The Bible tells us to rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4). This is very difficult, because we often find ourselves in circumstances that are not so delightful. Nonetheless, no matter what is going on in our lives, our heavenly Father is always deserving of honor, glory, and praise. This does not change with circumstances. Whatever happens – rejoice in the Lord!
Today, remind yourself to rejoice in the Lord. Take time to praise Him for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He has promised. “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 NLT).
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” – Philippians 3:1 [NLT]
What controls you? That’s a good question and one that needs to be asked. Some will say that nothing controls them. They control themselves. But if that is the case, there is something within the person that is controlling them. Each of us are controlled.
In Romans 8, we read about those who are controlled by a sinful nature and those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit. Here we are given the two possibilities. If you are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, then you are controlled by your sinful nature. Therefore, there is such a struggle with life. If you are not being controlled by the Holy Spirit, your sinful nature controls you and this leads to death.
Today, consider what controls you. Are you controlled by your sinful nature or by the Holy Spirit? If you are controlled by the Spirit, this will lead to life and peace. If you allow the Spirit to guide you and to move freely within you, this will result in a life and peace that does not change with circumstances. This is the life only God can provide, the peace only God can give. If this is not where you are at in life, you are not Spirit-controlled.
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” – Romans 8:5-6 [NLT]
We look all over trying to have a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. We seek out delight in this world, but again and again we come up short. Temporary pleasures fade away. As we reach out for joy, we grasp glimpses of happiness that always fall short, unless we get to the source of joy itself.
The Psalmist got it! He understood that the source of our joy is God. Without God, you don’t have joy. You have something that might feel good for a while, might make you happy for a moment, but it passes. Circumstances and situations do not take away true joy, because through all the highs and lows of life, God is still present and you find your contentment in life in Him. Every time you depend upon something for joy, you will see it pass by at some point. People, feelings, situations—these things continue to change.
Today, praise the Lord, the source of joy. Ask Him to help you build your life upon His foundation. Let Him move freely in your life. Put your hope in Him. The fruit of joy will grow stronger in your life, and this with be contagious. Praise Him! He is the source of all your joy!
“There I will go to the altar of God, to God–the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God! Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!” – Psalm 43:4-5 [NLT]
Does God want you to be happy? That is a question we could spend a lot of time considering. Does God want YOU to be happy? We often hear people say God wants you to be happy. But when you look at the Bible and try to find this idea of God wanting His children to be happy, there is a disconnect. Why? The issue is in the word “happy.” The word is talking about an emotion, a temporary emotion.
Being happy is something that happens for a moment, sometimes shorter or longer than others. This is a small thing. It is great to be happy. I love being happy. But it does not take much time before the emotions change. God wants us to have joy. This is different. This is better than being happy. We get so fixated on our thinking and we cannot understand the bigger, greater thoughts of God. But we can see in His Word that He speaks of this joy we can have—this joy that is greater than a happiness that comes and goes based on circumstances.
Joy is something we can only experience through Jesus Christ. We read in 1 Peter that this is a “glorious, inexpressible joy.” We also know that this joy is something that no one can take from us (John 16:22). It is not based on circumstances. It is not something that changes; it remains. Isaiah 35:15 speaks of the glory of Zion, and the everlasting joy which will crown our heads. Today, rather than seeking out temporary happiness, instead, reach out for He Who offers us inexpressible joy, peace beyond understanding, and everlasting love. Why settle for happiness?
“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” – 1 Peter 1:8 [NLT]
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” – John 16:22 [NLT]
Yesterday I attended a family picnic and I got ketchup in my hair. My uncle made me a cheeseburger and I topped it with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup. The wind was crazy. I believe what happened was ketchup dripped to my plate and the plate flew into my hair. I remember having to catch it a few times. When that ketchup was in my hair, I could not stop messing with my hair. It became my primary focus. I wanted so badly to get it out of my hair, though I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there I would have been none the wiser.
When we have problems in life we do the same thing too often. We know about the problem and we focus on the problem. We continue to think about the problem. We continue to consider the need to fix the problem. It almost becomes an obsession. If the problem is small, we spend our time figuring out how we will resolve the issue. If it is a bigger issue or something we do not have the means to fix alone, we continue to look at the problem as an impossible hurdle and depression sets in soon after. Sometimes we make ourselves sick as we continue to fixate on our current circumstances.
Just as I should not have been so focused on the ketchup in my hair (it was only a little ketchup and there is a thing called shampoo), we cannot be problem focused. We have a God Who is a God of the impossible. Our focus, whether we have no pressing problems or we are buried knee deep in problems, should always be on God. When He is our focus, when He is first in our life, then our circumstances, our struggles, our problems won’t control us, depress us, or weaken us. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” Do you know what is so awesome about that verse? The word keep is “natsar” which means “to watch” or “guard.” The word for peace is “Shalom,” which means “completeness” or “peace.” The word for perfect is also “Shalom.” This verse says if we are fixed on God, if we trust in Him, we will be kept (watched, guarded) so that we are in completeness and peace.
Today when I was walking my dog, he was charged by another dog. I was prepared for the situation; however, because the same dog owner allowed this to happen weeks ago. Last time, he had let his Golden Retriever run loose and the dog came and snapped at my dog. This time, he left his German Shepherd loose, and although there was no snapping, I was not a happy camper at the second episode of negligence.
In life we will meet a person who will do something that irritates us, that hurts us or something that is wrong. We will throw our hands in the air (or sometimes our fists) and demand change. We will get angry. We will say words (sometimes words that are not positive, life speaking words). We will be frustrated by these people who do not do what we want them to do; however, we cannot expect them to change and act as we wish. Nor can we expect someone to follow the commands of God.
I was mad at this man today. He has proven twice that he cannot handle his dogs. The first time I was upset. I was injured. My dog was frightened. It was not a good situation. This second time, though prepared for it, was just as bad. Even so, some people will not change. We can only control our reactions to a situation—not someone else. It is how you react to any given situation that says something about you. I know I do not always react as I should, but I also know that over the years, the Holy Spirit has helped me to react better to each given situation. Don’t let situations and circumstances control you. React with love.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 [NLT]