7 Therefore, submit yourselves to God. – James 4:7a ISV
The Old Testament law was given to show man that he could not live up to the perfection required for redemption. Man could not and cannot do anything to save himself. Those living in that time who thought they were doing a good enough job to satisfy God’s requirements for redemption were caught up in prideful thinking. They became so full of pride that they actually added laws to the ones God had already given. We can only assume that they thought they were improving the situation, when, in fact, they were putting burdens on the people. So, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who was full of grace and mercy.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14 NIV
We are saved by grace through faith and Jesus wants to continue to give us grace upon grace.
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. — John 1:16 NASB
It is this continued gift of grace that allows us to overcome the flesh and submit ourselves to God. Without it, we would be like the religious leaders of ancient times and become so full of pride that we would be useless in spreading the word of God. There is nothing in this world that is worthy of praise when it is compared to the joy and the hope that we have through Jesus Christ.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” — 1 Cor. 1:30, 31 NIV
If anything or anyone in this world brings us greater joy, pleasure and happiness than knowing Jesus, then we are double-minded. We should mourn and wail while asking God to forgive us and bring our focus back on Him and Him alone.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!– Psalm 30:11, 12 NLT
God is so good to us all the time. He is always working for us, turning evil into good and our times of mourning into times of joy and praise. It is His heart’s desire for us to live lives full of joy. Not happiness and pleasures, which are fleshly and temporary, but abiding joy deep down in our hearts. Joy that no one can take from us.
Joy, that is not pretended or unrealistic, but joy that is the fulfillment of the promise that Jesus made to His disciples and to us. It isn’t because we deserve it or have earned it in some way. It is simply because He loves us and wants us to love Him. He gives us His peace and joy so that we can be free to praise Him in every situation. So, that we can sing praises to Him and not be silent. It is true that there are roaring lions out there and one.in particular, that is trying to destroy our joy and us physically. It is hard to ignore a roaring lion, but as Spurgeon points out, Samson’s roaring lion yielded honey. God can produce joy and sweetness from the worst of situations.
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! — Habakkuk 3:17,18 NLT
Happiness and pleasure are worldly things and are dependent on our external circumstances. They are fleeting and temporary. But joy, true joy, comes from the Holy Spirit that abides in us. It is dependent on our internal attitudes. It is eternal and no one, not even satan can steal our joy. If we lose it, it is because we give it away. It is our strength that gets us through every day. There are times when we may not be happy and our circumstances may not be pleasant, but how we respond to those times determines where we are on our journey with Jesus. When these times come, do we blame God and sulk like spoiled children or do we respond like Habakkuk and rejoice in the Lord”? When we don’t feel like praying, that is the time we need to pray the fervent, effectual prayers. When we don’t feel like shouting with joy, that is the time when we need to clap our hands and shout with a voice of triumph. Our joy is not based on feelings or circumstances but upon the sure knowledge that “God is our salvation and He has become our strength”. All day, every day, all our life long.
Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! — Psalm 47:1
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? — John 4:10, 11 NLT
This Samaritan woman had gone through five husbands and was now living with a man that was not her husband and she still had not found the peace and the happiness for which she was looking. How many of us have chased after what the world calls happiness and found it to be emptiness? We turn to the world looking for something to fill that emptiness and that void in our hearts. The pleasures and happiness brought by a new possession or a new experience turn out to be short-lived. All the fads and the “new” things promising eternal joy turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The devil tells us you just need a little more of this or a little more of that. Happiness is just around the corner, he promises, and we continue the chase. And it will always be a chase, because what we are looking for and what we really need can not be bought. It has already been purchased lock, stock and barrel by Jesus at the Cross and it isn’t for sale. He owns the whole supply and it is given freely to those who give up the worldly chase and turn to Him for forgiveness. Stop running and chasing every new thing. Sit at the feet of Jesus and drink in the living water. Don’t take a little sip and leave, grab the bucket and pour the water on your head. Immerse yourself in His Word and peace and joy from a never ending stream will flow through your mind and body continuously. Get under and stay “under the spout where the glory comes out”. That is anyhwere the unadulterated Word of God is preached and taught. Find a place where you can immerse yourself in God’s Word every day and joy and peace will chase after and overcome you.
