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These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full . . . Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. John 15:11; 16:20 NKJV
With every occasion of sadness and sorrow, you must locate your faith and refuse to allow sorrow or trouble to steal your joy. When circumstances steal your joy, metaphorically, it’s like you’re “running on empty in an automobile.” And, when you’re running on empty, without refueling, you’ll eventually run out and become sad or depressed. But if you do, don’t pretend to be happy in the face of your pain and sorrow; with the joy of the Lord, you can turn your sorrow into joy that no man or nothing can ever take from you.
Jesus said some things to His disciples so that His joy would remain in them, and in turn, their joy would be full. But what had Jesus spoke? He outlined least two powerful principles: (1) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); and then, (2) “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7-8).
Fruit is the product of plant growth, and joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). To abide in Him is to dwell in Him; grow in Him; and, to stay present in Him regardless circumstances that may bring sadness and sorrow. The joy that Jesus gives through His abiding Word becomes full—complete—when it remains; thus , becoming your joy—joy that it isn’t diverted, distracted, or interrupted by test and trials (John 16:24).
Unlike happiness, which can be faked or be a pretense, joy is a fruit of the Spirit and a spiritual force. It is birthed inside the human heart, manifested in cheerfulness, delight and gladness that remains unchanged regardless of circumstances. So, how do you turn your sorrow into joy? First you must be committed to rejoicing everyday (Psalm 118:24); then, when sorrow and trouble comes to steal your joy, you’ll need a consciousness of joy, and as an act of your will, you must mentally shift from sorrow to consider the joy that Jesus had when He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2); thus, you’ll be shifting from your sorrow to the feel the joy of the Lord (See John 16:20-22 and Nehemiah 8:10). Turn your sorrow into joy!
[I]n everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV
Never allow a circumstance or situation stop you from being grateful. No, you shouldn’t thank God for everything bad that happens, but rather, thank God in everything. Why? Remember God’s promise to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience . . . let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). When you’re “perfect and entire”, you have ascended higher in the things of God. It’s your attitude of gratitude that determines your altitude, spiritually speaking.
Evil things like viral pandemics, sickness, and suffering are allowed by God, but they don’t come directly from God; neither do feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. So why would you thank God for any of it? When evil circumstances rare their ugly heads, you can still be thankful in it for two reasons: (1) you can be grateful for God’s presence (Ps. 16:11); (2) and, be grateful knowing that God will accomplish His good, notwithstanding the circumstance (Rom. 8:28). Bottom line: it is the will of God, according to His pleasure and purpose that you have an attitude of gratitude, so stay submitted and humble to His Word and He will lift you up, higher and higher! (Jas. 4:7, 10).
Gratitude is a force that works much like the Law of Lift. In Physics, the science of matter, motion, energy and force, Lift is the Third Law of Physics that explains how birds and airplanes achieve lift in order to fly. For example, “the wing of the airplane must change something of the air to get lift. To generate lift, the wing must divert lots of air down, then the lift of the wing becomes equal to the change in the momentum of the air it diverts (Newton). You can change the “air of your circumstances” with gratitude, which will divert the “bad air” of your circumstance down; rather than allowing the circumstance to get you down, with gratitude and thanksgiving, the Lord will lift you up!
Social scientists and mental health therapists are now saying that one of the best ways to overcome feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression is to feel gratitude (Psychology Today). Circumstances and stuff happens in life; they really come with living your life (Phil. 4:11-13). But be grateful. To be grateful is to count your blessings, not your problems; give thanks for the abundance of all of the good things that God has ready blessed you with (Deut. 28:47).
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
There’s a song that we sang in the “old church”—the church of my upbringing, entitled: “I Woke Up this Morning with My Mind, Stayed on Jesus.” What was the import of that song? Well, a stayed mind is a mind at perfect peace; a single mind; a sound mind; and, a strong mind—a mind that leans and depends upon the Lord and takes hold of the unchanging truth of His Word (Ps. 119:160; Matt. 24:35).
