For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17) As Christians our joy should be “full.” We should have “joy unspeakable”. So why are so many Christians living short of that promise? Many of us look for that joy sometime in the distant future when we leave this earth by either rapture or death. We think our lot in life is to suffer and live in misery waiting on the promise. Some believers substitute the true joy of the Lord with self-righteousness or false humility, getting a fake joy out of their performances. Even this doesn’t last; they soon can’t keep the performance up and fall into shame and guilt. Others give up completely and turn to the world and fulfill lusts that bring only temporary happiness and never joy. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus found joy in what was “set before him”, joy that allowed him to suffer on the cross. What was that joy? I believe it was the salvation of the world- saving of lost souls, the reconciling of all back to the Father. Only one thing could have kept him from receiving that joy, and that would have been giving in to his flesh. Satan tempted Jesus to do just that, a way contrary to God’s plan, but Jesus refused. We too have to crucify our flesh. We talk about how the Jews, the Centurions, Rome and even ourselves, killed Jesus. All are true. However, Jesus performed the TRUE Crucifixion (of his flesh) in the Garden… before a soldier ever touched a spike. He cried out to the Father in his hour of flesh sweating blood in his battle! In the end, HE crucified his flesh by saying, “not my will, Father, but yours.” Jesus received his joy! He chose to receive it! We do the crucifying, with God’s strength and help, and God gives us the joy! That joy is in conquering sin in our lives and leading others to Jesus. If Jesus’ joy was in the saving of souls, shouldn’t ours be too? Time is winding down. Can’t you feel how it is flying by! Are you crucifying your flesh, ridding your life of sin? Are you feeding your spirit with The Word? Are you building yourself up with your heavenly language? When the “shaking” begins, will you be able to stand? Are you “planting, watering and harvesting” souls? True revival is a heart hot on fire, in love, with God. But it is also the burning desire to see others come to the Father. Revival won’t happen without both. Where is your heart today?
Heb 12:1-27 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Our enemies are not made of flesh and blood. We all know that right? We’ve heard it preached, taught and we’ve read it ourselves in God’s word. People are not our enemies. But, honestly, that is hard to remember at times. We can be so easily irritated by that one person (or sometimes several different people). I have found myself, more times than I am comfortable admitting to, wanting to “lay hands on” someone because of their words or actions and it had nothing to do with prayer or imparting gifts! Or as my grandson likes to say “give them a five knuckle sandwich.” It’s easier to see the carrier, the messenger, than the real enemy. Our enemy is Satan. He comes to only kill, steal and destroy. He and his minions are spirit and can only operate through people. My pastor uses the term, “principalities that use personalities.” That person that antagonizes, manipulates, irritates, brings division and harm, is operating under the influence, and sometimes control, of an evil spirit and most of the time they aren’t even aware of that fact. There are those occasions that the only enemy is our own human nature, our own flesh, but we will leave that for another day.
There have been times that we have been hurt, or worse, had to watch a loved one be crushed under abusive behavior. We have all been affected by or witness to bullying, unfair treatment, discrimination and all of those other ugly behaviors, all products of the fallen world we live in. They stem from anger, bitterness, pride, selfishness and straight from the pit of hell. So how do we keep things in perspective? How do we not lash out in anger and revenge at those who have hurt, or continue to hurt us? How do we look past the flesh and blood person and see the evil lurking behind? First, we have to accept God’s love in our lives, His love for us and His love for others, including that person who has you wanting to behave in an ungodly way. We need to renew our minds, wash it out, with God’s word (Romans 12:2). When we love God’s law we aren’t easily offended (Psalm 119:165). When we stand on God’s word, write it on the tablets of our hearts and we allow God to fill us with His love we are slow to judge and quick to forgive. Love covers a multitude of sins, so it allows us to overlook some of the behavior (Proverbs 6:12). Another way that we can overlook the flesh is to remember at one time we were just like they were. There is a reason they are called “the lost”. We were unloving, backbiting, selfish children of our father, the devil.
Quite often the ones that hurt us the most are our own loved ones, family members, spouses, our Church family. Some are even professing Christians (I would say they may still have a lot of their carnal nature there, living by their senses). How do we handle that? First off remember that they are not the enemy! If someone has offended you, we are supposed to go to them. That can be harder than asking someone to forgive you, I know. Occasionally, you will find that they never intended to hurt and didn’t realize they even did. Sometimes they know they did, but refuse to admit fault or ask for forgiveness. If it’s a big deal, ask for leaders to help with the situation, if it is not a major thing, just shake the dust off of your feet and move on. Forgiveness isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. You choose to forgive, whether they ever admit fault or not, and let your emotions catch up. When the behavior is continued, and the relationship is toxic, forgive, but don’t stay in relationship with that person. God never intended for abusive behavior to be part of a family. Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from people and their sin. Don’t be a part of sinful behavior. Forgiving isn’t saying what they did was acceptable or that you will allow the behavior to continue in your life. You are just letting the junk go out of your own heart and refusing to hold it against them. Forgive, but move on! Let go of the anger, hurt and pain and allow God to heal. Satan hates that. He loses the battle when you forgive.
