I woke this morning contemplating joy. Joy isn't about circumstance, which makes it quite different than happiness. The imagery of those praising God in spite of dire trials is fixed in my head.
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:11-12
God often allows his most faithful to be attacked, because he knows they will prove faithful, and in that, their witness will forward the kingdom in ways nothing else can. He knows that they know who he is and will stand firm in his name. Oh how that can bless believer and unbeliever alike!
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7
Sweet readers, like in scripture, the people I know sold out to Jesus fill every walk of life. Some are quite powerful , successful ,and brilliant. They are the world’s strong and yet they profess their hope, their core strength, is Jesus. Others are more timid, yet do great things in Jesus name, all to show that anyone can be used by God. We can all know God in deeper ways if we so choose and find joy and strength.
Do You Want to Know Him?
Your joy is only limited to your knowledge of God. Whether you’ve been a believer for 20 years or you aren’t sure you believe ANY of this, your ability to know God is only limited by your willingness.
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
We’d see God all around us, if we’d open our eyes. But for those moments we’re blind, we have scripture. In scripture, he too reveals himself. Scripture is God’s words and that’s powerful!
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
God has also revealed himself through his son (Luke 10:22). Yet, so many deny him yet today, being fooled of this world. Even those of us that know him, often find it convenient to ignore him. And we wonder why we don’t see truth? We question the lack of joy we experience?
Unveil Your Eyes
‘‘For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21
I was always an honors student. I have an Ivy-league education. I’m a darn good consultant. But who cares? If I rely on my own intellect, worldly philosophy, or psychology, I will be limited in seeing God through the manners and methods of man. But can man really capture God in all his essence?
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
Earlier this week I wrote a challenge: invite God to reveal himself. What he has revealed to me is blowing my mind. I pray he’s likewise revealing to each of you. If he’s not, I worry as to if it’s a calloused heart. Bold of me to say, maybe even mean, but accurate as pertaining to scripture.
Isaiah 6:10, John 12: 39-40, and several others speak to this. The world has calloused our hearts, so that we can neither see with our eyes nor understand with our hearts. For if we understood we’d certainly turn to God. Again, this is certainly true of the unbeliever, but believers, beware. Though salvation is yours, your ability to experience joy, especially in time of trouble, may depend on understanding this.
What Holds Us Back?
In Exodus 33, Moses wanted to see God in all his glory. God allowed him to only see his back, because seeing all of him would be too much. No one can behold the full glory of the Lord and live.
I know there have been times that I’ve feared seeking the Lord, because his shining on me might reveal something ugly in my heart. A part of me may have to die, after such encounter. I may have to let go of preconceived notions, selfishness, old ways of thinking , bad habits I adore. How about you? Could this be holding you back? God doesn't demand change to come to him... ever. But in coming to him, everything changes. You can't help but change after really experiencing him.
We often are blind because we don't want to see. We hold back from wanting the truth (even when we profess we do) because of what that truth might mean. Some would say we see what we want to see. I also believe we can't see what we refuse to.
Coming Full Circle
I don’t like my writing to be as a rant. Somehow though I risk this is, yet it just might be because it’s that important. There are terribly hard things that will come our way in this world. There are terribly painful things that will fall on those we love. If you want to be able to stand and praise, no matter what happens, you better know your God. Someone may need you to stand and praise with them, and you better be ready, with no doubt, no fear. I know the one who calls my name. Do you? Are you ready?
Father God, we let joy allude us because we don’t know you. We don’t trust your ways, your character, so we’re tossed like shifting waves. Remove the scales from our eyes today. Show us your glory and let it impact us. We want truth. We want your strength. And we want to be part of your hope for a lost world. AMEN