A stayed mind will love God above all else at all times (Matt. 22:37). Nothing is more important even in the face of a crisis, test or trial. You love God with your entire mind, i.e., intellect and deep thoughts (Phil. 2:5), with your imagination (Eph. 3:20), and with understanding (2 Tim. 1:7). On the other hand, an unstayed mind is a double mind (Jas. 1:8). A double mind is a two spirited mind, vacillating in opinion and purpose; a mind that is unstable mentally and spiritually. In the field of mental health, double-mindedness can be a symptom of Schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and to relate properly to others. Let us not be a “spiritual Schizophrenic.” God is good all the time!
Any serious challenge, crisis, or temptation that you face will reveal your state of mind. If you mind is stayed on the Lord, you will show perfect peace. If not, you’ll display your hidden hurts, or some unresolved issue in your life. But regardless of the challenge keep you mind stayed on the Lord, because a stayed-mind never gives in to circumstances (Phil. 4:6, 7). Keep your mind stayed on God’s goodness. Don’t give in to sickness and disease, financial problems and uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, depression and despair, and relationship problems. Why? Because the “Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29:11). Be encouraged and keep you mind stayed on the Lord!
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV
Beginning at salvation, we are all set on a journey called life in Christ, but life can sometimes throw a lot of contradictory and puzzling circumstances in your path. Yet as Believers, we are commanded to rejoice—not in the circumstances but in the Lord (Phil. 3:1; 4:4). But how can you rejoice if you’re hurting and in pain, sad and depressed, or suffering disappointment or lost, etc.? If this sounds like a puzzle; or if life were a puzzle, then the missing piece of the puzzle is joy. To choose life is to choose joy.
A puzzle is when you’re presented with a problem or situation that is difficult to understand or solve. It baffles and confuses your mind. For example, when God led Israel out of Egypt’s bondage with the promise of going to a promised land of milk and honey—Canaan land. But Israel encountered a number of contradictions on their journey in the wilderness, i.e., thirst, hunger, the fear of giants, infighting, and feelings of unbelief, etc. These real life experiences were very puzzling; but the missing piece of their puzzle was joy of the Lord on their journey.
Joy is choosing life and blessing over cursing and death. Jesus taught that He was life, and He came to give us life; and, His life would produce His joy in us (John 14:6; 10:10; 15:11). Israel found out in their wilderness experience that stuff happens in life that can baffle us and confuse us; thus making life feel like a puzzle. If we don’t find the missing piece to the puzzle, then we become vulnerable to feelings of sadness and depression.
Sadness, depression, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts are the path to spiritual and physical death. but remember, the fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22). Choosing joy is a life-death decision. Spiritually speaking, another definition of suicide is choosing not to live with the joy of the Lord; choosing to be safe—seeking security rather than the will of God; and, choosing the familiar and the predictable—this is what Israel did during their temptation in the wilderness of problems, adverse and fearful circumstances. They thought the puzzle would be solved just by returning back to the bondage of Egypt, where they remember the delicious foods they ate notwithstanding their slavery (Numbers 11:1-6). Israel’s missing piece of their puzzle was the joy of the Lord. They didn’t really have a problem; all they needed was the joy of the Lord!
God has revealed that joy is the path from death to life. Through forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father, we have been set on the path of joy (Luke 15:10). Joy is the path “of life” (not to life) from spiritual death to life (Psalm 16:11; Eph. 2:5). Joy is the missing piece of life’s puzzles. So, rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer. Rejoice in the Lord always (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:16).
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:22-24 NKJV
Even when Paul was in jail, jail wasn’t in Paul (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 2 Tim. 4:6-7). His resolve was: “none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy” (Text). His attitude teaches us two powerful lessons: (1) our inner attitudes don’t have to reflect our outward circumstance, (2) what we put into life is far more important than what we get out of it. The good news is that life circumstances can change but the Lord doesn’t change. So, never stop rejoicing in the Lord, because we are apart from where we are, what we do, and what we have. Whatever God’s purpose, plan, and will is for our lives, we must finish our course with joy.
