DRAWING NEAR – PART 9
THE DECISION TO BE JOYFUL
Brother that is a ridiculous statement! Don’t you think if it was that easy, everyone would be filled with joy? Well, I do agree that humanity is searching as hard as they can to find peace and happiness and desperately longs to discover joy but rebellion and the lack of knowledge is preventing them from having it. What type of knowledge are you talking about? Spiritual understanding, “holy knowledge” about God and His Word! The Bible describes the human civilization as being “destroyed” because they do not know about the divine realities of truth. Oh sure, people exist and live their daily lives but most have never experienced a real encounter with the one that made them. On the outside they might seem to be fine but on the inside they are dying. God says that, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:6) The reason why people do not have joy is because they are dirty on the inside. The other reason is because they want to live their way and not God’s way. This passage refers to these individuals as HIS people and how upset He is with them because they no desire to live for Him. So, if He is this angry with His people, where do you believe this leaves the blinded world?
It is very important in our study to realize three important pillars; Joy is spiritual strength, joy is easily accessible and joy is our responsibility to maintain. Let us look at the first one in Nehemiah 8:10, “Then he said unto them, go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Scholars agree this verse is probably Nehemiah telling the people to enjoy themselves on this day and be happy as they celebrate the abundance of God’s blessings. He also reminds them that sharing and blessing others is a vital part of our Christian demonstration of love. The last part of this verse is where we want to focus and that is where joy is associated with our ability to stand strong in our faith. There are also several commentaries which reveal the original language to be, “Delight in Jehovah as a strong refuge or stronghold” which makes wonderful sense and continues to bring an emphasis to having confidence in His Word and to trust that He desires us to be filled with HIM. When we begin to have a vision of this revelation, we realize how crucially important joy is within the life of the believer. It is NOT an option where we can pass on it or try and operate without it. If being filled with joy makes our spirit strong “in God” and fills our mind with confidence then we must conclude that being empty of joy causes us to be spiritually weak, lukewarm and non-effective for His Kingdom. But how does joy transform into strength? Well, this is an excellent question. I think we could sum it up by saying that we cannot have joy and sin at the same time. Joy and purity go hand in hand and it goes all the way to back to when we were innocent children. We had no evil motives, hidden secrets or dark deceptions and generally speaking we were happy. This clear conscience can be maintained when we are adults IF we choose to live holy and be ready to repent when we cater to our flesh. A consistent prayer life will make sure that we are on the right path as it keeps us in constant communication with God and the awareness of His presence. This is the joy that enables us to keep going and to rest at night with the peace that passes all understanding in knowing that all is well with our soul.
If living in joy is easily accessible then why does it seem that very few have it? Because they are not willing to let go of their will! It is their “will” that prevents them from entering into the deeper chambers of spiritual intimacy – the heart of our relationship with Jesus. It is like trying to belong to an organization without ever officially joining or participating yet wanting all the benefits and to be recognized as a member. Holding on to our will sends an aggressive message to God that we have no intention of listening to Him, obeying Him or following Him. (This is a rebellious signal from someone that is actually blind, weak and helpless). This attitude of independence is actually becoming a dark and oppressive enemy against everything God is trying to do in the earth. A person that chooses to not abandon their will is being rude, offensive, arrogant and obnoxious to the very one that created them and blessed them with a wonderful life. In essence they are saying, “I do not need you or want you and – I hate you!” “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)
So brother, how does a person find this joy? Is this joy a gift that is handed out by God or a state of mind that is attained through a process of learning? Well, I believe the answer could be both. No doubt joy comes from God and is experienced only through HIS love and grace but whether or not we have it depends on our decision to “catch it and keep it.” Joy can be attained and can be a way of life if we commit to it becoming a part of who we are but if we do not get serious with developing a “whatever it takes” attitude, it will just remain a cute Sunday school song to us. This character trait will not just fall on our head – it must be hunted down and captured like going on a safari for the only reason because we are hungry and thirsty for God’s presence. Joy is knowing God and having a revelation that He knows us! Joy is not just dreaming about the Holy of Holies but allowing ourselves to be transformed so we can actually live there. Here is a very important pillar of wisdom; “joy is walking in the Holy Spirit no matter how we feel emotionally.” If we are planning to live in joy while being controlled by the way we feel – we are going to be very frustrated and disappointed because it is impossible! Being carnal while trying to follow Jesus is like building a fire in the basement then going upstairs and pretending that everything is alright. Allowing our feelings to control us is SIN and causes the communication between us and God to grow silent – and there is nothing joyous about that! Repentance brings holiness and in turn this purity brings forth joy because it breaks the bondage of rebellion and the misery of unforgiveness. God wants to fill us with the light of his love so He can accept our thoughts and deeds. As Psalm 51 declares, He accepts the prayers and cries from a “broken spirit and a contrite heart.” Joy is living under the shadow of His wings, and where is that; it is developed in the secret place of intimate prayer, worship and meditation. Our spiritual hunger and thirst is increased with fasting because it crucifies the flesh and puts it in its rightful place as a servant to our spirit man. Our spirit must be stronger and have control of our being or the flesh will rise up and dominate our mind and our actions. The denial of our fleshly desires and the sacrifice associated with allowing our appetite to suffer can bring us deep joy within our heart and spirit. We must step forward and take control or we will be controlled! As God say’s in Romans chapter six, “we are servants to whom we obey.” This is talking about the inner battle between our flesh and our spirit and how we constantly choose which one we will follow. How far we advance with yielding our will toward God depends on how much fleshly sacrifice we are willing to endure. We have established our mental and emotional parameters and built a personal customized box for God that perfectly fits within our comfort zone. When we feel the conviction to spiritually “stretch” beyond our emotions we are faced with the decision to yield in obedience to Him or remain in the emptiness of our religious rebellion.
I believe that when Jesus suffered on the cross, even His pain could not diminish the heavenly peace of victory and joy that He felt in his heart. We read where the martyrs sang praises to God while being burned at the stake and this could only happen with a heart filled with joy because they KNEW that all was well with their soul and they felt God’s presence and realized they were only a breath away from embracing Him in the wonders of paradise. We must find our way back to the simple ways and thoughts of a little child wherein lies the keys to the kingdom. Jesus is calling out to us this hour to repent and allow Him to purify us and create within us a clean and holy conscience. I believe the more pure we become – the brighter His light of love illuminates from us. Is your light shining like a bright beacon into your network? Do people have to put their sunglasses on when they come around you because God’s Spirit is shining so brightly? Is this the prayer of your heart today? Do you want to be a person that everyone runs to when they have a problem because they are convinced that you KNOW God? When the world falls apart will you be the first person that comes to mind with everyone that knows you? Having joy is attainable but demands that we have a vision to seek for it and an intentional plan to find it. If we truly want it – we can have all we want! Do you want it? “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). Our decision is choosing what to let go of and what to embrace. Amen.