What Should I Bring?

This week we have learned how joy is a surprise party in the midst of sorrow. We have a happy host. He extends an open invitation into His joy. So when you are invited to a party, what’s the next question? What should I bring? What should I bring into the party of God’s joy?

In the last post, I referenced John 15:11 and John 17:13. Notice in both verses Jesus mentions “these things.”

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

John 15:11, John 17:13

What are “these things?” These things are the things you can bring. If you survey the context of Jesus’ prayer, teaching, and conversation from John 15-17 we find “these things.” What are “these things” we bring?

Repentance from Sin

The Bible mentions the joy of a repentant, restored sinner more than any other joy. Jesus said that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over a sinner than repents (Luke 15:10). It is repentance from sin that gets the party started.

Obedience to God’s Word

The keyword for Jesus in John 15 is “abide.” We are to abide in Him. We are to abide in His love. We abide by keeping His commandments (John 15:14). The celebration of joy is BYOB – Bring Your Own Bible. Our relationship with the Lord is not based on emotion or opinion. We know the Lord through the work of His Spirit according to His Word.

The Fruit of His Spirit

If you are coming into God’s joy you bring fruit. No, God’s not vegan. The Bible says we eat meat (Heb. 5:12-14) but bring fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). And, it should be said, the meat of Hebrews 5 is the meat, substance, solid food of the deeper truths of God’s Word. Meat is moving past the elementary principles and into rich doctrines. The fruit of Galatians 5 is the fruit of the Spirit. It is what God’s Spirit produces in us, in our attitudes and actions. John 15 – 17 is rich with truth about the work of Spirit in our lives when we abide in Him (John 15:1-11).

An Expectation of Final Redemption

Ultimately, we realize any joy we have in this world is because of the ultimate joy we know that we have in Him. Your joy in this world is at best a pre-party. You are having a great time, but the best is yet to come. In John 16 Jesus tells us that the joy we experience in Him now keeps us from falling away (John 16:1). The ultimate joy comes in His return when He makes all things new. We will see Him and our hearts will rejoice (John 16:22).

He Gives You What You Bring

The amazing thing about our God is that He not only tells you what to bring, He gives you what to bring. If I were to state it more accurately, these are not the things we bring into joy, what God gives are “these things” that bring us into joy. There is joy in obeying the Lord. Pleasing Him brings us into His joy. There is joy in a hopeful future. We know He has not left us alone in a world of sorrow. He is with us and He is coming again. Experiencing His Spirit as He brings about fruit in our lives brings joy.

Bible Study

Read John 15.

  • Write the commands to be obeyed.
  • Write the promises to be believed.
  • Write the principles to be applied.

Challenge

Take 30 days to read through the Book of John. If you finish it before 30 days, read it again! Each day do the three things listed in the Bible study above. Write the commands. Write the promises. Write the principles. Journal along and note the fruit and fellowship you begin to enjoy in the Lord.

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Your Invitation to the Party

I’m about to go middle school awkward, but I’m 46, and it still hurts! Back in the day, they called middle school, “junior high.” Junior high was 2 years of academic purgatory for pre-teens. I digress. But in my 7th-grade year of junior high, there was a party, and I wasn’t invited. Did that ever happen to you? Probably not if you somehow avoided that “not quite sure what to do with my hair, body out of proportion, pot-belly phase” that I went through in junior high. And then they slapped braces on my teeth. That helped. To this day, the words “junior high” still recall feelings of insecurity. The vision of Hell in the Bible is frightening, but being sent back to junior high for an eternity would be hell enough.  

No matter how old you are it is difficult to deal with not being invited. There are a lot of people who hear of the joy of the Lord but feel uninvited. Perhaps it is because you read the Bible, and then you look at your life, and you see two conflicting visions. You read in the Bible, “the joy of the Lord is our strength” but you deal with a day in which there is no joy, there seems to be no God, and you have nothing left – no strength. If joy is a surprise party in the midst of our sorrow, you feel uninvited. 

Your Invitations

I want to point you to two verses in the Bible that will assure you of two things. 1) Joy is indeed a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. It is an interruption to weeping that only God can provide. 2) You are invited.

