Joy


To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with the apparent desire that it is truly so for the person that you are speaking to.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who shows them what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. In order to do this I need to realize that I am blessed by God in this same manner so that I think and act as a person who is graced by the presence of Christ and filled with His Spirit of peace, joy, and love. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.

 

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I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9: 1, 2

 

When David wrote these words, I don’t think that he was setting out any conditions to their application other than the fact that they were the truth about the way that God interacted with all of his life. There is no note of saying that I am thankful now that I am not a poor youngest son of a shepherd, or that he is appreciative for the current state of peace in his kingdom, or even that David can express his joy in the current depth of his spiritual life. David is saying that he is thankful for it all, for the good, the bad, the joyous and the sorrowful, the times of wealth and the depths of poverty, for dwelling in a palace and for the damp ground of a cave’s floor. Like David, Jesus knew them all; for He experienced all of the highs and the lows of living, and He goes with each of us through all of it. Even before Jesus made it literally true, David seems to have understood the reality of a God who walks with us and who takes us through every step of life.

 

The close and intimate nature of this relationship gives purpose to living, and it provides a focus for my day that takes me outside of my problems, challenges, and concerns. The Lord also brings a powerful sense of hope into my heart. The presence of His Spirit in me continually encourages and motivates me to see the potential in every situation and for each day of my life. As I look at God and focus deeply on who He is and on how He is involved with me, I experience a sense of peace that is centered deep within my heart, and this peace brings freedom to every aspect of my being.

 

As I lift my voice in praise to God, nothing else matters. As I look at His wondrous love and grace, all of my failings and inadequacies are removed; and as my heart sings with the sounds of worship for my Savior, the freedom that He has purchased for me resonates through every fiber of my body. When I turn my mind and my heart away from the things that I am facing in my day and focus on the glorious gift that God has given to me through His love for me and by walking every step of my life with me, my spirits are lifted, my load becomes lighter, and the future becomes framed in the limitlessness of eternity.

 

Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 65: 17

 

Have you ever caught yourself looking at the new items that are pictured in a magazine, catalogue, or on the sales floor of a store with the sort of longing gaze that suggests considerably more than just casual interest? There are times when this interest gets to the point where it actually starts to be a form of lustful desire, as biblical writers might have said it. I think that we have a very strong, inward desire for newness that is, in part, born out of the amount of brokenness and decay that surrounds us in almost every aspect of daily life. Things that we need, others that we find useful, and those that are simply fun or convenient all have the same characteristic; that is, they all wear out and stop working properly. Unfortunately, people and the relationships that we desire to have with them can seem to take this same course; for, they are hard, they become messy, and we are bombarded by stories of the pain and the suffering that we humans cause each other.

 

Isaiah is sharing with us promises of hope that were given to him by the Lord. It seems that God is telling us a couple of things. First, He says that He knows that this world is dying. As the cancer that is sin invades more of the cells that make up the underlying fabric of our earthly existence, our environment will become a continually less desirable place to live, and more and more of the things that we tend to rely upon will start to break down and fail. Then, God shares His response to all of this with us, for He has promised to make things right again. Christ’s ultimate mission is to bring restoration to all of Creation, and I believe that I can take it to the bank that He will do just that.

 

Additionally, God promises us that we won’t need to carry around with us the hard, sad, and painful memories of what happened in our old lives. Since I have a strong drive to avoid pain, especially the sort of pain that is inflicted on my heart by feelings of rejection, disagreement, and conflict that come about in my interactions with others, this idea that my memories will also be renewed is very hopeful. I know that I can handle a little of the sort of emotional suffering that is the inevitable result when I take the risk to be engaged and involved in the lives of others and when I seek to follow the Spirit’s call to action. I can be fine with handling a little heart ache for the glory of God and for the sake of others coming to know Him, too. For in the end, the Lord will wipe all of the hurt and all of the pain away, and it will be replaced by the joy of standing fully in the glory of His presence forever.

 

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with a desire that it is so.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who helps them to see what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15: 13

 

Hope is an amazing thing. It can take a seemingly impossible situation and bring a person through it when all tangible evidence would suggest that surrender was the only rational option. Hope seems to generate a sort of power for life and living that comes about out of that proverbial resource known as “Thin Air.” It is such a glorious thing that it is often likened to the sun and attached to the sense of possibility that arrives with its radiant appearance at dawn. Hope breathes life into the weak, it grants reprieve to the condemned, fills empty hearts with love, and defies reason and logic in doing it all. Hope is a gift, and its greatest expression in all of history is found in the Risen Christ as He goes from death into life and in so doing grants to us that same prospect and potential.

