Well, after being absent from my blog due to end-of-year things - I am finally back!
Happy Solar/Gregorian New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2013!
This guest post is for both December & January. The guest is Mirren Martin, who is here to give us some practical tips to grow in JOY.
Mirren, you did a wonderful job on this post! It encouraged me and it was truly refreshing to me that all 7 of your tips are centered around Yahovah (the Lord), Yeshua (Jesus), and our relationship with our God!
Our Father has given you great wisdom and I thank you that you have been willing to share with others here.
7 Practical Ways to Grow in Joy
1. Find time to spend with the Lord Jesus each day . . . the first step in finding lasting joy is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
This promise is found in Psalm 16:11 where our Lord tells us that it is in His presence that we find fullness of joy. How can we be in His presence as humans? We can make time for Him by spending time in prayer, in praise, and in His Word. Here is the first “secret” to growing in joy—disciplining yourself to make the time to make Him your Best Friend—to have a personal relationship with Him.
Many Christians are void of joy in their lives. They can’t seem to “find” joy because they search for it from sources (Christian books, Christian movies, Christian friends, etc.—anything inspirational) instead of going to the Source and making time for Him each day. It is all about delighting in Him. It is so easy for us to delight in a best friend or a “special” friend (boyfriend, girlfriend), and we realize that these relationships are only deepened through spending time with that person. You spend time talking and doing things together when you want to further develop a relationship. For some reason, this doesn’t seem to connect with many Christians that, in the same way, if we want to develop a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus—one that will produce and bring forth joy in our lives—we must take time for Him.
He tells us in Psalm 37:4 that as we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. What are those desires? One godly desire of many Christians is to experience joy in this world of sin and sorrow. Well, then that brings out the question of “What is delighting?” so that we can delight in the Lord, so that we can eventually experience the desires of our hearts? Delighting is making sure our heart, our love, and our all are His as Mary Ellen Beachy explains in her book Women at the Cross. She goes on to make the exhortation that if we do not spend time with God each day, it is not because we are too busy, but simply because we don’t care enough about Him. Job depended on the Lord and drawing from him so much that in Job 23:12 he talks about esteeming the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
The root of where joy-sapping comes from in Christians’ lives is their choice to neglect developing or desiring a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. As the great preacher Billy Sunday once said: “If you have no joy in your religion, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.” That “leak” often is simply neglecting to spend time with Him. True joy springs out of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. As Joseph Mermion explains: “Joy is the echo of God’s life within us.” Fullness of joy is found in His presence (Psalm 16:11).
2. Realize that following Jesus’ example will bring forth joy in your life.
What was His example? His example (as you study the gospels and see how he responded to people and circumstances) is one of compassion for others, servanthood, dependence upon his Father, focus on others, endurance under trials and sufferings, selfless living, seeking to bring others peace, etc. So another way to develop joy is to focus on others with these same attitudes and attributes that Jesus did.
Joy is an attitude of the heart. The Expositor’s Commentary says that “a Christian’s joy does not spring from his circumstances, but from the blessings that are his because he is in Christ.” Being “in Christ” means that we are His children, but it also means that we are walking in His ways—as mentioned above, walking in His ways will be following His example and striving to take our focus off of ourselves and onto others. We too often fool ourselves into thinking that we will not be happy if we have to practice servanthood, or have compassion on someone who is mean to us, etc. Well, true, it might not be the happiest of situations to force ourselves (for one example) to show love to someone who has just gossiped or slandered us behind our back. This may not make us happy at the time and we may dread showing them love, and even after doing it, we may still feel a little awkward about doing the same type of loving action again. However, happiness is not what we are seeking—too often we think that we have to do all these different things to make ourselves “happy,” equating this with joy.
Happiness can often be something we are selfishly reaching toward and so it leads us more into a self-focus. We think that if we get to watch our favorite movie, go to our favorite shopping place, eat our favorite food, or spend time with friends and family that we love, we will be happy. We may feel happy for a little bit of time, however, happiness and joy are very different as happiness is fleeting, but joy is an attitude of the heart.
Therefore, in following Jesus’ example, we are seeking joy—not necessarily happiness (but joy can definitely bring forth happiness). It is developing joy that brings us contentment in life. Happiness will continually be fading and re-surfacing, fading and re-surfacing, and that is just “life,” but if we do not have joy, it is more tragic than losing out on a happy moment. Joy can keep us going through the toughest of times, it can keep us from getting depressed, it can make us able to put a smile on our face when our world is collapsing—because true joy is sourced in our obedience to our Heavenly Father as Jesus relays to His disciples in John 15:9-11 when He says, As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love, these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
3. Looking toward our future hope can daily help us grow in joy—that future hope being our Heavenly home with the Lord Jesus.
Even Jesus was encouraged when He thought about the future of joy before Him when he was to leave this earth as seen in Hebrews 12:2 where it also encourages us to look to Jesus for our encouragement: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In Warren Wiersbe’s Songs in the Night he says, “We as Christians should never be sad or depressed because Jesus has died for our sins and we are forgiven. Now, Jesus is preparing us a perfect home in Heaven. We can have perfect joy always knowing that we will someday be with Him in Heavenly glory forever.” Jesus encouraged the disciples by reminding them of their Heavenly home: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the body of Christ will be able to joyfully endure afflictions and that their joy is based on their expectancy of their Heavenly home: for ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34).
