Our Coffee Stain this week begins with a little homework. I want you to stand in front of a mirror.
Now, make a sour face. Go ahead. I won’t laugh (much).
Now, smile. No, I mean really smile. How did that make you feel? Do you know how silly you look there, grinning in front of your mirror? Got you, didn’t I?
Actually this may be serious.
Joy isn’t optional for a Christian. It’s commanded. And grinning at your mirror doesn’t fulfill the command.
And it’s not a sour joy either–sometimes, our definition of “Christian joy” depresses or bores normal people.
It’s not that ephemeral thing those who don’t know the Lord call joy either, that mad pursuit to find delight in things, relationships, sports, pornography, shopping, and all kinds of “fun stuff.”
The shelf life of this kind of joy is a couple of hours, and then you find yourself back at the starting point. And, it’s dangerous to go too long without it because it often reveals a heart that’s not … hang on… Are you ready for it? …
Heart disease has ravaged a spiritual heart which forgets to say, “Thank you Lord for…” (There’s a universe of blessings that can fill that blank).
“Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.” (Deut. 28:46-48)
How many Christians slave away before discouragement, fear, doubt, depression and a host of other masters? Maybe they forgot to be joyful and thankful for the blessings which God gave them. The fruit of joy shriveled in their life.
Whining, complaining, and a “Why him? Why not me?” attitude took root and grew.
We think God and the world owes us a perfect life. “It’s not fair. Look at how he’s blessed.”
Andy Stanley remarked, “Again, fairness is a tricky thing. Here’s something I’ve noticed: I only complain about things being unfair when unfair works against me. When unfairness works to my advantage, I call that answered prayer. “ (Andy Stanley in “The Grace of God”.
And there we are, wearing a face that looks like it’s been baptized in lemon juice. Joy stands amazed! Amazed that we’ve forgotten to be thankful for His blessings, amazed that we’ve forgotten His faithfulness in the past, amazed that we ignore the revelation of who He is in His Word and choose instead to warble our fears and complain.
This sense of entitlement is deadly. Listen to Debbie Macomber, “One of the greatest enemies to a thankful heart is a sense of entitlement–this is my right. When we don’t get our “rights” we get mad. God you owe me. Wife you owe me. Kids you owe me. Boss you owe me. World you owe me…
“When you look at what we have compared to others, we are a staggeringly rich people, crying because we don’t have every whim of our heart and mind…
“Gratitude is a practice that opens me to God’s gifts every day…Gratitude sustains the soul. How can we experience grace if we don’t feel grateful?” (Debbie Macomber)
Often, when we move from blessings into curses it’s because we’ve allowed our hearts to fill with desire for something else. A man permits himself to tire of his wife and looks around for someone else. A woman isn’t happy with God’s blessings and badgers her husband to have more and More and MORE!
If you’re thankful, truly thankful for what you have, joy simmers like a tasty stew on the oven sending its pleasing fragrance all over your life.
If you’re obeying God’s commands and serving Him by serving others, there’s a deep-seated conviction that your life counts for something and joy does a victory dance.
If you’re baptized in the Spirit and live in that dimension of God, you dwell in His joy because God is joyous. You don’t believe it? Galatians 5:22 tells us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy.
A tree can’t produce a fruit of another nature, so if God’s Spirit produces joy, joy must be in his DNA.
If joy goes AWOL in our life for too long, we need to do a check-up and see why. If it’s a physical problem, pray for healing and let a doctor help you also. If it’s a trial, realize that anyone can be down for a while but don’t stay down.
Do the things that cause joy to run freely through your life again:
-If you’re living in rebellion to God in an area of your life, repent and turn away from it. Do it. Nothing kills joy like sin.
-Serve the Lord by serving others.
-Remember what God has done for you in the past.
-Meditate on (think deeply) about His Word and what it means in your situation. Turn it over in your mind.
Andy Andrews says in his book, “The Noticer,” “Remember, whatever you focus upon, increases…When you focus on the things you need…you’ll find those needs increasing. If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on other things that you had forgotten you don’t have — and feel worse! If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose … But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.”
–Get full of His Spirit and let that life express itself through your actions and emotions.
–Stop three times a day and purposely thank God for something He has done for you.
–Write a promise from God in the morning and look at it occasionally all through the day.
Do these things daily until joy breaks loose from the undergrowth that has imprisoned it.
The stakes are high. We must make a deliberate choice to concentrate on thankfulness. Joy is at stake.
Real thanksgiving validates our faith in God. We’re not just grateful for an inanimate force that happened to work in our favor, or a concordance of circumstance that was favorable to us.
We thank a Person—He’s alive and working for us.
We’re not just thankful about something, but we’re thankful to Someone who made it happen. It’s not just something that happened to work in our behalf. It’s God who is working for us—spiritual thanksgiving flows towards a Person, not a happy accident, or happenstance.
Thanksgiving reaffirms our faith in God, not in luck.
1 for 10:10. Grumbling that you don’t have what you are entitled to brings destruction. Thanksgiving brings “wow!”
The answer isn’t to say that others have it worse and we should be happy. That’s lame. The answer is to be truly thankful for what you have.
Today is a good day to get it turned around in your life. Why don’t you finally decide to quite being a wimp and start being thankful for the humongous blessings of God in you life?
“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
~ Lewis Carroll