If you ever watched Winnie the Pooh, you know who Eeyore and Tigger are. Their dispositions are completely opposite. Eeyore sees the negative in everything and us always down about something. He has The uncanny ability to turn good news into bad news. Tigger is always happy and bouncy. Maybe a little too happy, but he’s just a likable character because of his mood. He can find joy in just about any circumstance and find a reason to bounce around.
As believers, our lives should be marked by joy. I don’t know that we need to be as bouncy and bubbly as Tigger is, but we definitely shouldn’t be like Eeyore. We have the joy of the Lord inside each one of us. Our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is a well deep within us that springs up life and gives us strength in the hardest times. I believe we need to get better at tapping into that well of joy so we can radiate hope in a pessimistic world.
Here are some Bible verses on joy.
1. You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.
Psalm 30:11 GNT
2. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
Romans 12:12 GNB
3. I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.
John 15:11 AMP
4. Always be joyful.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT
5. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11 GNT
My son is very inquisitive. He is always asking why or how. In most cases, the answer is above his ability to understand. I try to tell him to let it go, but sometimes he just keeps at it. So I tell him. His nose scrunched up, his eyes squint and he looks confused in those moments. Then he starts asking more questions trying to understand. I’ll just keep going down the rabbit hole with him until he gives up or I can think of an easy explanation that he can understand so we can move on.
I’m not so sure that we are so different when it comes to God. When things happen in our lives, we ask God why or how. What I’ve found is so many times the answer is beyond our ability to understand. It’s tough for us to let it go too. I’m a person that needs to know the why behind things before I do them. If I don’t know the why, I don’t understand the importance or urgency that needs to be behind what I’ve been asked to do.
When God asks me to go somewhere or do something, that’s usually my first question. For me, it doesn’t come from a lack of faith or disobedience. I just like to know why before I do something. With that in mind, Proverbs 20:24 speaks to me in regards to when God asks me to do something or go somewhere. It says, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (NLT)
If we believe God truly directs our steps, then we need to trust His reasons that are beyond our ability to understand. How much time and energy do we waste while we question God? I know He’s patient, it I bet sometimes He just wishes we’d simply obey and trust that He sees the bigger picture and is working out things for our good even though we can’t see it or understand it at the moment. We need to let go of trying to understand everything and just obey.
I’ve got a friend who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. He says, “Every time I go, they find something wrong.” Isn’t that the point? If there’s something wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it? For some people, if the problem isn’t exposed, it doesn’t exist. So if they don’t go to doctor and have the tests run, they aren’t really sick. That’s the wrong way to think about things. If you have a sickness and there’s a cure, wouldn’t you want that sickness exposed so the disease doesn’t run its course?
To some of you, what I just described sounds crazy. Others of you can identify with it. Whichever side you’re on, the truth is that many of us think the way my friend does when it comes to sin in our lives. We don’t want to shed light on it or expose it, much less have a test run to prove it exists in our body. If there’s something wrong spiritually with you, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to get it cured?
David fell into the group that wanted to go to the doctor often and have tests run to make sure nothing was wrong. In Psalm 26:2 he prayed, “Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I’m fit inside and out” (MSG). He wasn’t afraid to have God shine His light into every dark corner of his life. He knew that sin likes to lay hidden in our lives unexposed. It tells us to pretend we are perfect and nothing is wrong. The truth is that all of us are infected with sin, and the way we rid ourselves of it is to expose it to the light of God’s Word.
If we truly want to live the lives God has called us to, we can’t be afraid to go to The Doctor and have Him test our lives. God will not condemn us for having Him expose our sins. Instead, He will be faithful to forgive us and to lead us down His paths. We can’t be afraid that He will find something wrong with us or what others will think. There’s a cure for the sin that’s holding us back and it’s free. Jesus already paid the price for our sin and has written out the prescription. Ask God today to examine you so you can be fit inside and out.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Rain is something we need, but don’t really want. We’ve given it a negative connotation too. It started when we were children singing the song, “Rain, Rain, go away. Come again another day.” Rain disrupts the times of sunshine and happiness that we feel. When it’s rainy outside, we say it’s gloomy. We think of the gray clouds and associate them with depression. Rain changes our path, our timing and our plans. It messes things up for us so we resist it. We forget that rain is a necessary part of life. We forget all the good that it does.
