Faith Matters - Current Posts

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be Joyful Always

In a letter to the first century church, St. Paul told them to “Be joyful always.” The fact that it’s written in the form of a command is very significant. What we have here is not a suggestion, an encouragement or a piece of wise advice. It’s not implying that the greatest griefs of life can by easily replaced by some superficial happiness. This is the Word of God ordering us to be joyful! So, you say, “How do I do that? I can’t control how I feel.” And that’s the point exactly.
This quote is talking about actions, not feelings. Feelings can’t be commanded. Feelings are emotional responses to both what’s inside of us and to what’s happening to us on the outside. Feelings are extraordinarily difficult to control. Not even God commands us how or what to feel. But he does command us what to do. And one of those commands is to “be joyful.” Let’s compare it to going to the doctor because you feel run down and tired all the time. Your physician would not tell you to “stop feeling tired” or order you to “feel energetic.” But she might say, “Exercise 30 minutes every day.”
She knows that if you take her advice and go home and exercise, the action of exercising will have the byproduct of altering your feeling of tiredness.
Joy is an action, not an emotion. And the action of joy has the power to change our emotions.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Under the Surface

I grew up near the Atlantic Ocean and it was an important part of my childhood. To this day I have a deep love and respect for the sea. I can spend hours just watching the waves. There's a beauty and a restless excitement about it all. But when I studied the ocean in college I came to understand it very differently than the way I experienced it as a boy at the beach. As a child I saw the ocean only in terms of the waves on the surface. I delighted in plunging in and trying to swim around. Some days it was too rough to risk and other days it was as calm as a pitcher of milk.
It was in a college classroom that I began to understand that you can't make a surface judgment of the ocean. I learned that the life of the sea is far more determined by the deep currents than the surface waves. Miles below the surface there’s a stability that no hurricane can stir. So, do not try to understand the Atlantic or the Pacific by what you see on the surface, but by studying what flows beneath.
And so it is with this thing we call Christian joy. It is not directly tied to whatever storm is stirring up the surface of our lives. Joy is who we are and what we believe. To be joyful is to choose God’s reality for the deep currents of our lives, rather than having life controlled by the turmoil of circumstances on the surface.