I am not saying this is all easy! From time to time, we will all face the enemy with the face of a friend, or at least a human face. But look past that face of flesh and see the evil lurking behind. Rebuke the devil; arrest his plans in your life and the life of the person he is using. Our enemy is not a person with a different opinion, skin color, doctrine, faith or beliefs. Our enemy isn’t the rapist, murderer, adulterer or even that grouchy neighbor next door. Pray for those who seem to be your enemy, the person who is being used by Satan. Pray for those who despitefully use you. Be kind to those who have the enemy working in them. This heaps coals on the head of our true enemy. Love the un-loveable. Forgive those who have hurt you. Our enemy is spirit and must be fought with spiritual weapons. We use God’s word. How does he feel about that person, the situation, your reaction? Use the blood of Jesus. Plead the blood over your life and the life of that person who has hurt you. Testify of God’s goodness. What He is doing, has done, how He feels about you, and how much He loves you. Praise God, it stills the enemy and the avenger (makes him shut up and stop his attack.) Be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Satan hates that as well.
You’ll see it all gets easier. You’ll find yourself hurt and offended less. Your patience with people will be greater and your love stronger. Relationships will be restored. Families and Churches will have less division. We will be more careful of how we treat others. Life’s too short to hold grudges and allow bitterness to take over our lives. When we do that, Satan wins the battle and gains ground. None of us want that. The person you once saw as your worst enemy might just end up being a brother or sister in Christ. God want that. He doesn’t like their behavior any more than you do…but He LOVES them. He wants them found and accepted into the beloved.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that your may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. There for take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with the truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness. And having shod you feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18
I watched a good movie, just 26 minutes about the Tabernacle. Seeing the tabernacle was cool, but a scripture jumped out at me and I had to look it up and read the whole story. It really got me thinking. Here’s the story in a nut shell. Moses brought the people out of Egypt like God commanded him and along the way they grumbled and complained. It got so bad that at one point a guy named Korah and 250 of the “leaders”, prominent men, started thinking they could do better than Moses and Aaron. They said, “”You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” Moses set up a way that would prove to them that God chooses who He wills. There was going to be a test! The 250 men were to bring incense to burn before the Lord. Then God tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the people because He was going to just destroy them all! Moses pleads for the people and God tells them to, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ Then God caused the earth to open up and swallow those men and their families. Then God sends fire and consumes the 250 leaders who had rose up against Moses and Aaron. I think that would have been the end of the complaining, but not these stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. They continued to grumble against Moses and Aaron (God’s chosen vessels!). So a plague comes, immediately and Aaron goes between the plague and the people and only 14,700 perish. I think that would have been the end of the complaining, but not these stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. They continued to grumble against Moses and Aaron (God’s chosen vessels!).
So Moses sets up another test. They were to bring the staff of the head of each tribe, writing their names on the staff. Numbers 17:6-11 shows what happened next, “So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.” Not only did it bud, but flowered and PRODUCED FRUIT! Was God saying that Aaron was perfect? NO! Aaron was a human with all of our messed up ways, but Aaron was CHOSEN of God to lead the people. I found it interesting that the ones who “rose up against” Moses and Aaron were all LEADERS! How many times have we seen people in leadership begin to think that they know better than the Pastor?
Now I come to the part of the movie that got me thinking. They show all the contents of the Ark of the Covenant. Each item put there as a reminder of something. The jar of Manna was there to remember God’s willingness to provide for His people. The stone tablets, a reminder of God’s covenant with His people and Aaron’s staff “to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Only three things were placed in the Ark. All VERY important, enough so that God wanted them preserved and handed down for generations. They are still in the Ark! This tells me how important it is that we honor and respect those that God has placed over us as our “Mother’s and Father’s in the Lord.” We don’t judge them as more than human, expect them to be perfect and without flaw! We honor the call, the anointing, the Gift! When we grumble and complain about them, God gets mad! He wanted to destroy everyone, not just the men who rose up against Moses and Aaron! Don’t allow yourself to think that someone else could do a better job, or God forbid that YOU could do a better job! God chooses who He wills! If someone else wants you to jump on their wagon of “discontent” refuse. Don’t even give place to the devil. Yes, he is the one, who sets our flesh on edge against our leaders. Tell him to shut-up, and crucify your flesh. Ask God where you are called to, who you are called under, and stay, support and respect His decision. Period!