Both of the verses were spoken by Jesus, and they come in an unexpected context. 

Invitation #1 – Joy Despite Trouble

The first one comes on the heels of an event that for the apostles feels like it could not have gone any better, Jesus’ triumphal entry (John 12). And then Jesus begins to tell them about some things that are about to happen that could not sound any worse. He told them he was going to die (John 12:33). One of the 12 would betray him (John 13:21-30). Peter would deny him (John 13:36-38).

Jesus describes their reaction to all of this as a troubled heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled (John 14:1a).” The word trouble is a translation of a word that also describes turbulent, chaotic white water. It’s the kind of water you see in a raging river. It is uncontrollable, and it will sweep you away. White water is an amazing thing to see cascading down out of a mountain, but that’s a bad thing to have going on in your heart. 

So to help them in their trouble, Jesus teaches them about the Father and about His oneness with the Father (John 14:1-14). He teaches them about the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-31). He gives them the fantastic teaching of His relationship to them from this point forward being like a vine is to the branches (John 15:1-10). And then here it comes. Jesus interrupts “trouble” and issues an invitation into joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:11

Invitation #2 – Joy Despite Sorrow

The second one comes after Jesus tells them that He is leaving them and that the world will hate them (John 15:18-16:4). The word that Jesus uses to describe their reaction to this is “sorrow.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful (John 16:20a).”

Jesus then assures them that despite the appearance of defeat in his death and in their persecution, that he has overcome the world (John 16:25-33). He then begins to pray for them (John 17). And then comes the interruption to sorrow with joy. “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves (John 17:13).”

The Surprise of Joy

So let’s now assess what we have found this week about how joy suspends sorrow.

  • Nehemiah 8:10 – Nehemiah calls an end to the people’s mourning and weeping because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
  • John 15:11 – Jesus interrupts the apostle’s troubled heart by telling them that he shared these things with them so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
  • John 17:13 – Jesus warns them of coming circumstances that will make them sorrowful, but he prays that they may have his joy in the midst of it, “that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”

Now here is where you feel uninvited. You are not paying attention to the address of the party. If you don’t get this in your GPS, you’ll drive to the wrong place. The host of the party is a happy God. The venue for the party is mourning, trouble, and sorrow.

A lot of people think that it is our Savior’s business to save them from a troubled life. It is not. You make a major heretical mistake if you believe that the Son of God must exempt you from sorrow. That is not His calling. If you think that your weeping means that you somehow missed the party, take heart, you’re in the right place. It is there that His joy becomes your strength.

Every Mother Knows Sorrow to Joy

To illustrate the nature of His joy, Jesus offers an illustration familiar to all of us, the birth of a child (John 16:16-24). For the mother, it is called labor. She is in agony. The pain of childbirth brings with it a sense of sorrow (John 16:21). This is going to hurt, and it is going to be hard. But when the child is born, notice how quickly sorrow turns to joy. “She no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world (John 16:21b).”

Jesus’ joy is now and later. The later helps the now. Later, Jesus will return for His people. He will call an end to sorrow and make all things new. When he returns it will change the nature of everything (John 16:22-24). That later helps us now. His commitment to us. His Spirit in us. His plan for us. It is our open invitation into His joy.

From time to time, you need to pull out that invitation in the venues of weeping, sorrow, and trouble. Pull out that invitation and take shelter in the Lord. Allow His joy to throw a surprise party right in the middle of your sorrow. Your circumstances are not because you missed the party. Your circumstances are the venue. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).”

You have an open invitation. It’s time to party.

Next Post

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Visit my YouTube Channel for the Entire Joy Is ______. series.

Bible Study

Read John 16:16-24.

  • Write out the commands to be obeyed (whether mentioned in the text or implied by the text).
  • Write out the promises to be believed.
  • Write out the principles to be applied.

Challenge

In this post, we found that our difficult circumstances are not an indication that we have missed God’s invitation to joy, but instead, they are the venue of God’s joy. Journal 10 reasons for joy that the Lord gives despite your current circumstances.

