18 January 2014

how to get joy.

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the book of Psalms. One of my many, many favorite, underlined, circled, and scribbled-around passages is Psalm 5:11-12:

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.
For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

The other night, my mom and I were watching a DVD of a message from a women's conference. The passage the speaker [Lenya Heitzig] was teaching on was, "Lean not on your own understanding" [Proverbs 3:5]. The biggest thought that I held onto for further pondering was concerning our will. We all have a will; we are able to make choices. Each individual personally decides whether or not to entertain each tiny thought that passes through our minds; we have the ability to take our thoughts captive. I suppose we generally take the easier path more often than the right path; wouldn't you agree?

Here's the way she put it: How you choose to think about something [you do decide what to do with it, whether you realize it or not, by keeping it or tossing it out] determines how you feel about it; how you feel about something determines how you act upon it; how you act upon something forms a habit; and your habits determine your character. Got that down? 

Will/Choice --> Thoughts --> Feelings --> Actions --> Habits --> Character.

It's interesting; I've been thinking all fall about the role our will plays in making decisions and forming habits, after reading some really good stuff on the whole process. I've also been thinking about "taking thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ" as well; we all know how quickly our minds can escalate a situation when we're dwelling on negative things. To that, the Lord had already spoken this word to my heart: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, 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." [Philippians 4:8] Boom. There's the answer. That's what we're supposed to think about. If we use those guidelines as our filter, the superfluous surplus of unnoble, unright, ungood [oh yes I did, I just said ungood] thoughts will be deflected right out of our heads. If you don't know that something is true [ahem, motives of other people's actions or words], then don't dwell on it. I can attest to this verse's validity and applicability in my current life. It works.

So, having been pre-processing these ideas for a fair amount of time, I came across these verses in Psalm 5 a few days in a row, and the lesson was ripe for the picking.

Joy. We all want joy, right? We all get really sad when it feels like our joy has disappeared [because it is gone, and because we are sad it is gone]. So we, if we are trying to be faithful Christians and have a bit of a conscience, realize that it must be our obligation to be joyful. Except... isn't joy a fruit of the Spirit? Doesn't fruit grow on trees, and take time, and take absolutely zero effort of said tree, apart from the very simple function of being a tree? Yeah, thought so. Case in point: we can't force joy any more than we can force fruit to grow. We think that we can merely choose to be joyful. I think choosing joy sounds like it would work, but I'm not sure it does. And I will tell you why I think so.

Why are the righteous in the above verses [Psalm 5:11-12] rejoicing? Did they just up and choose to rejoice? It seems like more of a effect of something than the cause/means/end in itself. There was a choice involved, however; did you notice it??

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You. Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them. Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You." I helped you with the bold letters, in case you missed it. The righteous chose to do two things: put their trust in the Lord and love His name. It's that simple! 

But how did they know they could trust Him? That, dear reader, is where the promises of God's Word come into play. Do you know God's promises? Are you holding onto them tighter than anything else in this ever-shaking world? Because they'll be the only thing that remains standing after all else has been shaken. If you know the promises, do you believe them? We've all got a choice here. We have the Word. If you can read English [which I assume you're probably doing right now], then you have the Word of God abundantly available to your eyes, even on the Internet. But do you actually believe that what God says in His Word is true? Because if you don't, it holds no power for you. In the letter to the Hebrews, it says that the word not mixed with faith does not profit. It cannot. God's Word is true, whether you choose to believe it or not. But the beauty of believing that God's Word is true, is "taking the promises to the bank" and watching Him do exactly what He said He would do in our lives. If you choose not to believe it, you guarantee that you'll miss out on a whole lot of really good goodness.

These righteous ones in Psalm 5 chose to put their trust in God, and to love His name. Trust and love, hmm. Those are both matters of the heart. But do you know what else I learned from this message? That when the Bible says "heart" it doesn't mean that thing that ideally had better keep beating inside your ribcage, or the seat of your emotions [which happens to be your soul, actually]; it literally means your mind! Your heart is your mind! Once you choose to trust or choose to love, you do it and your soul/feelings get to come along for the ride; but it all starts with your will. Are we going to choose to trust in God and love His name? Here's what will happen when we do.

