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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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.

How to Stay Happy All Day

If you are struggling to stay happy all day, you’re not alone. According to an analysis of 509 million tweets from 2.4 million users over a span of 3 years, we are our happiest early in the morning. Our mood begins to decline after 9 am and we are the least happy between 3 and 4 p.m.

Apparently life is ruining our day!

Unless you are retired or rich, the rest of us are supposed to be doing some pretty productive things between 9 am and 4 pm. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hate my day. I want to be happy whether at work or school. So how can we make sure that what we have to do doesn’t make us unhappy?

This week I will be sharing 5 ways to stay happy all day. If you want to follow this series of posts, subscribe to my website. As an added bonus, I’ll send you a FREE copy of the first chapter of my most recent book, Pulse.

Way #1 – Rejoice and Repeat

Philippians 4:4-7 gives us the formula for a guaranteed good day.

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

There is no Biblical guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you during the day. No matter how much faith you have or how well you feel like you are living, truth is, it rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Jesus said that great faith and right living can actually make life more difficult (John 15:18-25). The world will not celebrate you. In fact, some people will make it the aim of their day make you Twitter cuss by 3 o’clock.

And this is why Philippians 4:4-7 is so practical and not just idealistic jargon. Paul wrote this passage while imprisoned. Despite his circumstances, Paul pens a short, 4 chapter letter that mentions joy 15 times. 9 times, from prison, he tells us to rejoice. 5 times he uses the word joy. And once the man in chains commands us to “be glad.”

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul not only commands us to rejoice, but he commands us to repeat it. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, rejoice.”

That repeat is important. If you say something out of necessity, it may lack sincerity. It’s like when someone tells you to apologize.

“Say you’re sorry.”

“I’m sorry.” But you say it as if you are sucking on a lemon. And then you know what comes next.

“Now, say it like you mean it.”

This time, you take the lemon out of your mouth, reconstitute yourself morally and actually muster a decently sincere apology.

Your Negativity Bias

Another reason we need to rejoice and repeat is because we are hard-wired with a negativity bias. According to Psychology Today, you naturally take greater notice of negative things. This explains why politicians run negative campaign ads. Rather than tell you all the great solutions they have to offer, campaign managers know that you will pay more attention to criticism of the opponent.

Understanding the negativity bias is pretty important for happiness. You exercise your negativity bias in every relationship you have. And according to the anylisis of Twitter, it is fully operational by 3 pm!

Let’s take one very important relationship and demonstrate the power of your negativity bias, marriage. You can get to such a place in your marriage that you only notice the annoying things about your spouse no matter how many good things they do. Your spouse may have worked today to provide for the family. He or she may have picked up the kids from school and taken them to practice. Your spouse may have cooked dinner. But at 8 pm you asked if the TV could be turned down and by 11 pm you were sleeping in separate rooms and thinking about divorce.

How in the world do you sour so quickly? The answer, negativity bias.

According to the science of the negativity bias, your negative perception of your spouse will not be changed by doing one big positive thing for each other. Instead, it will take you noticing 5 positives to every 1 negative. This is why you can have a “makeup” date on Friday night for the fight you had on Thursday, but hate each other again by lunch on Saturday. The makeup date helps, but you also need to appreciate this 1, and this 2, and this 3, and this 4, and this 5 . . . Taking repeated notice of the good things is the only way you can curb your negativity bias.

Paul was WAY ahead of the research of the negativity bias. From a first-century Roman prison, the Apostle Paul told you that you need to rejoice and repeat. Rejoice. Now, say it again, but this time like you mean it. “Again, I say, rejoice.”

The repetition of rejoicing will help you find the good, even on a bad day. Repeated rejoicing helps you to broaden your vision rather than keeping your singularly focused on the most aggravating things throughout your day. Most importantly, the command to rejoice and repeat it will drive you to Christ. You will find that you don’t have enough “in yourself” to do this. You will need the Lord’s help. Pray that He will help you take greater notice of the good things. This will drive you to take greater notice of Him. When the Lord is at the top of the list of your reasons to rejoice, you will always have a reason for joy.

Read the related post, 5 Places Joy is Always Availablehttps://brianbranam.com/sermon-manuscripts/5-places-joy-is-always-available/

Bible Study Questions:

Read Philippians 1:3-11. This is Paul’s first mention of joy in the Book of Philippians. In this passage is there:

  • A promise to be believed?
  • A command to be obeyed?
  • A principle to be applied?

Challenge: Pray Philippians 1:3-11 over the most annoying person in your life for 5 days in a row. How does doing so change your perceptions of that person?

Check out the next post in this series.

Help Me Find My Happy Place!

When life becomes too much, we either physically or mentally go to our “happy place.” What’s your happy place? My happy place is on a bicycle a 70 degree day headed down a semi-flat road. Any Royal Caribbean Cruise – THAT is a happy place!

Whatever your happy place is, I would like to suggest one more destination. It is a place you’ve never been and it is with someone you’ve never met – but it will bring you inexpressible joy! What is that happy place?

1 Peter 1:8-9 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

By meditation on the Biblical truths of salvation (1 Peter 1:3-7), God’s people have a happy place that supersedes the circumstances. Find out more about adding this happy place to your list of destinations by watching the sermon, Help Me Find My Happy Place!

Help Me Find My Happy Place from Liberty Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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