Our Happy Host

In the previous post, we found out that joy suspends sorrow and finds a reason for celebration. In Nehemiah 8, Nehemiah calls an end to mourning and commands the people to observe a festival. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh. 8:10).” Joy is like a surprise party in the midst of sorrow. A great party needs a happy host.

God, Our Happy Host

I have never been to a good party where the host is angry. That would be awkward. It is hard to enjoy a party if you get a sense that the host doesn’t want you to be there. That’s extremely awkward. A great party host is someone who is happy for the gathering. 

Notice that Nehemiah says that it is “the joy of the Lord” that is your strength. That statement reveals one of the most profound truths of Scripture. If you grab onto this simple statement about God, it will revolutionize your faith. Are you ready for it? Here it is.

God is happy.

It is His joy that strengthens us. It is His joy that we run into quickly as a safe refuge from our sorrow. He is happy to invite us to enjoy Him, especially during difficulty. It is God’s joy that creates the surprise party in the midst of our sorrow.

But God Seems Angry

Despite the Bible’s revelation that we have a happy God, many people feel that God is temperamental and angry. This may be true for two reasons.

1) We misunderstand God’s anger.

Yes, there are indeed passages in the Bible where God pours out His wrath. In Genesis 19, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah by sending down fire and sulfur from heaven. Someone who would send down fiery sulfur bombs from heaven certainly doesn’t sound like a happy host. But even God’s wrath is motivated by his joy.

If you are a parent, then you know what it is like to love a child. You also know what it is to be angry. A parent can have moments in which they could not be more proud of their child. There are also moments in which the parent could not be more angry with the child. But at the center of both places, both in pride and anger, the motive is joy.

A parent is proud of their child as they witness their growth and maturity. Each incremental accomplishment, the first step, the first word, the first win; each one brings joy. That dress she wears, his kindness to others, an award at graduation; the beauty of maturity also brings joy. 

And nothing brings more joy to a parent than when a child obeys righteous instruction. A parent who has a sense of stewardship from God over his or her child’s life seeks to impart godly wisdom both from experience and from God’s Word. The parent has roughly a 20-30 year head start on the child and can see where decisions lead. So it brings great joy when the child responds positively to that instruction. Obedience brings joy.

But there are times when the child strays. When the child is very young, it may be their curiosity of a hot stove, but then later, the stakes grow higher. Perhaps it is a person, a place, or a path the child wants to explore, but the parent knows that it is a path that could be as harmful and painful to the child as him or her touching the hot stove.

When the child is young, if his mother turns around to see the chid’s hand reaching upwards toward a hot skillet full of steaming grease, she screams, “No!” “Don’t touch that!” And if the child insists and tries to reach up again, what does she do? She may go so far as to strike the hand. Sure it inflicts pain, but that pain pales in comparison to what could have happened had the child pulled down upon themselves hot grease from the stove. 

And then the child is older. Insistent on going with those people to that place to do those things. And the father argues his case. He uses the deterrent of punishment to try to curb his child’s choices. Why? Because in both cases, the father knows not only the pain of poor choices but the joy of good ones. A parent fears the consequence of a scalding burn just as much as that of following unscrupulous friends. She’s seen it. Perhaps she’s lived it. But she knows it. But she also knows the joy of health and of success. A good parent is ever motivated by a happy vision for their child.

Even in Punishment, There is Joy

Even in punishment, the parent is motivated, not by anger, but by joy. It is joy that explains the passion. Joy, not anger, makes the parent scream across the room, lunge for the hand, and strike it if need be, “Don’t touch that!” It would be inaccurate to say that all the parent is, is angry. Ultimately, a parent is not moved by anger, but motivated by joy. That is a father or a mother who desires the fruits of obedience to become abundant in their child.

And the Lord speaks to this in Hebrews 12.

“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:9-11

Sure, God gets angry. But He is not bitter. God is happy. The joy of the Lord explains His passion for His people, even in punishment. He knows the harm of sin and the paths of righteousness perfectly. He will strike out righteously to eradicate sin, not because He is always angry, but because He is ever joyful.

2) You were raised by an abusive parent.

We are prone to bring our experience with our parents into our vision of God. I think this is natural since it is the trust of God that a parent would raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The Lord’s desire is that a parent would take who He is and convey that vision of righteous love and protection into the child’s life (Deut. 6:4-9).

