This Year Keep Your Joy

‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ Nehemiah 8:10 KJV

When you listen to a great choir sing the Hallelujah Chorus, you realise that Handel was inspired by God. He wrote the entire Messiah in three weeks. He said the music literally ‘came to him’ in a flurry of notes and motifs. He wrote feverishly, and as if driven by an unseen composer to put pen to paper. Yet he wrote it when his eyesight was failing, and he was facing the threat of dying in a ‘debtors’ prison because of a mountain of outstanding bills. Most of us find it difficult to create under stress, especially when physical or financial problems are at the root of that stress. And yet Handel did. How? He credits the completion of his masterpiece to one thing: joy. He is quoted as saying that he felt as if he would ‘burst with joy’ at what he was hearing in his mind and heart. Instead of dying, as he thought he would, he lived to see his oratorio become a cherished tradition and a popular work. And he also saw it succeed in raising vast sums of money for the poor and destitute. The Bible says ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ And one of the first things Satan will attack is your joy. He knows it’s the spiritual and emotional fuel you run on. Jesus said, ‘these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full’ (John 15:11 KJV). Note the words ‘remain in you’. So: no matter what happens this year, keep your joy!

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Getting Through Your Night-Time Experiences

‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5 NKJV

God is with us during our ‘night-time experiences’. Think about it; you’ve been knocked down, but by God’s grace you’ve gotten back up. No matter how dark the night, you’ve lived to see the morning. Times change and relationships change, but God is always the same, He’s the one who brought you through every difficulty in the past, and He promises to be with you every day of the future. Note the words ‘joy comes’. That means you will rise again and rejoice again. Your drive to survive comes from a well that’s already within you, and the Lord is the One who fills that well. Let it flow! You don’t have to make it flow, just let it flow. Sixteenth-century English clergyman and historian Dr Thomas Fuller said, ‘if it were not for hope, the heart would break.’- and it always comes. No matter what you’re going through right now, don’t give up until you see the morning. It’s at the end of every dark night and every broken promise – and it always comes. After every setback, betrayal, and denial – morning will surely break. Let nothing keep you from believing that! God will dry your tears and you’ll awake with a new song. One of the greatest promises in Scripture is this: ‘His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion…therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him’ (Lamentations 3:22-25 KJV). Yesterday ended last night. It’s a new day, so make up your mind to enjoy it!

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Be Patient

‘When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow so let it’ James 1:2-4 TLB

You’re closer than you know to becoming the person God wants you to be. By His enabling grace, you’ll make it through this trial and come out stronger and wiser. Paul says, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 NKJV). God is for you! That means you can do the thing you are afraid you can’t do. The prison bars you’re beating against are in your mind. And since you put them up, with God’s help you can take them down. God wants to set you free from the fearful attitudes that have held you back for so long; to release you to live up to your full potential. The right attitude can overcome almost any barrier. For example. The Bible says, ‘Love never fails’ (1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV) Why? Because love isn’t dependent on your emotions or circumstances, it’s a servant of your will. Love is a decision! Jesus said, ‘This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you’. (John 15:12 KJV). And if Jesus commands it, He will enable you to do it! Beginning is usually the hard part. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; after that it gets easier. But look out; old attitudes will try to resurface and come back stronger than ever. Don’t let them. Radio commentator Paul Harvey says, ‘You can always tell when you’re on the road to success; it’s uphill all the way’. So be patient; it will take time to get there. But anything worthwhile is worth working for.

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That’s the Good News

‘Where sin increased, grace increased…more’ Romans 5:20 NIV

Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, once visited a lawyer who was a hardened alcoholic. Confined to bed because of violent behaviour, the man had no choice but to listen to their stories of recovery. But as soon as they started talking about a ‘Higher Power’, the lawyer shook his head and said, ‘It’s too late for me. I still believe in God but I know He no longer believes in me’. How sad – and misguided! Are you worried that God won’t accept you because of your sins? You don’t have to be! Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace increased…more.’ And he should know, because before his Damascus Road conversion he was ‘Public Sinner Number One’ (1 Timothy 1:15 MSG). Afterwards God used him to reach the world with the gospel (see Acts 17:2). ‘Grace’ was so central to Paul’s message that he mentions it in the very beginning of all his epistles. That’s because he understood that by trying to stand you your own merit before a Holy God, every time you mess up you feel like a failure – unloved, unworthy, and unaccepted. Psychologists say we try to conform to the image of us that’s seen by the most important person in our lives. So can you imagine what would happen if you started seeing yourself as God sees you? The truth is, you’re His redeemed child and He sees you through the blood of Jesus, which cleanses all your sins (see 1 John 1:9). There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make Him love you less! And that’s good news.