4. Finding and then focusing on specific ministries can grow much joy into life.
Much joy flows out of a fulfilled heart. How can one attain a heart of fulfillment? Look for ways to minister! This will “fill” you. For example, when you have a choice to spend two hours on a movie or to spend two hours babysitting your little siblings so that your Mom can have a little free time. Which endeavor will bring you more satisfaction? Will ministering to your flesh and enjoying a two hour movie that may only feed your emotional desires bring fulfillment? Or, will the babysitting (or any ministry you get involved in) bring you more of a feeling of self-worth and that you have done something to bring someone else joy?
A major part of growing in joy is seeking to live for others above ourselves and thus getting involved in ministries—however small or insignificant they may seem—will do much to produce a joyful heart and positive outlook on life. A joyful spirit will bring joy to others and that can be a ministry in itself. We want to be like the first part of Eleanor Doan’s quotation (and not like the last part) as stated here: “Some people bring happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” J.M. Barrie said.
Warren Wiersbe in his book Turning Mountains into Molehills and Other Devotionals reminds his Christian reader to “never underestimate the influence of even one Christian. You may feel that your life is not accomplishing much; but if you are faithful to the Lord, He is using you as salt to accomplish His will where you are.” So, focusing on using our lives to minister to others can bring much joy. If you aren’t able to get involved in an actual organized or known ministry, then you can—as stated above—simply involve yourself in finding ways to make others feel joy and happiness. This is a ministry in itself.
As John Bartlett’s book of quotations states: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap. The being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” Live to minister and you will grow in joy as well as grow in pleasing the Lord Jesus (Colossian 1:10).
5. Witnessing will increase our joy.
When we tell others the Gospel and share about Jesus Christ, not only are we giving them an opportunity to embrace the only true faith and thus secure their eternity in Heaven and not in Hell, but we are also finding the joy of sharing about our salvation. While salvation in the Old Testament was a little different than New Testament salvation, still the concept that God is our salvation and is thus saving us from evil is something that is true in both Testaments. Therefore, we can rejoice! But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
The more we focus on our salvation and sharing the true source of salvation with others, it becomes easier and more and more joy-fulfilling—especially when people respond! We should never lose a part of that specific joy that comes with knowing that we were part of God’s plan for saving a fellow human being. It is exciting and it is always something that can be looked back on with joy. Wiersbe says that “we have a sincere, spiritual joy in Christ because our sins have been forgiven.” We should be so excited about this and have the love for people that Jesus had, that we are daily wanting to share with others the joy we have found in our salvation so that they can also experience the same peace.
In Philippians 1:27 the Apostle Paul encourages believers to only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” We need to live it and preach it and this will grow our joy! And another wonderful thing is that when we share and someone responds and accepts the Gospel, we have pleased the Lord and brought joy to Heaven: I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
6. Spending time with family and godly friends can be a true source of growing our joy.
Hebrews 10: 24-25 explains that in the body of Christ we have the great opportunity of finding joy in fellowship by drawing from others and giving to others encouragement: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. The Speaker’s Sourcebook includes this thought from Geike: “It is not what is around us, but what is in us; not what we have, but what we are, that makes us really happy.” What we are as Christians is a part of Christ’s body and His body is the church and His church is called the Family of God. We can find many ways to grow in joy by being with fellow, likeminded Christians. The Speaker’s Sourcebook reminds us that “Joy shared is joy doubled.” Paul expressed in Philippians 4:1 that fellow believers were his joy and crown. We need to look for ways to build relationships with our friends and family members that will be relationships that point each other toward the things of the Lord, toward His Word and then we can prove a great source of increasing joyful times in others’ lives and this will plant a joy in our hearts—the joy of serving Jesus by serving others.
7. Focusing on God’s promises and making them our own will bring lasting joy.
Even in the toughest times, God’s promises will pull us through! In John 16:20- 22 it talks about a few different tough times, but each of these verses ends with the promise that joy will come. Verse 22 ends with the promise that no man can take our joy. Psalm 30:5 ends with the promise that weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Wiersbe says, “It doesn’t matter what you are going through, if you have Jesus as your Savior, you can always experience joy.” Colossians 1:11 explains: Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Ryrie’s study notes for this verse focus on the portion: with joyfulness. Ryrie says: “This is what distinguishes the Christian’s patience and longsuffering from the Stoic’s.” In other words, Christians can show joy even in the midst of times when they are having to exercise patience and longsuffering because they have God’s promises to lean on. After all, it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! When we have problems growing in our joy, we need to take a moment and focus on one or several of God’s promises to us and we will find ourselves being encouraged and strengthened in the Lord and this will produce joy as we realize that we can trust God’s promises! Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice (Psalm 63:7).
Thanks again, Mirren, for taking the time to guest post! I hope you are have been encouraged by Mirren's words of wisdom today!