I’ve got several friends right now who are experiencing rain in their lives. Several friends have had loved ones pass away unexpectedly. I’ve got a couple of friends who can’t seem to find a job. I’ve got a few friends whose lives have been turned upside down because of choices their spouse made. For them, it seems like the rain just keeps coming. It feels like their lives are being flooded with only negative things. As I’ve thought about all their situations, Matthew 5:45 came to mind. It says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.”
I’ve read or heard that scripture my whole life. I was always under the impression that it meant that bad things happen to Christians and non Christians alike because I associated rain with bad times. When I read it in context and then in several versions and interpretations of the original Greek, the Message Bible stood out. It said, “This is what God does. He gives His best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone regardless.” The times of rain in our lives are meant to nourish us. Just like our yards, lakes and crops need rain for nourishment, so do our lives.
When bad things happen, it usually pushes us closer go God. We spend more time in prayer. We take the time to talk to God and to read His Word to try to find answers. Days of sunshine rarely push us to spend time with God, but rain does. When we go a long time without rain or without spending time with a God, we go through a drought and that isn’t healthy. If you’re going through times of rain in your life right now, don’t pray for it to go away. Instead thank God for the nourishment and for the shelter He provides
I have a friend who attended a leadership workshop. On the last day, he and the others were taken to a cemetery and were asked to write their own epitaph. It seems morbid at first, but the instructor was wanting them to to start thinking with the end in mind. It got him to start thinking about what he wanted to be remembered for at the end of his life. When he wrote it down, he started thinking about the things he needed to be doing in his life to make his desired epitaph come true.
One of the things I tell new employees at the company I work for is that everyone is known for something. I ask them, “What will you be known for?” I let them know that no matter what has happened in their past, they have a chance to start over and build their own brand. The brand they build for themselves will determine their success in the company and how far they want to go. Both of these lessons are true for each one of us. We need to be thinking about what we want to be known for and how we want to be remembered.
In II Chronicles 21, Jehoram was king over Judah. He was given a good legacy being from the lineage of David, but he squandered it. In his jealousy, he murdered all his brothers. He also rebuilt the shrines to foreign gods that his father had torn down. Parts of the kingdom revolted during his reign. God then cursed him, had the enemy attack him and gave him a terrible disease. In verse 20 it says, “No one was sorry when he died” (NLT). Can you imagine?
I once heard someone say, “Live in such a way that the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.” So what do you want to be remembered for? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Psalm 37:18 says, “The Lord knows the days of the upright and blameless, and their heritage will abide forever” (AMP). What do you need to start doing today to finish your life well and to leave a heritage that will abide forever? It’s not too late or too early to start thinking about the legacy and heritage you want to leave behind.
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
Recently I was changing out the ignition coils on my car. I brought my son out to watch as I worked on it. He watched me intently as I used the ratchet to remove the engine cover. As I began to work on the next level, he grabbed a screw driver and began sticking it in the engine area. I asked him to stop, but he kept sticking it in places. I told him, “This is my work. Your work is to watch.” He replied, “But I can do it.” I explained that he could mess something up if he didn’t stop, and it could be expensive. He wasn’t happy about it and walked away.
I don’t know if there’s a more accurate picture of how we are with God at times. He tries to do a work in our lives, but we want to do it. We jump in the middle of it and start messing with what He’s doing. He tells us to stand back because this is His work, but we insist that we can do it. Instead of seeing God do an incredible work, we often mess up what He’s trying to accomplish. Abraham getting his wife’s servant pregnant is a prime example.
I know we mean well, but there are things God does, and there are things we do. He usually invites us to participate with Him, but there are times when we just need to stand back and watch Him work. In Psalm 19:13 David prayed, “Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work” (MSG). David understood the temptation we all face in wanting to do God’s work for Him, so he prayed this brilliant prayer.
Are you arguing with God right now over what’s His responsibility and what’s yours? We all do it from time to time. Let me encourage you to pray what David prayed, and then take your hand back from God’s work. He can do exceedingly above and beyond anything we could ever do. Part of faith is trusting Him to do His work while we do ours. It’s not our responsibility to try to do His work. Like Abraham, we need to learn to trust that God knows what He’s doing and He will fulfill His promises even though we can’t see how.