God gave promises, by His Word and His already-proven character, and these righteous people saw them happen. Here are the incredible benefits of choosing to believe God, put our trust in the Lord and love His name [and these are only the few listed in these two verses]:
He will defend us.
He will bless us.
He will favor us.
He will surround us.
He will protect us [as our shield].

Uh, I want/need/would do anything to get those things. So to get them, we just choose to trust Him and love Him and believe His Word. And bingo, there they are, the blessings of God's presence, exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ever ask or imagine. They're ours. Do you want them? Do you have them?

Ok, so we put our trust in Him, and we love His name;
He defends, blessesfavorssurrounds, and protects us;
And the outcome? [It's something like a mathematical equation, because God's promises are consistent, just like math ought to be!]
Here's our response, which is going to burst forth from our innermost being in such a way that no onlooker can deny it:
Let all those rejoice
Let them ever shout for joy
Let those also...be joyful in You.

Maybe you've previously heard this, but when the Bible says something three times in a row, it generally means PAY ATTENTION. Rejoice, shout for joy, be joyful in You. One, two, three. This is a promise. It's gonna happen. We don't just choose to be these things; these things are the fruit, the effect, the intended and promised result of trusting and loving God. And He makes them happen, simply because He has promised to do so. Easy, huh? Check out how easy it really is too: "Let those also... be joyful in You." Hmm, being. Not doing. Just being. Funny, did you ever realize that we're human beings, not human doings? [Heard that one the other day; pretty good, huh?] The French verb ĂȘtre means "to be." That's what I want. I don't want to keep striving and struggling and coming up not quite hitting the mark/extremely impoverished and incapable in my own strength, and fried and burnt out and discouraged and wanting to give up because I have basically proven that I can't do it. I want to just be, and the only way to contentedly, effectively just be, and to be joyful at that, is to put our trust in the Lord and love His name.

The proven character of God is already revealed in His Word; will we believe it? Will we choose to believe it even when we don't feel anything at all about it? We've got to trust the Lord with our eyes wide open; it's a black and white choice. Either trust Him with it all or don't trust Him at all. Trusting God is not about feelings. But I can guarantee you this: If you will choose to trust God and love Him, He'll put that joy inside of you that nobody can steal. You will be joyful. You will have those promised blessings, and ten thousand besides. You will know Him, best of all. He's the only one who satisfies. And to be in Him is completely, consistently satisfying, regardless of our emotions-of-the-minute status. Yes, please! That's why joy doesn't fade away or get stolen like happiness; it's implanted within us by the work of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Nobody knows how He does it. But everybody who has it knows that He really did do it. If you're not in that camp yet, all you have to do is ask Him. He loves to give His good gifts to His children. So get asking! ["Come boldly before the throne of grace" definitely applies here.]

If you need any more proof that choosing equals trusting which equals joy and God's blessing upon your life [God's blessing; not the things you tell Him to give you; His way trumps ours always, guys!], check out the other choices the righteous are making, regardless of feelings, and quite in spite of extremely pressing circumstances [read it! it's not pretty!], in the rest of this short psalm:
v2- for to You I will pray
v3- my voice You shall hear in the morning
v3- in the morning I will direct it to You
v3- I will look up
v7- I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercies
v7- in fear [reverence] of You I will worship toward Your holy temple
v11- [I will] put my trust in You
v11- [I will] love Your name

That looks like an act of the will to trust and cry out to God, if I've ever seen one! And it looks like they've experienced how well this process works, so it's become their habit to run to the Lord first and last and always. They know what's up. They know their insufficiency in their own strength, and they know God's proven power. They know the promises and they know the Promiser Himself. Let's be like this. I don't think life is going to get any easier [hard truth right there], and the sooner we realize all this, the sooner we'll run to the only One strong enough to see us through it all and bring us forth with shouts of "Grace, grace to it."

I quoted this entire hymn in a previous blog post, but look at a bit of it again; it has totally grabbed my attention in the past week:

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

I'll try to write more thoughts again soon; I've been thinking a lot [because of this hymn, and other things] about how "we have not because we ask not." We have the infinite riches of Jesus at our disposal, the very same power that rose Jesus from the dead, and yet we feel so poor and depleted in almost every way nearly all the time. Friends, these things ought not be so. Let's put our trust in Jesus, and love His name, and as surely as God is God and His Word endures, we shall yet rejoice.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 43:5

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