February 25, 2005
Encouragement for Today

Joy for the Journey - Part 2
Mary Southerland, Director of Development, Author and Speaker mary@proverbs31.org

Key verse

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NLT)

Devotion:

Not long ago my husband said something that was profoundly simple and yet life changing for me.  "My first prayer each day is my confession to God that I want everything He has for me.  I want it all!"  I can just see the Father's face smiling at those words from a faithful heart.  Our thirst for God pleases Him. Our hunger for God's richest blessings brings Him pleasure.  God wants us to thrive - not merely survive life.  A continual feast of joy - with every breath we take - that is His plan.  Laughter and joy are treasures from God, valuable to us for many reasons.

Joy heals
Joy makes us strong
Joy makes the ordinary special.

Joy eliminates tension!

Laughter and joy can take a tense situation and disarm it!  When I prepared my first lesson on joy and laughter, Dan was out of town.  The kids were young and bedtime was a major hurdle.  I knew that several hours of study were ahead of me and was desperately trying to get both children into bed and asleep in order to complete the lesson!  I had sweetly - very sweetly - explained that I needed their help. I had made it very clear that I had to prepare a lesson and they could really help me by going to sleep. They were not cooperating! Before I go any further, let me just say I am fully aware that my behavior that night did not meet the criteria for being a successful mom. I have my moments!  With each giggle and whisper from the children who were supposed to be asleep, my frustration level rose higher and higher. Finally, I marched into their rooms, hands on hips, icy stare in place and demanded silence! My son's innocent question was a show-stopper!  "Mom, what is your lesson about?" Through gritted teeth, I growled, "Joy and laughter, son."  The words just dangled in mid-air, exposing my absurd heart motive.  Jered looked at me.  I looked at him.  We both turned to look at Danna. Like a volcano erupting, laughter spilled out of our hearts, washing away the tension, while covering the circumstance with joy.  When we had laughed it all out, they went to sleep and I wrote the lesson on joy - learned at the feet of my children.

Many times, tension comes when we face circumstances that are simply beyond our control.  And I don't know about you, but have you noticed lately just how little control we really do hold?  How much energy we waste attempting to control that which cannot be controlled.  Joy is lost in the struggle for power and supremacy.  And that, my friend, is the root of a joy-less life.  We battle for control of life instead of giving up control to God, the only one who can do anything about life.  I often wonder how our journey would change if we realized and practiced the truth that if there is no control, there is no responsibility!  So we might as well laugh!

I read of a young mother who posted this sign in her home:

TICDAABGC
"Things I Can't Do Anything About But God Can."

Underneath these words, she made a list of each circumstance and problem that she could not change!  That is choosing a perspective of joy. Laughter and joy diffuse tension!

Joy reproduces itself!

In his book to the Romans, Paul delivers a simplistic but powerful message to each one of us, "Whoever has the gift of encouraging others should encourage. Whoever has the gift of giving to others should give freely. Anyone who has the gift of being a leader should try hard when he leads. Whoever has the gift of showing mercy to others should do so with joy."  Romans 13:8 (NCV)

Joy spreads quickly!  People are drawn to joy!  Think with me for a moment about the people in your life who bring you joy.  If you are like me, when you need encouragement or just some plain old fun, there are certain people who come to mind.  What an honor!  To be thought of as a "joy builder".  Joy is the signature of a true believer.  Because we know God, our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outer circumstances. Joy reigns within us - solid, unchanging and eternal, flowing from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is Joy!  And because He never changes, our joy is fixed.  The problem is that we live as if life can change God.  It can't.  Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  (NIV)

"Joyful believers have no trouble convincing people around them that Christianity is real and that Christ can transform a life.  JOY is the flag that flies above the castle of their hearts, announcing that the KING is in residence".

These days, I find myself avoiding the whiners who love to sneak into my life, crushing and stealing my joy!  I am in the process of learning a very important truth.  Here it is, friends.   We set the joy level in our lives!  Unspeakable and immeasurable joy is available through the presence of Jesus Christ but is set free by our choice, our "life setting".  When it comes to joy, we need to be thermostats instead of thermometers!  What is the joy level of your life?  Maybe it is time to check that thermostat! 

My prayer for today:

Father, I praise you because you are the author and finisher of my faith, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega!  You are my all in all, my light and my joy!  Because you came, I can celebrate life.  Lord, help me to feast on you and your presence in my life.  Amen.

Application steps:

Begin a joy journal.  In a spiral notebook, record the "joy-moments" in every day.  Start looking for God's hand in your daily life and record your praises each night.  I encourage you to, at the end of the week, look back to see God at work. 

Reflection points:

What has been the focus of my life?  How has that focus affected my life journey?  What changes do I need to make in order to live a joy-filled life?

Power verses:

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

LORD, accept my grateful thanks and teach me your laws.  Psalm 119:108 (NLT)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT)

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Psalm 105:1 (NIV)

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his love and for the miracles he does for people.  Psalm 107:8 (ICB)

Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  Philippians 4:6 (NCV)

Additional resources

Building a Life of Joy (tape set) by Mary Southerland
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/stressset.html

Journey of a Woman's Heart (tape set) by Renee Swope
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/journey.html

Message of the Month Club by Proverbs 31 Speaker Team
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/messageclub.html