But sadly, as sinners, many parents do not share that same vision. Some parents may be absent or even abusive. Abuse may include anything from physical to sexual, to emotion, even religious abuse. A parent can warp a child sexually as well as religiously. He can abuse a child physically because he or she has superior strength. A parent can harm a child religiously through harsh and unrealistic legalism. 

Whatever the abuse, it leaves an imprint. Unfortunately, that broken trust between God and a parent becomes an imprint in the child that they bring into their vision of God. Perhaps your parents did not know the Lord. Maybe they were not in the least bit interested in the Lord. Does this mean that you can never know the Lord as He is? Absolutely not.

Is there healing?

If I could encourage anything in your healing, it would be for you to deeply meditate on the truth that we have a happy God. You already have the statement on the joy of the Lord as our strength from Nehemiah 8. But I also want to introduce two other statements that point us to God’s happiness. Both of these were spoken by Jesus.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:11

“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” – John 17:13

I would encourage you to meditate on these verses as well as any verse in the Bible (and it is full of them) that speak of the Lord’s delights and joy. Think deeply about these revelations of His happiness and it will begin to transform your vision of Him and your relationship with Him. 

We Have a Happy Host Who Wants You At His Party

If you are going to have a great party, you must have a happy host. The Bible states repeatedly that we have a happy God. But notice, especially John 15:11 and John 17:13. Not only do we have a happy host, but He issues an open invitation. God wants you to experience His joy. He is generous with His joy. He is an excellent host.

God’s desire is that His joy would become our joy. I will share more about this In my next post, but joy is a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. And our happy host extends an open invitation to you.

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Bible Study

Read John 15:1-11

  • Write the commands that are to be obeyed.
  • Write the promises that are to be believed.
  • Write the principles that are to be applied.

Challenge

Take some time today to find verses and meditate on the joy of God. Where have you gotten it wrong? How do these verses change your relationship with God?

Joy is a Surprise Party in the Midst of Your Sorrow

In 1995 Henry Strongin Goldberg was born. A few weeks later, doctors diagnosed him with a rare disease that compromised his bone marrow. Sadly, Henry passed away at the age of 7.

Though his life was short, Henry’s happiness, despite his sickness, impacted a lot of people. Through their experience, Henry’s parents realized the challenges families face in caring for seriously ill children. In 2003 Henry’s mother, Laurie Strongin, started a foundation called Hope for Henry.

The purpose of Hope for Henry is to involve seriously ill children in their own treatments. A big part of their strategy is bringing happiness and laughter to these children. If I can describe Hope for Henry in a simplistic way, Hope for Henry is revolutionizing pediatric patient care by throwing parties. They are an entertainment company in a children’s hospital. 

The people at Hope for Henry throw all sorts of parties for seriously ill children. They can put together a holiday party, birthday party, or a superhero party. They can put together almost any type of theme for a party with short notice. 

To date, Hope for Henry has revolutionized patient care through entertainment for over 42,000 children. 

The Party in the Hospital Lobby

I witnessed something like this during a visit to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta. I’m not sure if it was Hope for Henry, but as I passed through the hospital lobby I saw something I did not expect to see. I expected to see a lot of sad families with very sick children. What I saw was those families and their seriously ill children throwing a party in the hospital lobby. 

Their party impacted me, and their enthusiasm was contagious. I smiled as I reassessed the trivial nature of some of my own circumstances. Here was a group of people who made the decision to put their stress, sickness, and sorrow on hold and throw a party. 

Joy is a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. The circumstances may not change. Your reasons for sadness still exist. But joy does give you reasons to suspend sorrow. It creates a place to party in unexpected places. 

The Suspension of Sorrow

Nehemiah calls attention to joy and suspends sorrow in Nehemiah 8. He has inherited a high-stress situation. Nehemiah and his people are reinhabiting a ruined city. They have just completed the first major project, the rebuilding of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. The project has been criticized and threatened. There have been setbacks. There is still much to rebuild, but they take a pause.

