I had just thrown a little book (this book) I was reading against the wall and cried out loud in frustration,
"God, just tell me what to do!"
I sat down, put my hands to my face and let the tears fall. My wife, Ann, was taken aback. This is not normally the way I conduct myself. In fact, I may have thrown 3 objects total out of desperate anger. That book and maybe two pens (maybe 4). Yes, my season has been more weepy than usual, and, yes, more depressed in a non-technical sense of the term. But, rage? Where did that come from?
Why was I so frustrated? What was the tipping point? What mindset was I in that released that type of pent up vexation?
I had forgotten life's never-ending, number one priority:
I had been failing to rejoice in the LORD always.
When Paul wrote from his prison cell to the Church at Philippi, he was surely not in a situation that would have elicited a natural joy. Yet, many concur that the letter to the Philippians is Paul's most joyful and optimistic letter. Here are some excerpts:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me... (1:4-7)
17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (1:17-18)
17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (2:17-18)
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! (3:1)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (4:4)
Paul is in chains rejoicing. He is rejoicing about the false teachers who preach Christ out of selfish ambition, the Philippians who are in Christ, and his ability to be poured out to God like a drink offering.
When is the last time you rejoiced because you were "being poured out like a drink offering" in service to God and others?
So, how did Paul do this? How did Paul live through the "loss of all things" (Phil. 3:8) in his life and still have the ability to rejoice in the LORD always? Simply put: the Spirit of God empowered him to rejoice in the knowledge, beauty and love of God in every season he faced. Whether Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, well-supplied, or destitute, he was rejoicing.
But, it wasn't only God's sovereign empowerment that allowed Paul to rejoice despite his many difficult situations. Paul had a choice. Paul developed a mindset. Paul made it his habit to find ways to rejoice in the LORD in all times and circumstances. He had learned a secret that I had forgotten in my surprising rage against the little book. His secret is discussed in Philippians 4.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (4:10-13)
Paul learned how to rejoice in God's sovereignty and goodness in each new situation he faced, whether difficult or easy.
What I had been failing to cultivate in the weeks leading up to my little book-throwing meltdown was the desire and delight of praising and worshiping God. If you are like me, you can relate to the desire to go, go, go and achieve, achieve, achieve. And in this going and achieving, I can tend to neglect the state of my emotions. I run and leave my heart behind, only to realize a little down the road that I need that little guy with me.
And so do all of us. We all need to slow down enough for our hearts to come with us. We need to tend to our hearts like master gardeners. We do this by constantly cultivating a joy in God above all things.
If God is not our highest joy in this season, if His presence is not enthralling, if his praise is not sweet on our lips, if prayer is rote, if Bible reading is a going-through-the-motions exercise in spiritual discipline...then we must stop and do whatever it takes to recover our heart's delight in God. Until we do, we will continue to drift and spiral down into the despair of a "life" that is disconnected from the True Vine of Jesus Christ.
So, how do we cultivate a joy in God?
Here are five of any number of ways that we can cultivate joy in God and learn the secret of spiritual contentment.
We pray for it. Pray daily for God to increase your joy in Him.
We read the Bible with an expectant heart. Study the Bible and look for ways to rejoice in the character of God and the wisdom of His works.
We take the time to rejoice in Creation's beauty. Stop and smell the roses, appreciate the sunset, dance in the rain or feel the breeze.
We take the time to rejoice in all the senses. Eat slowly, and listen to the wonderful voices of your loved ones.
- We develop an awareness and appreciation for the combination of God's goodness, power and sovereignty. If God is all good, all powerful, and all sovereign, then your life is a demonstration of His best life for you. Today is all you have; God has positioned you to rejoice in Him today.
Pick one of these to focus on the next few days and see the fruit of joy it bears in your life.
Your Joyful Leadership Coach,
How do you rejoice in the LORD always?
Comment below or message me.
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