I’ve often wondered about “tests” by God. Some religions believe that God “tests the hearts of men” to see if they will be true to Him. I always had a problem with that. God is omniscient; He knows everything, all the time. He knows…all at the same time… the past, present and future. He knows the thoughts and intents of men’s hearts. He knows the beginning from the end. So- He knows our hearts better than we do. He doesn’t just “read” our minds. He knows what we are going to think, before the thought comes into our head! So my conclusion is the “testing” isn’t for His benefit, so He can find something out about us. I think the trials and tests help US to discover things about HIM, (and ourselves). 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it-and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return.” God knows how much faith I have, so this scripture is telling me that these trials are to show me how much faith I have, or don’t have.
Each trial I have gone through has taught me more about the Father. Coming through financial problems showed me how much He wants to provide for me. When I stumble, I find out how much He loves me and that He is quick to forgive. When I come through an illness, I know Him as Healer. I am so glad that God is NOT grading my “tests”! Just think if He was like a school teacher. I used to give grades to my pupils to determine their grasp or their understanding of the subject, whether or not they have paid attention in class, studied their information, and their effort put forth. If they have done well and mastered the information I give them an “A”! If they didn’t make the effort, or didn’t pay attention, refused to read the information that I presented to them, they earn a lower score, sometimes an “F” for FAIL. God gives us what is known as a “Pass/Fail”. Even if we haven’t really paid attention (in church, or to the Holy Spirit), even if we don’t read our information (God’s Word), even if we don’t study (Pray in tongues, or praying at all) as much as we should, we can still “Pass” the test. Of course some people do fail. They forsake God and turn back to the world for answers.
I love taking Tests in the natural, always have. Love to learn new things. But in the spiritual, if I got to vote, I’d say no to tests. If God had been giving me letter grades, based on my performance, I believe they would have been maybe some “B’s”, several “C’s” and unfortunately a lot “D’s”! I’ve never failed. Praise God for His patience and grace! But I’ve never earned an “A”. Talk about an embarrassing report card! But these tests have “purified” me, helped me to draw closer to Him. To rely on God. I have learned how important it is to listen, pray and read the word. Not as busy work, or as an obligation, but as a way of getting more intimate with God. So…am I “counting it all joy” as James said? Well maybe not all the time, sometimes I just get frustrated. But I am getting better. I won’t be asking God to test me, but when He does, I WILL be paying attention!
I had to ask myself today, “Do I have joy in my life?” Not happiness, which is a fickle friend, but that inner joy in my spirit. You know the joy that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. My honest answer is “not as often as I should”, and some days, (especially lately, as our family is going through a trail), I have to admit, “not very often.” It is so easy to allow the mundane experiences of our lives, or the frustrating circumstances chase away our joy. But, if joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then how does that happen? I believe it is when we lose our gratitude. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, especially if those around us are hurting. Or to simply lose patience with our dreams because they seem so slow in coming.
Even in the midst of hard situations, we can maintain a thankful heart. Sometimes we get stuck in the ‘thank-you-for” rut where we rattle off our tiny list, you know the same one every time. Mine includes, hubby, kids, grandkids, food I eat, house, cars and Church, or pretty close. That just shows we are either in a hurry, or can’t see past our nose. When we slow down and make the effort to be thankful, we can see so many things, people, places that touch our lives. A few examples: a babies smile, doesn’t even have to by your baby, any baby smiling, the smell of lilacs on a damp spring morning. Then there are those things that we really aren’t too thankful for. This category is hard for me, shoveling snow, giving the dog a bath, dealing with that one person who rubs me the wrong way. Yes, we need to be thankful for those things. God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and part of that plan is for us to work hard, love people, be a witness at our jobs.
It seems like the last few months, my family has been under it. Most due to some poor choices of one family member and the rest either come along with the territory, or just because we have a real enemy. So though it’s been tough, I have still been able to find joy in the middle of it all. If I was a spiritual superhero, I could say I held onto my joy the whole time, but sadly I am not. I can say that I know right were to find it. Because in all truthfulness, despite what I said earlier, nothing can chase or steal our joy away. We lay it down, sometimes absentmindedly, like a spare pair of reading glasses. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasured for evermore.” We find our joy in the presence of God. Simple really. Sometimes we willingly lay down our joy to trade it for fleeting happiness or satisfaction. Usually that comes out of willful sin, which includes harboring bitterness, and nursing un-forgiveness. We lay down our joy when we disobey God.
How do we hold on to our joy? By being thankful, a heart full of gratitude. When we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, His promises, His goodness, and remember those who have gone before us, we can keep that unspeakable joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-3 “therefor, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrances and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of he throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and love heart.”