Joy is the path from life to death (Psalm 16:11). How? Forgiveness and reconciliation to the Father sets us a on a path of joy (Luke 15:10). And, why do we rejoice in the Lord? At least two reasons: (1) To celebrate the fact that we are in God’s presence (2) to maintain the conscious of the presence of God. Not to realize this is to be rendered spiritually unconscious because we never leave the presence of God (Jonah 1:1-3; Psalm 139:7-8). Furthermore, God has promised everlasting joy to the redeemed of the Lord (Isaiah 35:10). Because of forgiveness and reconciliation for our past, present, and future sins, we are placed permanently at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11; John 15:11).
During our journey in life, there will be many occasions to feel something other than joy due to adverse circumstances, painful injustices, and other tests and trials, but we are called to finish our course with joy—never allowing anyone or anything break our hearts of joy (See Acts 21:10-13). On this journey, we’ll need a good start and even a stronger finish with the joy of the Lord; therefore, let us “Rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer . . . Rejoice always in Lord! (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:16).
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV
So, what is God saying in current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic), which is causing people to suffer sickness, financial problems and uncertainty, unemployment, mental and emotional breakdowns, loneliness and isolation, depression and marital problems, spousal abuse and child abuse, and even substance abuse? God is saying, “[I] will keep [you] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [God].”
We can’t avoid conflict and problems in this uncertain world, but with God, we can be at peace even in the midst of this pandemic, affliction and persecution, chaos and confusion. When we are faithful in our relationship with God, our whole attitude can be healthy, stable and steady, supported by God’s unchanging hand of love and His mighty power. And, if we keep our thoughts on God and trust in Him, we can have, not just peace but perfect peace!
Perfect Peace is double peace (Shalom Shalom, Hebrew Text). It’s peace upon peace; it is to feel wholly peaceful and safe, happy and healthy, well and prosperous; and to feel all is well. The Bible speaks of two kinds of peace: peace of God (Text) and peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The peace of God is your mind-set and peace with God is your heart-set and righteous standing before God. The key to perfect peace is a stayed mind, i.e., your mind leaning upon the Lord and taking hold of God by standing on His Word. A stayed mind is having a sober and healthy attitude, not disturbed by sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical or emotional problems.
Satan uses adverse circumstances to rob you of your peace— things like affliction, fear, trouble, disturbances, distractions, and inconveniences. If your mind isn’t stayed on God, these circumstance will certainly reveal hidden and unhealed hurts and other unresolved issues in your life (See Mark 4:35-41). Every crisis you face is also is an opportunity to refocus your faith and reset your relationship with God. At the core of all these problems are fear and anxiety (Phil. 4:6), but God promised perfect peace, and He “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rom. 16:20).
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe . . . Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 3:1; 4; 4 NKJV
Doesn’t it seem strange that a man unjustly in prison would be telling the church to rejoice? This is exactly what the Apostle Paul did. Paul’s attitude teaches us a powerful lesson: our inner attitudes don’t have to reflect our outward circumstance. It’s so easy to get discouraged about life’s circumstances and lose our joy—all because we’re not looking at life from the right perspective. The Word of God teaches us that God Himself is the source of our joy, and that joy is the natural state of the believer (John 15:11). Rejoicing in the Lord is imperative in believing, in living, in giving, in serving, and in suffering. Joy is our guard rail!
A guard rail is the edge of something that prevents people from falling off. For example, falling off the edge of the road while driving a car; falling off a deck or porch; falling out of a bunk bed, etc. Rejoicing in the Lord is our guard rail when faced with the adverse circumstance of life. Joy prevents us from derailing into anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc. Joy is the cheerfulness, delight, gladness we have in the Lord; it is an inward force of the Spirit of God within us; it is a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and God is: love, joy, and peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).
Love is the grace that helps us fulfils the whole law; joy and peace is the normal state of the believer; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness is the grace to help us relate to others; and, temperance is self-control—controlling our appetites, desires, and passions. Joy is not happiness, which is a state of mind based on circumstances or happenings. Joy is the guard rail that remains unchanged regardless of the circumstances; our ground for rejoicing is in the Lord not circumstances.