Nehemiah and Ezra, a priest, gather the people for the reading of the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:1). The people feel a deep sense of conviction as they listen to the Word of God. They realize that they have neglected to do what God commands them to do. So they weep (Nehemiah 8:9b). And then Nehemiah and Ezra respond in the most unusual way. They suspend sorrow and call for joy.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:9-10

The people are broken, but Nehemiah calls for them to throw a party. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

What Does “The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength” Mean?

The word strength translated in this verse is translated in Psalm 27:1 as the word “stronghold.”

“The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?’ Psalm 27:1. 

The word Nehemiah used is a word that describes a place that possesses a strength so that you can run into it and shelter quickly. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

The joy of the Lord is a party in a hospital lobby. It gives you a safe place in the midst of difficult circumstances where you can suspend sorrow for a time and celebrate. 

This week, I want to point you to the party that the joy of the Lord provides. There are times when we are so overwhelmed with sorrow that it would be nice to have something also to celebrate. So please follow this week’s posts, and let’s learn 3 truths about the joy of the Lord. (Next Post: Our Happy Host)

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Bible Study

Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. 

  • What are the differences in worldly grief and godly grief? 
  • What actions and passions are produced by godly grief?
  • Now read the whole of Nehemiah 8. How does 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 help explain Nehemiah’s call for action and passion in Nehemiah 8?

Challenge

If you are in the midst of sorrow currently (or perhaps the next time you are in sorrow), recall some reasons also to rejoice. Take some time to celebrate those things as well. Have a meal. Gather some people. Have a party. Do something measurable that calls attention to your reasons for joy.

Last week’s Posts:

Request and Release

We have a hard time staying happy. This week, I am sharing insight from Philippians 4:4-7 on how to stay happy all day. Here are the treasures of the text thus far.

  1. Rejoice and Repeat – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” Repeated rejoicing deals with our negativity bias. We are wired to take more notice of negativity. Rejoicing in the Lord creates a mindset in which we seek God as our ultimate source of joy. In Him, joy is always available.
  2. Reasons Govern our Reactions – “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” We are stressed, worried, and angry. How refreshing is it to see the unusual reaction of gentleness in our culture? You have great reasons to be happy. First and foremost, the Lord is at hand. Let that reason govern your reaction.
  3. Reject Anxiety – “Do not be anxious about anything.” You may have anxiety, but you don’t have to obey it. Create realistic expectations. One cause of anxiety is misplaced joy. 

All of this is helpful, but is there anything practical we can apply to a truly bad day? God provides for my happiness, but what is His plan to change the situation? The final two principles from the passage are practical applications for dealing with a bad day; request and release.

#4 – Request

“Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone.” Got it. In Christ, I have great reasons for more gentle reactions. Though my reactions are to be reasonably gentle, people are not. The chances of the “angry, stressed, worried” people I mentioned in Tuesday’s post praising me for a Christ-like reaction – ZERO! 

Let’s be honest. My reaction may be gentle, but apart from Christ, what I’m thinking in my mind is not reasonable. Well, at least it’s not Biblical. I have some things I’d like to say to the aforementioned “angry, stressed, worried” person. I have some things I’d like to do that do not fall into the “gentle” category in certain situations. But I read the Bible and Brian’s blog . . . (insert aggravated, angry, brain exploding emoji here). I need to be gentle, but I don’t want to be gentle because people are not reasonable! So what about them? How will God fix this and them?

I often say, “If you clam up, you blow up.” So who do I tell? Who can I tell how “non-gentle” this person or situation makes me feel? Who can I express my (or their) “unreasonableness” to? What gives? What changes? What fixes “this?” 

Notice a beautiful exchange in the passage. You let your reasonableness/gentleness be made known to everyone, but you, “Let your requests be made known to God.” 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phillipians 4:4-7

Pray About It, or Not

Notice that passage doesn’t just say, “Pray about it.” That lady at church tells you to “pray about it.” Your pastor tells you to “pray about it.” You told someone, “I’ll pray for you.” But Paul doesn’t just say “pray about it,” he says, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

So imagine sitting next to Paul in Sunday School this week. “Hey Paul, I need you to pray about something.” And Paul replies, “With prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I’ll let your requests be made known to God.”

