We can never be so busy as to forget to rejoice in God. Very early in my Christian walk, I embraced the ministry of prayer with an over-developed sense of personal responsibility. By that, I mean that God had to wrench every burden from my hands. Perhaps taking my cue from the Bible story of Jacob’s wrestling with God, I perceived myself laboring intently with each request. Now, of course, there are times for such a struggle. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with such earnestness that “His sweat became like drops of blood,” (Luke 22:43-44 NASB). Nonetheless, compare this agony with the peaceful prayer He taught in Matthew 6:9, “Our Father which art in heaven…”
I knew no such distinction in my petitions; I struggled “mightily” to lift each request and every burden to the feet of the throne with sober gravity. One day, I finished an intense and, what seemed to me, productive time of prayer. I stood and noticing I was late, I rushed to the car to leave for work. Behind the wheel, I flipped on the radio to hear a popular song, “It’s a strange way to tell me you love me when your sorrow is all that I see. If you just want to cry to somebody, don’t cry to me.” Though it was a secular song, it was one of the most formative moments in my Christian walk. This scripture came to mind,
“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’ ” (Psalm 70:4 NASB).
Who wants to be surrounded by complaints, needs or negativity, day in and day out? God is no different. I lacked a dimension of laughter and joyful thanksgiving in my prayer, and, frankly, God had grown just a bit tired of it. I made a decision to change my attitude.
The Choice to Rejoice
We humans are an emotional lot. Every of one us has up days and down days. I confess, I’m likely moodier than most people. Nevertheless, I feel so much better once I recognize my attitude, give thanks, and choose to rejoice in God. The Apostle Paul lived a very hard life. In II Corinthians 11, he tells of how he was beaten three times with rods; he was stoned; he was shipwrecked. Yet, Paul saw beyond the trouble and envisioned the glory that awaited him in Christ Jesus.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB).
The Apostle James says it this way,
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NASB).
Again, the key phrase is, “consider it all joy.” The King James translation reads, “count it all joy.” In other words, we do well to make a decision ahead of time, that our response to anything will be the joy which is rooted in our eternal hope in God. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The psalmist exhorts, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” ( Psalm 118:24 NASB) The Apostle Peter expresses it like this,
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:7-9 KJV).
Joy… unspeakable joy. AND, it is a joy that is absolutely full of the glory of God. This, all because we lift our eyes to see beyond today’s troubles and choose to rejoice.
The Sacrifice of Joy
Happiness can come easy; it’s as simple as a summer day or a long holiday weekend. But the joy that flows out of a believer in the midst of trial is something else entirely. This joy is a sacrifice unto God. It is a sacrifice specifically because it doesn’t come naturally; it is a mindful choice. King David knew of the sacrifices of joy. Four times in the Book of Psalms, we are encouraged to make a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.”
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“Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Psalm 107:22 NASB).
Paul, James, and Peter were men who knew the cost of a daily walk with God. Each of them was acquainted with suffering. All of them left encouragements for us to make a conscious decision to be glad in the Lord. In that day when we are joined with the multitude of saints that have gone before, it’s no surprise that the first item on the agenda is rejoicing before God.
“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ ” (Revelation 19:5-7 NASB).
God has given us the choice. We choose to rejoice!
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