The Sultan of Meemee

Joy is a choice, not just a reaction.

The form vegetated on a silken hammock, surrounded by servants and beautiful wives (all his).

His eyes opened slightly and a servant nearby bent close to see what his huge blob of a master commanded, then rose to relay the words. “Fan him!” commanded the man and two other servants began to wave huge palms to stir the air around the unhappy sultan.

Perspiration spoiled the perfection of his life, you see.

A few minutes later the eyes half opened again and the servant hastened to put his ear close to the monarch’s face. “Food!” the servant relayed the order and two of the wives ran to the side of the hammock and began to drop grapes (seedless) into the royal mouth. The figure on the hammock managed to chew for himself and even swallowed without too much inconvenience.

The effort displeased him, though, as he believed that it was his royal right to live in a perfect state of peace, joy, and harmony. He achieved this by sleeping most of the time and occasionally awakening to eat.

His biggest inconvenience in life was when the servants and wives had to help raise his huge royal body to go to the royal bathroom. If he could have just stayed continually on his hammock, life would have been perfect.

I suspect some Christians are like this Sultan of Meemee.

We read about God’s blessings of peace and joy and we lethargically open our mouths so that the Lord can feed us. Problems? Trials? Goals? Work? No thank you. I’m enjoying peace and joy in the Lord.

But, when their delight sprouts wings and flies away in the face of problems, they get mad at God. “I thought you promised me joy!” they sulk with a face that could curdle milk.

I’m wondering more and more if we don’t need to be proactive instead of reactive in the face of God’s promises. We see what God has promised. “In your presence is fullness of joy.” (Ps. 16:11) So we slowly open our mouths and say, “Pour it on Lord!”

But, in our experience the only time we have joy is when we react to something that makes us joyous. And since life throws some less than happy experiences at us, we live huge swaths of our existence in misery, mad because God hasn’t given us joy like he promised.

Has God failed or do we need to get up out of the hammock, quit depending on others and grab two handfuls of the joy that God has set right in front of us? God’s promises are for those who are proactive, who go after them. Who seek Him. That’s a nice Biblical expression, huh? “Seek”. Is God lost? No, but I often am and I as reset my soul to seek joy in him, I find it, even in the midst of trials.

Joy isn’t always automatic. Joy is a choice, not just a reaction to something we like.

We’ve got to get off the hammock. Do you know that there was a whole class of temple servants who had the duty of being joyful before the Lord? The job of being joyful!

” And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.”

(1Ch 15:16, KJV). What do you think those fellows did the days they didn’t feel like singing with joy? The command wasn’t just to play music but to do it with joy.

I figure they just started to think about all the promises of God, and they got a bit joyful (1 Pet. 1:8). They may have thought about some brothers and sisters in the Lord that they loved (1 Thessa. 2:19, 20; 3:9) and their joy would have bubbled. If they had lived after the Cross of Jesus they would have started to think about Jesus and what he had done–forgiveness, new life, we’re a part of God’s family, etc–and they would have had a sprouting geyser of joy.

Even in trials they would have rejoiced because they knew that God even uses tough times to make them more like Him and to help them grow in the knowledge of Christ (James 1: 2; 1 Pet. 4:13). They would have whooped to think that He really answers their prayer and that He was going to help them, no matter how tough the situation.

They would have worshipped God with the help of the Holy Spirit because the Spirit grows joy in us (Rom. 14:17; 15:13). As a matter of fact this joy is one of the proofs that he reigns in us and is causing us to grow like Him. (Galatians 5:22)

And if all else fails, they could always think about and sing about that joy beyond our imagination that awaits us with the Lord after this life (Jude 1:24). God Himself is our joy! (Ps. 43:4)

What a way to live, motivated by joy and love! Joy makes us generous (2 Corinthians 8:2). The absence of joy probably makes us stingy.

Paul found himself buried and perhaps nearly forgotten in a Roman prison, yet he told the Philippians seven times in a little bitty letter to rejoice, to be joyous (Phil. 1:18; 2:17, 18; 2:28; 3:1; 4:4, 10). I think he was digging deep in order to keep experiencing the joy that he had inherited as a result of the resurrection of his Elder Brother.

“Woe is me!” you warble from your hammock. Get up from there! Go after joy. You’ll find it in God Himself and you’ll find Him if you seek Him with your whole heart.

Hmmm …
“… joy is life in excess, the overflow of what cannot be contained within any one person.”
Eugene Peterson (intro. To Philippians, the Message)

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