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Count It All Joy

 

Leap of Faith MinistriesClarksville, TN – “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy for when the way is rough your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow and don’t try squirming out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you’ll be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.” (James 1:2-4)

God has a special plan for our lives. It began long ago when He first created us. He formed us lovingly, carefully, and exactly to His specifications. Every detail just as He wanted it, your looks, your abilities, your place of birth, the family you were born into or lack of it.

Nothing in our lives is accidental. We were given a new birth, new life through His Holy Spirit when we accepted His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior, and were baptized, saturated with the Holy Spirit. And now God’s plan is to make us full and complete.

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has in mind for us to be.” (Romans 5:2 Living).

God wants us to become more loving, more kind, more patient, have more faith, peace, gentleness, kindness, humility, and self-discipline, so that we can be His witnesses wherever we are. A lot of us think we have to start on some kind of rigorous program of self-improvement. The harder we try to make those self-improvements the more frustrated we become.

God has to do the changing. He wants us to commit ourselves to Him and trust that He will transform us. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind He will accept. When you think of what He has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do and you will know how good, pleasing, and perfect His will really is.” (Romans 12:1-2 Living)

So how does God bring changes in us? Breaking old habits of thoughts and actions we’ve lived with for years. These characteristics we’ve called “personality traits”, “personal likes or dislikes” or “strong opinions.” Under close examination by God’s Holy Spirit of Truth, these “Characteristics” are nothing but self-centered, defensive, selfish behavior that for years have separated us from the love of God and others.

What methods does God use to change us? “At present you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident, it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold which must be perfected by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to result in praise, honor, and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals Himself.” (I Peter 1:6,7)

When God showed His prophet Jeremiah that he would have to go with the Jews into Babylon captivity for a lifetime God also said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV) The years of suffering in Babylon were part of God’s plan for Jeremiah and the Jews. It was a good plan, God’s plan designed to give them a future and hope.

Faith is a deliberate determination to believe something we can’t see or feel the evidence of. So if God tells us He’s working everything out for our good, and we see everything go wrong, our faith grows when we stand on God’s Word and thank Him for everything that happens. Abraham isn’t only the father of many nations, but the father of faith. Even though God’s promise in the natural seemed impossible he stood on God’s Word and trusted in Him to keep it.

One of God’s plans for our lives is that in everything we have joy. The Holy Spirit says, “Rejoice in the Lord always…” (Philippians 4:4 NKJV) That sounds impossible because after all, joy is something we can feel isn’t it? But we are commanded to be filled with joy, and God doesn’t command something that can’t be done. So it must be possible to be joyful always regardless of the circumstances. We are used to thinking that happy circumstances bring joy, but God wants us to discover the real source.

David wrote “You will show me the way of life, granting me the holy of your presence and the pleasure of living with You forever.” (Psalm 16:11 Living) Under what circumstances do you think David learned to experience real joy and the pleasures of God’s presence? Was it perhaps when he was hiding in a cave, pursued by Saul, who was trying to kill him?

Paul and Silas behaved as if they were experiencing the joys of life when they were in a jail cell, their backs bleeding and their feet in stocks, yet they were singing praises to God. (Acts 16:22-25) We all have to admit that we enjoy feeling comfortable. But if you think about it, in pleasant circumstances we usually focus our attention on the things or people we enjoy, instead of God. It is when things are difficult that we can learn to look away from the circumstances and discover the deeper joy there is in being with God.

In sickness we can best learn that God can heal us. In poverty we can discover how He meets our needs. In sorrow we can learn that He comforts us and gives us joy. But we won’t learn anything if we decide to focus our attention on our problems. We will only get poorer, sicker, and sadder. When we make up our minds to believe that God uses problems and pain to bring us a deeper joy in His presence, we are able to be truly glad when the problems come. We can choose to surrender our old feelings to God and focus our full attention on Christ in joyful praise.

Paul understood this and wrote to the Corinthians saying “I think you ought to know, brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact we, expected to die. But as a result we learned not to rely on ourselves but on God who can raise the dead.” (I Corinthians 1:8,9 Living)

We as Christians may think it’s not fair to have to suffer for something we didn’t do, but the Bible says “God will bless you for enduring the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscience of His will. For what credit is there in enduring the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it.” (I Peter 2:19-20).

A rose bush must be pruned to bear perfect roses. Jesus said “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce. And He prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops. He has already tended you by pruning you back for greater strength and usefulness by means of the commands I gave you.” (John 15:1-3 Living)

We are only hindering His work if we complain about the painful pruning circumstances. These things don’t come to us by accident or fate. They come because our loving Father is our loving Gardener. We can rejoice and thank Him, because He knows what’s best for us. Jesus said, “He came to us and gave us His Word so that through Him we will be filled with joy.” (John 17:13).

Created To Believe: The Power of Praise Through Practical Biblical TruthsHe also said, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in His love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11 Living)

God loves us and wants us to be filled with joy. As Christians we should take on the attitude of the prophet Jeremiah “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…” (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV)

 

Excerpt from Created To Believe: The Power of Praise Through Practical Biblical Truths written by Richard “Reason” Garrett
Copyright © 2011 Liberated Publishing Inc

 


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