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What’s in a Name?

‘For the battle is not yours, but God’s ‘ 2 Chronicles 20:15 KJV

When Israel was threatened by the mighty forces of Amalek at Rephidim, God gave them a supernatural victory. Realising that God was fighting the battle for them, Moses built an alter to Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord my banner. Hear His words: ‘The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’ (Exodus 14:14 NKJV). ‘Be not afraid nor dismayed…for the battle is not yours, but God’s’. Why then do you discourage yourself into defeat, trying to win the battle in your own strength? You engage in a fruitless cycle of repentance, resolutions, struggles, defeat and discouragement, which leads to more repenting. The only sort of spiritual conflict that’s ever successfully won, is the one God fights for you. He doesn’t expect you to win the battle, only to surrender to Him and let Him win it for you! ‘So am I not supposed to fight at all?’ you ask. Yes, you’re to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Timothy 6:12 KJV). Yours isn’t a battle of exhausting effort; it’s the battle of believing. ‘But am I not to wrestle like Jacob did?’ Observe two things: first, Jacob didn’t win by wrestling, he won by being rendered too weak to continue wrestling. Paul said, ‘When I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Corinithians 12:10 KJV). Second, Jacob’s victory lay in his surrender. Are you worn out from the battle – at the end of your rope? You may be just where God wants you! Let go and trust your Jehovah-Nissi to prevail for you, because ‘the battle is not yours, but God’s’.

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Do You Have this Joy?

‘This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us’ Hebrews 10:20 TLB

In the Old Testament there were more religious laws than anybody could possibly keep: over six hundred. And every time you failed, you had to offer an animal sacrifice as atonement. This resulted in people trying and failing; feeling guilty and trying harder; failing again and making more sacrifices. It was a never ending cycle. Then Jesus came and opened up ‘the fresh, new, life-giving way…for us’ to have a relationship with God. His way included forgiveness for sin, and the replacement of sacrifices with faith in Him. For many it was just too good to be true, so they kept working and trying to impress God with their goodness. Are you doing that? One Christian author writes: ‘I lived that way for years. It meant having to do everything perfectly; otherwise I was in trouble with God. Since this was an impossible standard to keep, it stole all my peace and joy. While I was trying to walk in love, I wasn’t a very loving person. I couldn’t give others what I didn’t know how to receive myself! I wasn’t receiving God’s mercy for my failures; therefore I couldn’t offer it to anybody else. I tried to follow all the rules, many that weren’t even scriptural – just things to feel guilty about. But thank God I don’t have to live that way anymore. Now I’m not working to be saved, I’m working because I am saved! My salvation isn’t based on what I do, but solely on what Jesus has done for me’. When you understand this truth, your relationship with God is no longer a job – it’s a joy.

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Celebrate your Progress

‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ Romans 12:2 AMPC

Lasting change doesn’t come through human effort, frustration, self-hatred, guilt or beating yourself up over your failures. It comes from having your mind renewed daily by the Word of God. If you’re a consistent Bible reader, you’ll grow spiritually. As you agree with God and believe what He says in His Word, you gradually begin to change. It just happens. You start to think differently, talk differently, and act differently. But you must be patient because it’s a process that develops in stages. And you must learn to enjoy life while you’re going through the transformation process. Many of us look like we’re walking a tightrope rather than a pathway of peace. No, enjoy where you are on your way to where you’re going! Don’t waste all your ‘now time’ trying to rush into the future. Jesus said that tomorrow will have challenges of its own (see (Acts 20:24 KJV). Paul wanted to be all that God called him to be – but he wanted to enjoy the process Matthew 6:34). Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘if only I didn’t have this problem, I’d be happy! What are you wrestling with? An out of control appetite? Resentment? Fearfulness? Maybe you’re saying, ‘if I could get this habit under control I’d be fine.’ Just like Israel conquered the Promised Land one city at a time, you conquer your weaknesses one day at a time. Paul said, ‘So that I might finish my course with joy’. So instead of getting discouraged about how far you still have to go, learn to celebrate your progress along the way.

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk