Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Unshakable Joy

There is an autumn nip in the air today. The morning frost is giving way to a bright sunshiny day. A perfect Thanksgiving day. But there are those for whom today’s sunshine and the smell of turkey can do nothing to quell the sorrow over difficulty in their life. Some will spend today recovering from their latest chemo treatment—or sitting with a loved one who is. Some have endured the recent loss of a spouse, or parent, or sibling—or child. Some are still reeling from news they have been laid off and have no idea where their children’s Christmas presents will come from. Even with sunshine and turkey, today isn’t so perfect for some of us. So how can each of us experience a joyful Thanksgiving, in spite of the circumstances of our lives? 

You could try being a counterfeit. You know, just fake it. Plenty of people try. The dread builds as they prepare to gather around the table with friends and family. As others prepare food, they prepare by pasting on their best smile and forced laughter. But a pasted-on smile is fake—not joy. It’s certainly not thankful. So if you want to experience a joyful Thanksgiving in spite of your circumstances, faking it won’t work. 

You could try being a comparer. As the wife of a McDowell County coal miner, my grandmother knew hard times. She didn’t complain and didn’t put up with people who did—especially grandsons. If I felt the need to talk about a pain in my foot, she would remind me how blessed I was to have a foot in the first place. After all, there are plenty of people in the world who wish they had a foot to hurt. She was right. But it didn’t make my foot feel any better. As a matter of fact, rather than give me a feeling of joy and thanksgiving, it gave me a feeling of pity. Pity isn’t always a bad emotion to have—it just isn’t joyful thanksgiving. There is always somebody who has it worse than you. But pitying them isn’t going to cause you to experience a joyful Thanksgiving in spite of your circumstances. 

Since neither being a counterfeit nor a comparer will work, the psalmist gives a simple five-part formula for having true joy and thankfulness this Thanksgiving and beyond: 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1–5)

1.      Make some noise—Anyone with children knows activity is noisy. Complacency, boredom and lack of purpose are not. God created you as His child with a distinct purpose in mind. Actively seek ways He would have you fulfill that purpose. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

2.      Serve with gladness—Did you know that the words “service” and “worship” are closely related? That’s because the Lord doesn’t just want us singing songs to Him. He wants our service. How? Serve Him by serving others. God is on mission. He came and lived among us, getting His hands dirty. He expects us to do the same. “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” (John 20:21)

3.      Sing!—Even when you sing as poorly as I do, it’s hard to grumble and sing at the same time. My singing might lead to others complaining, but it’s impossible for me to sing and complain at the same time. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

4.      Know—Learn who God is and know who He created you to be. Seek Him in His Word. Be curious. Be a learner. But understand the only real way for sheep to know their shepherd is to be with him and be led by him. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

5.      Enter—Because of God’s goodness, love and mercy, He invites each of us to enter places that we can’t enter on our own. Places of thankfulness in the midst of trial. Places of praise in the midst of difficulty. Places of joy and peace and rest in the midst of turmoil and confusion. “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) 

This Thanksgiving, my prayer is that your joy would not be counterfeit or by comparison. My prayer is that, despite your circumstances, your joy would be in the Lord. Happy Thanksgiving!


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