idols. He also defeated armies with over three times as many men. God was blessing him, but he was starting to lose sight of the positive reinforcement that God was using to bless him for doing what he was supposed to do.
The spirit of God came on Azariah and he went to the king to deliver a message from God. In verse 7, he said, “But you must be strong and not be discouraged. The work that you do will be rewarded” (GNT). I believe God is saying that to you and I today. He wants to encourage us to continue doing the work He called us to. I know that we can feel like God has forgotten us as we focus on completing and doing the work He’s given us, but He hasn’t forgotten us. We will be rewarded.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” God believes in positive reinforcement. He has given us many promises in His Word to keep doing the work even though it gets tiring and mundane. If we will continue to do what He’s called us to, we will reap a harvest and a reward. Don’t quit doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t give up. God sees what you’re doing even if others don’t. He won’t fail in delivering on His promise to you.
I’ve often heard that joy is not circumstantial, but happiness is. To many of us, the two are the same. I believe that happiness is an external expression as a result from a feeling. Joy, on the other hand, is what creates hope and optimism even in the face of circumstances that tell you otherwise. Joy is what gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe in and breathe out and to get out of bed when all we want to do is curl up and cry. Joy gives us peace in troubled times.
The Bible speaks a lot about Joy. In one instance, Job had been faced with great loss to his family, finances and health. Things got so bad that his own wife told him, “Curse God and die!” She had let the circumstances steal her Joy. She saw no way out of the situation. She had no hope for the future. She was mad at God, mad at life and mad at her husband. She couldn’t understand why her husband still held onto his faith in God in such trying times. It just didn’t make sense.
I’ve found that a lot of life doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t pretend to know why God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I pray for Him to. Just because He doesn’t, I shouldn’t stop praying. I shouldn’t grow bitter against Him. I shouldn’t sever our relationship. It’s easy to do those things in the midst of a trial if you don’t have Joy. It’s easy to want to quit, renounce your faith and walk away because you’re mad at God. But Job proved that you can go through unimaginable pain and maintain your Joy. Was he sad? Yes. But even in his sadness, he did the hard thing. He held onto Joy.
I’m sure he began to wonder why he was holding onto it after a while. I’m sure over time the situation, the questions and longevity of his trial began to wear on him. During that time, a friend named Bildad came to encourage him. In Job 8:21, he reminded Job of who God was and what He promised His people. He said, “He (God) will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” He reminded Job that the circumstantial sadness was only temporary.
I believe that verse is God’s promise to us today. He will once again return laughter and joy to your life no matter what your circumstances have brought you. I love Psalm 30:5. It’s very familiar to lots of people. You’ve heard it read as, “Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” I especially love how the Message puts it. It says, “The nights of crying your eyes out will give way to days of laughter.” Circumstances will tell you those days will never come, but Joy says it’s on its way. That’s a promise from God.