Ummmmmm. Thanks.

Sure it’s a little over the top for common, everyday language. Paul is not trying to wax Shakespearean, nor is he trying to overcomplicate prayer. Paul’s choice of words gives us great insight as to what prayer really is.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is communicating with God. It is the most general word used to describe the act of what we are about to do. It’s like saying, “I’m having surgery.” Surgery? In surgery, there’s a big difference in having a mole removed and a triple bypass. I need some specifics. 

Supplication. Supplication is a word that has varying degrees of meaning. It can mean simply “to ask” but it can become as intense as “to beg.” Supplication is one kind of praying. For instance, the Bible also mentions intercession (1 Tim. 2:1). Intercession is praying for someone. Supplication is praying about something. 

But he says to do it with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a word that is closely related to the word translated rejoice. It means that I am going to express gratitude. My day may be bad, but in prayer, my heart is glad – that God listens, He answers prayer, that I can bring this to Him. I am glad of what only He can do when everything else is so bad.

Finally, he mentions requests. Requests are the specifics. In its essence, prayer is asking. James 4:2-3 says that “you have not because you ask not.” I think one of the chief reasons we do not celebrate answered prayer is because we pray for nothing specific. We pray for a good day. OK. How do you measure that? “Today, I survived. That’s good enough. Thank you God!” I hear people often pray, “Lord, bless us.” Have you ever heard someone order food at Chick-Fil-A by saying, “Feed me. Just feed me. And may the feed be good.” That is probably the one time at Chick-Fil-A that the person behind the counter doesn’t say, “My pleasure.” They’ll probably say, “Are you OK?”

The problem with an order like that is it lacks any specific request. If you go to Chick-Fil-A you don’t say, “Feed me.” You say, “I’d like a #1 with no pickles and a half and half tea.” Both God and Chick-Fil-A need specifics. What is your request.

So let’s break it down like this.

  • Prayer is action, the general act of connecting and communicating with God.
  • Supplication is my passion in prayer. I am begging God.
  • Thanksgiving is my disposition in prayer. I have an attitude of gratitude. 
  • Requests are my organization in prayer. These are the specific, measurable things I am asking God for or to do. 

How Prayer Moves in Me

Personally, sometimes, my times of prayer (especially on a bad day) move from frustration to desperation to anticipation. I like to pray through Psalms. The Psalms often mention God as “my shield.” Recently I was really being attacked, and my prayer started in frustration. “God, your Word says you are my shield, but I don’t see it. Will you be my shield? I need you as my shield. If you are not my shield . . .” Praying in frustration is not great faith or great theology, but we have a great God. He listens. I then moved into desperation. “God, please be my shield.” And then it moved into anticipation/thanksgiving. “God, I thank you that you are my shield. I know that your promises are true and that you are faithful. God, I know that you are surrounding me . . .” You see this movement often in the Psalms as well. A Psalm will start in great darkness but end with an incredible affirmation of who God is. For instance, check out Psalm 42.

#5 – Release

The fifth way to stay happy all day from Philippians 4:4-7 is much like Elsa sings in Frozen, let it go! 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

The translators of the English Bible also translate the word “guard” as “garrison.” The peace of God becomes like a garrison of soldiers surrounding the most critical elements of your being. The peace of God surrounds your heart (the way you feel) and your mind (the way you think). 

So explain this Mr. Christian, Pastor/Blogger.

I can’t.

It is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The Bible doesn’t even explain it. It simply says it exists.

The situation doesn’t warrant peace, but there is peace. There is no one in the situation that brings peace, but God brings peace. If it surpasses all understanding, there is no practical way to explain it, trigger it, or describe it. But God’s people experience it. And they can tell you, it just is. 

So you do what the Bible says. You are gentle to people and then you tell God what you would have done to them if it had not been for Him (amongst other things). Does that change the situation? It might. But most often, God changes you in the situation before he begins to change the situation. God may not fix a person as quickly as you want them fixed. But He can bring you peace – immediately. 

So How Do I Stay Happy All Day?

