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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Do You Enjoy Life?

Do You Enjoy Life?
Jesus promises believers that He will give us joy and peace.  Joy and peace are found in believing.  Jesus said: “I have spoken these things to you that My joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.”  (John 15:11) God wants His children to enjoy life. Life is meant to be a celebration!  Have fun, be thankful and sing praises!  The Bible says: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we are promised is the gift of joy! But we must decide to open up our gift and enter in to our joy!  Hold on to it and never let it go!  Our joy can be stolen away from us, you know.  We need to watch for all the thieves of joy!  Every gift that Jesus provides, Satan tries to steal. Be on guard.  Scripture tells us that “the thief (Satan) comes to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus comes that we might have and enjoy life.” (John 10:10) There is a spiritual battle going on here on earth.
Regret is one of the things that steals our joy.  We have regrets about choices we made in the past and we dread what may happen to us in the future.  God promises to forgive our sins and mistakes from the past and He asks us to receive His forgiveness and move on.  To receive is to believe. Christ took away our sins, so receive and believe it. Faith in God through Christ is the same as believing. God calls us to a faith walk. Have faith that God forgives you just as the Bible tells us that He does.  Great joy is found in believing.
Dread and fear of the future can also steal our joy.  There are so many things to fear.  Death, sickness, accidents, money troubles, rejection, war, the list goes on and on.  How do we enjoy life when there are so many things to worry about?  God, our heavenly Father answers this. 
God promises us that He will go before us and that He will always be with us and take care of us and help us.  Scripture says: “Fear not, for I am with you, be not afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.”  (Isaiah 41:10)   God’s Word also promises that Jesus is our Pioneer. He goes out ahead of us and makes a way for us.  (Hebrews 2:10) Believing God’s promises brings you into His rest. Hold on to these glorious promises and never let them go!
Joy is never released if you don’t believe but it is always released when you do believe. Scripture says: “But without faith it is impossible to please God.  For whoever would come near to God must believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)   And Jesus calls to us with these words: “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) 
When we believe in Christ, along with the gift of salvation, we are given many more gifts!  One of our gifts is joy.  Scripture says: “But the gifts (fruits) of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23) Believe and receive! 
Jesus said: “This is the work (service) that God asks of you, that you believe…” (John 6:29) Our work, our job, our mission in life and our service to God is to believe!  It’s that simple! As the words of the old famous hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ goes: “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling!” 
Being given salvation along with all of these amazing gifts (love, joy, peace, etc.) sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? That is probably why many people never believe.  We humans try to complicate our lives.  We think we are too intellectual to believe something that glorious and simple. We think we need to “earn” our salvation, work for it, get special indulgences, be better than others. But our job is to believe.  Believe in Christ as Savior and Lord.  It’s that simple!
But God’s plan for us is called the “gospel” or the “good news” His plan is so good and so simple that we can easily miss it!  Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not accept and receive the kingdom of God as a little child does shall not enter it. “(Luke 18:17) A little child simply trusts her parent to take care of her.  A little child simply believes what his parents tell him.  Jesus says that we are to be like a little child.  Put our lives in His hand and trust Him.  It’s that simple!
After we believe and accept Christ, we can still be hit with doubts.  Once we hear the Word and believe it, do we continue to believe without wavering?  We need to make a simple decision to believe and keep on believing. God is holding onto us (Jude 24), but we must be willing to let Him hold on.. The Bible says that every person is given a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3) Faith is also a gift.  But we need to use it.
Scripture tells us that we need to pray to God believing that He hears us and will answer.  But James 1:6-8 says that a double-minded person is unstable in all of his ways and he should not think that he will receive what he asks for when he prays to God. What does this passage of Scripture mean?  The Bible tells us that our prayers are powerful and that God answers them.  But this passage says that we must not ask God and expect answers if we are of two minds. 
Perhaps this “two minds” problem means that if the Christian faith we have in our heart and the secular beliefs we have in our head are opposite, then we will not see what we half way believe come to pass.  We believe in our heart that God will answer our prayer but our mind has negative, doubtful and unbelieving thoughts which go against the beliefs we hold our heart. If our mind and our heart are not in agreement then this passage seems to say that we cannot count on having our prayer answered.  It would seem that God wants our heads (our reasoning and our intellect) to believe His promises too and not just give them lip service.  We can have peace and joy when we can believe in our rational mind as well as in our heart that God will answer our prayers.  Believe that our deepest trouble is in God’s hands and He will take care of it in due time.
How can we Christians rejoice and believe that God will take care of our deepest troubles when really “bad” things happen to “good” people. My husband and I went to the movies this week to see “All Saints”. This movie is a true story about how God answered the prayers of a Christian pastor and his church.  This Episcopal church in Tennessee had once been a large loving thriving church, but now there were only a few members left. They loved their church and prayed and asked God to help them pay the bills and keep their church doors open.  But the little church was going bankrupt and the bishop and elders of the church had decided to sell the property and close the church doors.
Nearby there were a group of Burmese Christian refugees who needed help in finding jobs and learning the English language and integrating into the U.S. society.  One night when the church’s pastor was walking in the fields around the church praying, he felt that God spoke to him and told him to take the Burmese refugees in and house and feed them.  The Burmese refugees could help the church congregation farm the acres of land around the church.   Perhaps they could pay off their bankruptcy and keep the doors of their beloved church open. 
You will need to see the movie “All Saints” to get the exciting details. Let’s just say that the church people agreed to take in the Burmese refugees and they all started a farm on the land around the church.  But, If God actually did tell the pastor to start a farm with the Burmese Christian refugees, wouldn’t God see them through and give them rain so that their crops would grow?    
The movie ends with the bishop and elders voting to sell the church. Everyone is heartbroken! The pastor’s son asks the pastor if he knows for sure that God told him to farm the land with the refugees.  And the pastor answered that he didn’t know for sure.  Then the son asked his father/pastor why God didn’t send the rain like they thought He would.  And again, the pastor answered that he didn’t know the answer to that either.
So many times, throughout life we may find ourselves in the same situation as the pastor.  We don’t know for sure if God told us to do something.  And other times in life we believe that God should answer our prayers a certain way, and He doesn’t.  Our answers to those questions would be the same as the pastors – we don’t know!  In this life, we walk by faith and not by sight. Just as the little church in Tennessee was closing its doors for the last time, God came through in a most surprising way.  The church was saved, its’ doors are still open and now the church is packed with hundreds of new members.  If you walk the “faith walk” with God He will most likely have surprises for you too. 
Some of the ideas for this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book: “Enjoy Where You Are on the Way to Where You Are Going.”

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