 

It is this hope, which is fulfilled in knowing Christ, that brings true joy and real peace into our hearts and minds. Although many forms of what is called joy surround us and its sources are made out of a very wide array of causes, none of them truly transcends all that life may throw at us over the course of our days. Also, if joy in its truest form is found in and through Christ, even more so this is true for that form of peace that settles deep in the soul and passes the through the tests that come to us all so that it is found to be genuine, enduring, and sound. This is a peace that redefines reality in terms that are framed in eternity and that are thus taken out of the realm of our control and management and are placed into the far more capable and caring hands of God. The presence of Christ in me has become the reason that I even begin to know and to dwell in the safety and the freedom that come out of knowing these gifts from the Lord that are identified as joy and peace.

 

So, back to hope. This is something that God has granted to us out of His unceasing and infinite love for us. The Lord is fully aware of the great challenges that each of us faces in life, and He desires to provide us with something that both takes us through those times and that grants to us the ability to endure all that comes our way in a manner that is distinctly different from the rest of the world around us. Christ’s hope places His followers into a new and a redeemed reality that looks beyond today into a future that is reshaped into the perfection of God’s creation plan. The joy and the peace that Christ infuses us with are resources that invigorate and revitalize us as we reach those points of great stress and strain that are a guarantee that comes with living in our world. They become most tangible as we turn our focus and attention away from ourselves and look upon the face of Christ so that the reality of His great love for each of us becomes the source for that enduring hope that releases us from the situation and the circumstances that surround us.

 

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15: 15

 

Let me simply state where I am going in this. The life that I am called to live in following Christ is not one of compulsion; rather, it is a journey of faith in which God takes me into His presence and provides a form of counsel and guidance that I willingly surrender myself to follow. Now, in truth, the level, degree, and consistency of that following are highly variable. None of that inconsistency has anything to do with God’s involvement in my life or with His remaining true to His desire to see me be a willing follower. It is also not so much a result of some form of rebellion on my part as it is caused by my stubborn refusal to give up aspects of my life that are contrary to God’s righteousness and loving truth. Even when I am off course, the Lord tends to bring me back into my redeemed reality by way of gentle yet direct reminders and prompting.

 

It is through the presence of Christ in my life, the Spirit within me, that I gain deep and thorough knowledge of the nature and character of God and that I come to understand the underlying reason and rationale for how the Lord thinks and what He feels. This is a significant part of what distinguishes followers of Christ from the rest of the people in our world. We possess this knowledge and comprehension of God that allows us to apply His foundational truth to making all of the choices and decisions that we need to make throughout the day. Unlike most people in positions of authority, God takes us into His reason and reveals His heart to us. He has given His Word to us, and the Spirit brings that word to life and provides us with an unending narrative regarding intent, interpretation, and application.

 

So, Christ treats me and every other person who follows Him as true and enduring friends. He reveals His pain and His joy, and He entrusts us with doing the redemptive work in this world that is the Father’s greatest calling for Him and for us. In fact, we are taken out of a form of bondage that sin and the powers of evil in our world have surrounded and captivated us with from birth, and He brings us out of its darkness into the full-sun brightness of God’s love, grace, and renewal. Christ releases us from a form of slavery that leads to death, and He sets us free to live life in the fullest expression of the way that God designed and created us to live. In Christ there is joy to be known that has nothing to do with circumstances, and there is peace to be experienced that comes from the security and the certainty of the Father’s unceasing love for us. Jesus truly holds each of us who know Him as deep and intimate friends, and He desires to be able to call everyone friend as well.

Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.

1 Timothy 6: 6

When considering the state of my personal fortune, it seems important for me to check the right ledger for my true account balances. During my life, I have put a lot of energy into growing my income, building up my worth, and caring greatly about the things that I own. Unfortunately, most of this has had little lasting positive effect, and there have been a number of negative ones. Earning a living, even earning a good living is fine in God’s eyes. After all, He designed us with a drive to do so, and He is the provider of all of the aspects of our ability to work, our drive to succeed, and the need for gainful employment. It’s my attitude toward all of this that matters.

From the Lord’s perspective, the ledgers and the accounts that matter are covered with attitudes, spiritual growth, and healing. As Christ invested totally in people and in their relationships with God, so we are called to do the same. Gain in our world is an interestingly elusive thing. One day we can be substantially ahead of where we were; then, suddenly, it can all disappear. When our investments are in people, a really similar thing can happen, for some people just stop responding or they turn to follow a different voice. So, this is why contentment is vital in this form of investment. The contentment that God wants us to enjoy doesn’t come from what we accomplish or from how good we are at the task; rather, it comes from the growth in our personal relationships with God that comes through these efforts.

There is great gain to be had from following Christ, and some of it may even be financial. However, God promises us that we will receive a form of riches and wealth that is beyond the levels of our most aggressive investment plans if we do truly follow Him. The Lord asks us to trust Him with all that we have. That is all of our time, money, assets, ego, fears and concerns, inhibitions, lack of training, fear of rejection, and anything else that stops us from investing in making Christ more real in our world. When we commit and enter in fully to God’s investment plan, the Lord of the Universe promises that He will bring us gain beyond our ability to dream, and a form of contentment for our souls that defies all human logic and reason.

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