Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
Most people taste some portion of this joy at the end of the year. And indeed, it is a joyous time. At what other time during the year do people see so much family so often or with so much intent to please? At what time do we focus so much on counting our blessings, or on blessing others in our family and in the world? At what time do we go through our days singing so many songs of praise to our Savior, or remind ourselves and others Who is the real reason for the season as well as every other season?
A lot of people also have a great lack of joy throughout the rest of the year, and pockets of disappointment, panic, petty squabbles, and other joyless times in the “joy” season. Why? Personally, I think it is because their joy is no deeper than the time of year and the happy circumstances accompanying that time.
To have real, lasting joy, you must have a good attitude. “Really?” you may ask. “I thought it was the result of obedience, or part of the fruit of the Spirit.” And you are right. But think about it for a moment. Can a person with a bad attitude have joy? Not really! Therefore you must have a good attitude, or you will not have joy.
Often people confuse a girl’s attitude with that girl’s mood. A young woman who has moods could also be called a moody woman; and a moody woman has a bad attitude. A bad attitude is basically a negative outlook on life, while a good attitude is a positive outlook. Occasionally something pleasant will enter the life of the moody woman and this external influence will put her in a good mood. It does not give her a good attitude, however; for her negative outlook will soon find something negative to think about, sending her back into a bad mood until something pleasant distracts her again.
When someone has a bad attitude, she looks at the circumstances around her, which in a fallen world may easily be viewed as largely bad, and feels herself in bondage to them. And to be honest, she is in bondage to them. The bad circumstances “make” her upset, while the few (?) good circumstances “make” her feel better – but only because of her outlook.
Good and bad also enter the life of the girl who has a good attitude – a positive outlook on life. But she remembers the goodness of God, His faithfulness in the past, and sweet truths like “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30a); “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28); and ”Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19). Then she looks for some of those “daily benefits” and starts counting them. Pretty soon she’s feeling glad and then thankful. It’s almost like joy!
What are some other hindrances to joy? Just like a pessimistic outlook stifles the influence of God’s good gifts, so a refusal to forgive tints the world an ugly color not easily counteracted. An unforgiving girl may be quick to get angry, to be irritated or offended, or to get her feelings hurt. She takes everything done by another person and causing her pain as a personal attack and walks through life with a “chip on her shoulder” and a firmly planted “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) in her heart.
On the other hand, the young lady who trusts in God and His goodness will learn to let things slide, assuming the best about other people. “Charity . . . believeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). She knows that it is not her responsibility to right all the world’s wrongs or to change all her neighbors into godly people; nor could she do so if such were her appointed tasks. God may use her toward such noble ends (and indeed, she prays eagerly for opportunities to be used); but these jobs rest on the strong and capable shoulders of the Almighty, Who knows best how to go about them – not on the feeble attempts of His children.
“Charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The loving woman focuses on the good she sees. She is not blind to the bad, but she chooses not to dwell on those things. And even if someone does really mean to do her harm, she has the Maker of Heaven and Earth for a protector and is called to love, bless, and pray for her enemies.
When we dwell on the evil around us, we can easily fall into the trap of criticism, another deterrent to joy. Sometimes the Christian needs to rebuke sin, and to fail here is to disobey God. But this calling does not necessitate our calling attention to any and every sin, error, mistake, accident, or breach of etiquette we happen to notice. To do this could easily become a life’s work, and of course it could never be a happy one. How much better to call attention to every good thing we notice! And when the Holy Spirit urges us to speak boldly for truth or to lovingly give a friend a much-needed wound, we can do so graciously and as a Christian should.
“You are what you think about.” This is such a true statement! To sum up, if you want joy, focus on the Lord Jesus and the blessings He sends. He is good, and His benefits are loaded into every day! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).