I have known many remarkable Christians over the years. Doug and I talk most often in this regard of a dear lady whom we knew during our earlier years of marriage. This lady had physical ailments that would discourage the hardiest of souls, yet she always wore a beautiful smile and was always ready to serve. We never heard her complain. Not once! To us, she was the epitome of joy.
As time goes by, I realize more and more that joy is not situational, or in other words, dependent on happy circumstances. Some of you have already figured that out, but while I know that in my head, it is hard for me to always put into practice. Achieving a joyful lifestyle seems elusive. Clearly, I am not moving closer to my goal of a joyful lifestyle while allowing attitudes of complaint, ingratitude, and fear to rule my life.
What practices should replace my negative tendencies? The book of Philippians offers some great insight on this. Philippians 2:14-16:
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain
Notice the attitudes of prayerful courage and thankfulness in Philippians 4:6-7 and 11-13:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
- Become active in a home group. We need the encouragement of coming together in numbers small enough that everyone has opportunity to participate. Some sacrifice of your time and your hospitality is required, but the benefits of community outweigh any sacrifice. Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
- Find time every day to worship Him. Some musical friends in our home group suggested that they find joy in praising Him with their music every day. Pray, share your faith, study, serve, sing, or play a musical instrument. This is a great daily reminder of how blessed we are to know Jesus and to be His fellow heir.
- Foster in yourself an attitude of gratitude. I read a book a few years ago (Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts) that suggests keeping an ongoing journal of things, people, events, etc. that make you feel thankful. Has the Lord saved you from making a bad decision? Do you look forward to that first sip of coffee each morning? Are you thankful for the hard working attitude of your spouse? Write down those gifts, big or small, and go back to re-read them! We have much to thank Him for!
- Keep a prayer journal, but make sure to go back and update His answers to your prayers. Reading those answers will increase your trust in His care for you.
- Read Philippians. It is Paul’s letter on the joy of Christianity. Paul had some tough days to say the least, but his focus was on his joy and thankfulness in Jesus and his encouragement in his fellow Christ followers.
- Be aware of what is going through your mind, and focus on the good. “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b An old minister friend once said that bad thoughts are like birds. “They can fly over your head, but you don’t have to let them make a nest in your hair.” Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
How will you fight for joy today?