LIVE WITH JOY:
The Lord is insistent that we live in the reality of His goodness (Deuteronomy 28:47-48). His glory is the reason we need to live a life that is undergirded by joy. To live otherwise is an insult to God.
The following are just a few of the blessings we receive from the Lord upon which we can base our joy:
• We have the pleasure of the Lord’s company at all times.
• We are at peace with Him; no need to fear His wrath in judgment.
• Any time we have need, we have access to His wisdom through the free counsel of the Holy Spirit.
• We can trust God to handle all things that happen in our lives for an ultimate good.
When we don’t live joyfully, it is open sin because a joyless life reflects ingratitude, a lack of trust, and a callous despising of the good the Lord has done for us.
To live “with joy and to serve God with a glad heart,” doesn’t mean that we aren’t going feel grief when a loved one dies, or that we aren’t allowed to feel hurt when someone doesn’t treat us kindly. Our emotions are legitimate. They are a product of the good gift of intelligence that God has given to us. We live on Earth, the fallen planet, and we experience that painful reality daily; therefore, living our lives with joy simply means we are not going to react to those feelings with the hopelessness and despair of those who don’t know Jesus.
LIVE WITH THANKFULNESS AND GRATITUDE:
If attitudes could be compared to the ingredients used in making a cake, then thankfulness would be the main ingredient in mixing-up a happiness cake. As the Word teaches us in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks within himself, so shall he be,” the most effective way to increase your joy is to increase the thankfulness quotient of your thoughts. As you begin living in a state of greater gratitude, you will grow increasingly sensitized to the real presence of the Lord’s grace in your life.
Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness can be quite difficult for some people because they have spent a lifetime training themself in the opposite. We all know a few people like Eeyore, the very negative donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories. My husband and I have one in our Growth Group right now, and though we love our Eeyore, sadly, she is never happy. Look inside yourself to see if you might be one of these people. If you are, recognize that failing to appreciate the things for which you should be thankful is sin; but don’t despair.
The Holy Spirit is the antidote for an ungrateful heart. Ask for His help when you pray. Plead with the Spirit to point out your blessings, telling Him that you desire a grateful heart, but that you have grown too dull to be able to identify them for yourself.
Becoming preoccupied with your wants, petty complaints, and minor irritations, will cause you to forget just how much happiness you already have. By focusing on your unfulfilled wants, whether of a physical or emotional nature, you will cheat yourself of the pleasures of the season that you are in.
God has given us an abundance of blessings and treasure, but it’s all too easy to brush right past these without acknowledgement. We can be a bit like children ripping through birthday presents with such greed that there is no pleasure in the gifts. Thus it is with the gift of happiness; it’s all too easy to “rip” past without noticing that you are happy, that you have what you need, you have Who you need, and that your life is good. If you live in an attitude of gratefulness, you will be less likely to: 1) misjudge your circumstances, 2) experience unpleasant envy, and 3) resent sharing.
Perhaps, the application of joyful living is most challenged in marriage. My son, Zane, a marriage and family therapist, has told me that many psychologists have come to recognize that a sense of gratitude is the magic happiness-elixir for which everyone is searching. Some researchers even suggest that gratitude might well be the antidote for falling out of love, as it somehow functions as a vaccination against infidelity and divorce.
Think about how much it means to you to be recognized for the love and care you give to your family as a spouse and parent. That’s a normal, human reaction. Despite our many gender differences, men and women are identical in this need. Receiving gratitude feels wonderful to us. Your spouse feels the very same way, so why be unkind and withhold appreciation and recognition from them? Show mercy to your mate by recognizing their good contributions to you and the family. It’s the right, God-pleasing thing to do.
When you express gratitude and appreciation for your husband or wife, do it out loud in front of the children. You will be doing what is right, and you will be role-modeling the way loving people behave toward each other. If you are a parent with an ungrateful heart, you will be teaching your children to be ungrateful people, and therefore, you will be signing them up for an unhappy, discontented future of their own.
A parent who lives with a thankful spirit will also be teaching their children good manners because ungratefulness is essentially very rude and boorish behavior. We know the ancients recognized the correlation between "gratitude" and "grace" because they share a common Latin origin, gratus. Gratus means "pleasant", a key ingredient in good manners. Never forget that your children are training for life under you. For better or worse, they are your little apprentices, and what they see in you, they will soon be reenact.
LIVE IN CONTENTMENT:
We glorify God with our contentment!
Pastor John MacArthur has explained this better than anyone I have ever heard, so I copied it down to share with you. When I first heard this message in 1981, he was teaching about the broader subject of worship and explaining how contentment is a big part of what constitutes true worship. His explanation revolutionized my thinking, and therefore my living, my concept of worship, and my prayer life. I close by offering this quote from his teaching:
“Who made you the way you are minus your sin? God did, right? So you should be content with yourself. Who put you in the situation you're in? And all of its circumstances apart from the sin in it. God did. You are what you are, where you are, because God put you there. If you're content, then, you're acknowledging God's sovereignty in your life. That gives Him glory. If you're discontent, malcontent, your real gripe is with God's wisdom. Got that? And if you sit in it, in a state of discontent, you are, in effect, blaming God. And you are questioning God's permission, which allowed that thing to happen. Contentment acknowledges God's sovereignty, and God, therefore, is glorified.
Discontent, beloved, is sin, because it robs God of glory. There is nothing, I think nothing more subtle sometimes than...than the sneaking, kind of growing vine of discontent. A discontented Christian, I don't care if you're discontent over your home, over your job, over your location, over your husband, over your kids, over whatever, a discontent Christian is a terrible advertisement for the sovereignty of God. You see? What kind of a God do we have? Can you really trust Him? Do you know that He put you where He put you and expects you to be content? Beloved, glorifying God means that you praise Him with a full heart in absolute contentment knowing that your lot is God's plan for you now, and accepting it with contentment gives Him glory.”