Ultimately the greatest way to stay happy all day is not to rest your happiness on people or situations. People cannot deliver God’s peace. Every day will not be good. Nor will every person. But every day can be a good day if we rejoice and repeat. If you govern your reactions with Biblical reasons, today will be different. Today may make me anxious, but I will reject anxiety and will not allow it to make decisions for me. I will react to you with gentleness. I will make my requests to God. Today is not going to be like yesterday. I am not the same.

There will be something different about this day as I release it to the Lord and He gives me only what He can give me. He gives me the peace of God the surpasses all understanding. His peace garrisons my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. 

Bible Study

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7.

  • List the commands that are to be obeyed (some commands may be mentioned, some may be implied).
  • List the promises to be believed (mentioned or implied).
  • List the principles to be applied.

Challenge

You may have to bite your tongue with someone today so you can demonstrate a reasonable, gentle reaction. But pray for them. You may have to “keep it together” today under stress for the sake of demonstrating a reasonable, gentle reaction. But pray for this. Write a prayer for someone or something today that has measurable, specific requests. Keep that prayer with you for 30 days and track how God answers that prayer.

Reject Anxiety

This week I am sharing 5 ways to stay happy all day. Our instruction for this comes from Philippians 4:4-7 and to this point, I have shared 2 of the 5 ways, let’s review. #1 – Rejoice and repeat. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (Phil 4:4).” Because you and I are wired with a negativity bias we need to make repeated efforts to take joy and express it. Ultimately, we must seek the only source in which joy is always available, God Himself.

#2 – The right reasons lead to the right reactions. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5)” In such a high-pressure society, anger, stress, and worry seem natural, almost expected. But taking joy in the Lord leads to a reaction that is gentle, reasonable. “The Lord is at hand.” That in itself is sufficient reason to rejoice.

So now let’s digest the third way we can stay happy all day. Reject anxiety.

#3 – Reject Anxiety

Statistics show that anxiety is America’s most common mental illness. And yes, anxiety is classified as a mental illness. There are numerous causes of anxiety from brain chemistry, to diet, to having a difficult time dealing with life events. The good news is that while anxiety is very common, it is also highly treatable. The Bible agrees.

So let’s consider our passage again.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

“Do not be anxious about anything.” That’s quite a statement and it may seem a little simplistic, perhaps even offensive for those who truly suffer from anxiety. But let’s be careful to discern that statement. The statement is NOT saying:

  • If you have anxiety then you must not be a Christian.
  • If anxiety does not go away it is because of a lack of faith.
  • Nothing should cause you anxiety.
  • Anxiety is sin.

What the Bible IS saying is that you don’t have to obey anxiety.

A Biblical Definition of Anxiety

If I were going to build a definition of anxiety from the context of this passage, I would say that anxiety is misplaced joy. Anxiety is trying to draw joy from things that cannot possibly, consistently produce joy.

Notice the interplay of the words “anything” and “everything” in the passage. “Do not be anxious about anything.” Because anxiety won’t fix it, heal it, help it, or remove it. Jesus gave us a fantastic teaching on the failure of anxiety to produce desired results in Matthew 6:25-34. “But in everything by prayer . . .”

The Bible is not saying that you won’t have anxiety. The Bible is telling you what to do with anxiety. Reject it. Take your anxiety over “anything” and turn it over to God in prayer about “everything.”

Realize and Reject Anxiety

I stated previously that in the context of Philippians 4, anxiety is misplaced joy. It is trying to draw joy from things that cannot possibly, consistently, produce joy. I give a full treatment of this in my post entitled The Guarantee of a Good Day, but here are 5 realizations of misplaced expectations that will help you reject anxiety.

  • I don’t have to rely on others to make me happy.
  • I don’t need anything other than what I already have to make me happy.
  • I don’t have to be perfect to be happy.
  • I don’t have to understand everything to be happy.
  • I don’t have to sin to be happy.

If you rely on others to make you happy, you will have anxiety. If you need more, you’ll never have enough to make you happy. So you’re not perfect. We already knew that. But if you think you have to be mistake-free to be happy, you will have anxiety. If you think that life has to be fair, and when it isn’t you at least have to have it figured out; guess what – you’ll have anxiety. If you think that there is more pleasure in disobeying God than in obeying God, you’ll only find fleeting pleasure and high anxiety.

