Saturday, August 06, 2005

Joy and Thanksgiving

So, the follow up post to what I posted last week. I promised reflections about the nature of joy and thankfulness, so here they are.

I don't think joy is simply an emotion any more than love is simply an emotion, but rather a fruit of the spirit. Gal 5:22 As such I don't think it is an option for Christians. It seems to me that the Bible is pretty clear that if we are Christ's then we have the spirit and if we have the spirit we have the fruit of the spirit. That to act in a way which is contrary to the fruit of the spirit seems to be sin. That we are either living in the spirit or living in the flesh and that for a Christian to be living in the flesh is sin. So I don't think we can afford to view joy in all things and thankfulness for all things as simply perks of the deeper walk club. That somehow those things don't apply to us because we're having a bad day or week or that it is only the nuns who can have a smile on their face all the time and actually mean it. The Bible has much to say on the matter of joy, and often the context is that of joy amidst sorrow or persecution or repentance.

Psalm 32:11
Psalm 51:8
Acts 13:52
Rom 14:17
Phil 3:1
Phil 4:4
Col 1:24
Thes 5:16
1Pet 4:13

As well as much to say on the nature of giving thanks.
Psalm 105:1
Psalm 106:1
Psalm 107"1
Eph 5:20
Col 3:17
Thes 5:18

Not to say that there isn't a time for Godly sorrow and mourning. But just that Godly sorrow doesn't vanquish Godly joy. That there are things which make God sorrowful as well as that of His people, but it won't destroy the work of the Spirit in us.
Rom 12:15
2Cor 7:9

I've read many good things written on the subject of joy and thankfulness. I know the most recent Piper book on the subject come highly recommended (although I haven't read it) and Doug Wilson has one called "Joy at the End of the Tether" (it's a study in Ecclesiastes) that my husband recommends. However, the thing I've read that had the biggest impact on me was a little pamphlet entitled "How to be Free from Bitterness" by Jim Wilson. The basic premise is that joy is a natural outpouring of a Christian and what gets in the way most often of our joy is sin. And one of the most rampant, cancer like sins in the body is unconfessed bitterness. Now, I don't want to get into that whole subject in this post, but put forth that although joy is what we should have sin gets in the way of that joy. So one of the first things to look at if you aren't joyful is unconfessed sin. It could be simply not giving thanks for the situation and thus a bad attitude about it has crept in and stolen your joy. But whatever it is, I believe the Bible is very clear that we are to immediately confess sin, that we are to be joyful, and we are to give thanks for all things.

Now, I shared in the previous post on what I went through in coming to a realization of the relation of this physical life to our relationship with God. I still remember being at a Bible study one time when I was really sick. It had been one of the first times I had been out of the house in weeks and it was great to see other people. I really hadn't expected to have my world changed. The leader prayed for me at the end of the study. Of course he prayed that I might be strengthened and healed and the my husband would be able to do all that was needed to pick up the slack, but the first thing out of his mouth was "Lord, we thank you for this." It wasn't a secret hidden sermon in prayer or anything like that, but just the natural outpouring of a heart that loved God and understood what He asked of us. My initial response in my head was "who is he to be thanking God, he doesn't have to live through this, he doesn't know what is it like" but then it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was doing what I should have been doing all along. I needed to be thankful to God in all things-not just the things I desired. It didn't matter one iota that the man wasn't sick, he knew what was asked of us and did it. And I will never, ever forget it.

While I am thankful that I can share a difficult experience from my life where God taught me many things, I want to stress that I don't think it is required to teach truth. You can become a Christian at age four, follow God joyfully all your life, have great health, a good marriage, happy kids, a roof over your head and food on the table in abundance and still share truth. That's definitely something I took away from the Bible study that night. That I don't need someone who is in my exact position of life and going through the exact same things I am to speak truth into it. If anything, a fresh outside perspective can be a blessed thing.

So in conclusion: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Give thanks to God in all things, for all things. Confess your sin to God and one another that you might be healed. Speaking the truth in love, encourage each other towards righteousness. In the name of Christ, Amen.

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