165 Those who love Your law have an abundance of peace, and nothing along their paths can cause them to stumble. — Psalm 119:165 The Voice
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. — John 10:10 NKJV
When we hear the term abundant, our minds quickly turn to material possessions, postion, and money. Those things have little to do with abundant living in the Biblical sense. The list of millionaires, actors, and other famous people that have committed suicide in the prime of their lives proves this to be true. Perhaps, we need to rethink what brings true joy in this present time and in the future. It needs to be someone or something that is steadfast, true and unchangeable. It must be someone or something we can have with us all the time. It must be someone or something that we have instant access to whether we are having a “good” day or a “bad” day. It must be someone or something that is affordable whether we are rich or poor. God knows that we need money, food and things to make the journey but He also knows that dependence on those things will not bring us joy or peace. We need friends but they can’t be with us every second of every day. What we really, really need is to learn to access the shalom kind of peace that Jesus bought for us at Calvary. If we can’t trust Him for our daily bread, how can we trust Him with our souls for eternity? Abundant living is an attitude of the heart. You can’t buy it with all the money in the world, a friend can’t give it to you, a doctor might prescirbe it but the pharmacy can’t fulfill the prescription. It only comes when we learn the lesson that Paul learned, “not that I was ever in need”.
11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 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. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Phil. 4:11-13 NLT
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.—Romans 12:12 NIV
Too often, we confuse pleasure and happiness with joy. Pleasure and happiness are temporary. They are based on feelings, external situations and how others treat us. Joy is internal and is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift from God and once we have received His joy, no one can take it from us. We can fail to access it, but it is always there. In those times of affliction, it strengthens us to carry on.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.—Psalm 94:19 NIV
We must be faithful in prayer. As Paul says, “pray without ceasing”. We are able to do that because prayer is dependent on our thought patterns and our attitude. We can pray all the time, in any situation. A prayer can be a thought that goes through your mind, It does not have to be spoken.
10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”—Jeremiah 17:10 NIV
A prayerful attitude keeps us focused on God and not on our problems or our situation. When we are focused on God, we are filled with joy because of the hope we have in Him.
God is waiting to show you the Way.
11 I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy. 12 “This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 The greatest love a person can show is to die for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father–John 15:11-15 (NCV)
Jesus wants each of us to know the same joy that He knew because of His relationship with the Father. Because of the Holy Spirit, we have access to that same joy. Happiness is temporary and fleeting but the joy that we have is a fruit of the Spirit. Since the Spirit never leaves us, we always have access to that joy.
22 But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness–Gal. 5:22 (NCV)
We also have access to the same love and the same knowledge. As we learn to love Jesus, obedience becomes an act of adoration and not an act of obligation. One of the results of loving Jesus is that we will also love those around us and it will be easy to show them that we love them thus making it easier to obey the command that we should love each other. The Holy Spirit produces love and joy all the time. The question for us is this: If we are not full of love and joy, why not? Maybe we need to check our connection to the flow of the Spirit. Or as Zig Ziglar said (and I paraphrase here) We need a “checkup from the neck up to get rid of stinking thinking and replace it with an attitude of gratitude”.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep. 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
We should live rejoicing each day because of what Christ has done for us. Yes, we have rough times when we aren’t happy, but happiness and pleasure are temporary conditions caused by earthly situations. Our joy is caused by the indwelling of God’s Spirit within us and no one can take that from us. Don’t focus on the temporary, set your focus on the eternal Jesus and the joy He provides for us. He hides us under His wings, He provides for us, He gives us every good gift. Rejoice and again, I say, Rejoice!!
4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.–Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
If we had no other reason to rejoice, we could always focus on the fact that Jesus is coming soon and we will spend an eternity with Him. That fact alone should keep us smiling. But, we have so many blessings in our lives everyday, we have every reason to keep the joy of the Lord in our hearts. Happiness is temporary and fleeting, but “the joy of the Lord” remains in our hearts and can not be taken from us. As we are reminded in Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing means absolutely no thing, no body can take it from us. But it is our moment by moment decision to let the world know we have it. Show the world some joy today.