If you want to be happy all day, reject anxiety. You may have anxiety, but you don’t have to obey it.

Bible Study

Read Jesus’ teaching about the futility of anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.

  • What commands are to be obeyed?
  • What promises are to be believed?
  • What principles are to be applied?

Challenge:

Over the next 5 days, prayerfully seek to identify the triggers of your anxiety. Prayerfully identify any unrealistic expectations or misplaced joy that may be the cause of that anxiety. Journal a daily prayer about those anxieties and record God’s answers to your prayer.

(Un)Reasonable Reaction

Since 2006 the folks at Gallup have been measuring America’s levels of anger, stress, and worry. I bet you can guess what I’m about to say. Our levels in all three categories are rising. We are not happy. When it comes to stress, Americans scored 20 points higher than the global average.

With so much going on in the news and with so much demand on our lives, it’s not surprising to hear that Americans are amongst the most stressed-out people in the world. We could probably each give some very good reasons as to why we are so worried. And when it comes to anger, we all feel a little on edge. Such a reaction from stressed out, worried people is not surprising. If anger, worry, and stress have become so natural in our culture, is it even reasonable to think we can be happy?

This week I am sharing 5 ways to stay happy all day. In my last post I introduced the topic and shared the first way; rejoice and repeat. With this post, I want to continue to explore Philippians 4:4-7 and share the second way we stay happy all day. To stay happy you have to a good reason for a happy reaction.

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Way #2 – The Right Reasons Lead to the Right Reactions

In Philippians 4:4 Paul instructed us to rejoice and repeat it. In Philippians 4:5 he calls on us to give reasons for such rejoicing. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Some translations of the verse read, “Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is at hand.”

When you come across a verse in an English translation of the Bible in which you have two completely unrelated words like “reasonable” and “gentle” you wonder, “So, which is it?” Instead of the answer being one or the other, the answer is probably both.

Sometimes words are lost in translation. The seeming discrepancy simply means that we don’t quite have a word that captures the meaning of the original language. The jest of the word is that you exhibit a gentleness that is more than just a personality trait. You are gentle for good reason. You have learned some things. You believe some things. Your reactions are not a response to the situation, but a response to solid, foundational, Biblical reasons that undergird your joy.

Don’t Be a Happy Idiot

The Bible calls us to reasonable rejoicing. We reject any notion that the Bible would call us to be happy idiots. By happy idiot, I mean that person who is sappy and disconnected from reality. The Bible speaks to true human emotions like sorrow and discouragement. The Bible never endorses any behavior in which we would pretend that something bad is good. We are not to be out of touch with the situation, but we can have a much different reaction. To simply be “gentle” for the sake of gentleness is unreasonable. To pretend to be happy makes you look like an idiot.

A Great Reason

Instead of worry, stress, or anger overcoming us, we rest our joy on a very solid reason, “The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5b).” In every circumstance of life, the Lord is near. God is not aloof, uninterested, or disconnected. He has not forgotten me nor has He distanced Himself from me. The Lord is at hand.

His Word is available. His Spirit is personal. His promises are faithful.

When the Lord is your first reason to rejoice, joy is always available. You can rest assured that if the Lord has prepared “this” for you then He has prepared you for “this.”

You’re not to be a happy idiot. You always have a reason to rejoice. This reason governs your reactions. If you want reasons to stay happy all day, take some time to study God’s Word and write down reasons God has given us to rejoice. One of the foremost reasons we can rejoice is because of salvation. God reconciles the sinner to Himself through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ – and even Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:10)! What are some of the other reasons that the Bible gives us as reasons to rejoice?

Bible Study Questions:

Read Psalm 126. Pay particular attention to verse 11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

  • What emotions are expressed in Psalm 126?
  • In the beginning of the passage, David makes a statement that would lead us to believe that he is experiencing some sort of turmoil. What are the truths/reasons he cites throughout the passage that give him encouragement and joy?
  • What are the promises to be believed?
  • What are the commands to be obeyed (hint: there may not be a stated command in the passage, but there may be one that is implied or understood)?
  • What are the principles to be applied?

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