Paul could write to the church about rejoicing in the Lord always because that’s exactly what he did, even while imprisoned in chains (Acts 26:2, 28-29). Joy was his guard rail that prevented him from anger, depression, and hopelessness. Notwithstanding, his unjust arrest and imprisonment, joy validated Paul’s witness before, during, and after his arrest (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Because joy is also our guard rail let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12). Rejoice always (Thess. 5:16). Joy is our guard rail!
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-24 NKJV
Whether a person calls himself a Christian, religious, spiritual, or a worshipper, you cannot assume that they truly know God; and when they do worship, don’t assume that the true God is the object of their worship. To worship God in spirit and truth, you must truly know Jesus and understand the importance of faith in Him. If God is not the object of your faith, your worship is in ignorance because you worship what you do not know. The Samaritan woman—at the Jacob’s well—worshipped what she didn’t know (Text), as do so many others.
For example, in Acts 17:22-25, when the Apostle Paul came to Mars Hill in Athens, he observed that the men of Athens were very religious—having various objects of worship (idols). He even found an altar with this inscription: “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”, and was moved to proclaim to them the true God that they were ignorant of—the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands; the God who gives all men life and breath and everything else. He dispelled the big lie that “all religions are good and they all lead to heaven” (John 4:22; 14:6).
The Athenians believed in the existence of God, but they were ignorant of that God, because they didn’t have access to His revealed Word. No truth; no true worship! In ignorance, some who think that they are enlighten may still be worshipping their church legacy, the church building, the preacher, the choir or praise team, the music, and even the worship itself. In ignorance, they worship what they do not know. People are spiritually destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6).
True worship is the expression of reverence to God for who He is. It’s more than the music and the songs we sing; it’s deeper than a good feeling; it isn’t confined to a certain day and a certain place; it’s not just what we do but it is who we are. So, lose your religion and find true faith and offer God true worship. Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and worship what you know!
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:20-25 NKJV
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Father seeks a certain kind of worshipper—a true worshipper. A true worshipper worships God in spirit and truth—whenever and in whatever—in a pandemic, in a storm of life, during unemployment, a family crisis, sickness, and even death of a loved one or friend. Circumstances don’t change a true worshiper’s reason to worship, because true worship isn’t about religion; it’s all about true faith in God.
Worship is commonly defined as the expression of reverence to God for who He is. It’s more than the start and the end of a song; it’s deeper than a feeling; it isn’t confined to a Sunday worship service. It must be our first response in any circumstance when walking by faith as a lifestyle. For me, worship isn’t not just what I do, but it is who I am. So what is true worship, and what does it require?
True worship, according to the Apostle Paul, necessitates worshipping with a renewed mind. He beseeched the Roman Christians, “by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [worship]. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1, 2). Worshipping with a renewed mind involves engaging one’s body, soul, and spirit (Matt. 22:37), with the help of the Holy Spirit, according to the truth of God’s Word.
True worship requires an engagement of your human spirit. Why? Because man is the only earthly creature that God created with a spirit, in order to worship God (Gen. 2:7). It also requires worship in the Holy Spirit. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, heart-felt worship naturally flows to the Lord (Eph. 5: 18; Phil. 3:3). And, true worship must be centered in Jesus Christ who is the Truth (See John 8:32; 14:6; 17:17).
True worship involves your mind, body, soul and spirit. It is a direct reflection of your spiritual connection and relationship with God. It is a sacrifice that is personal and connectional. So, lose your “religion” and find true faith and offer God true worship. Worship Him in spirit and in truth!
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 NKJV
Living through a viral pandemic this past year, we’ve had to cope with stay-at-home orders, forsaking the assembly of ourselves in corporate worship, wearing face masks and social distancing; dealing with runs on food and supplies at stores; managing isolation and loneliness, fear and uncertainty, anxiety and stress; and, for some, grief and bereavement after death of a love one or friend. These global and personal challenges have left some weak and shaken, but others are strengthened in their faith. How could this be?
Well, being a believer is having a relationship with God, not with a religion. Consider, John 3:16, where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”—the word, “whoever” is a pronoun that connotes a personal relationship. A relationship with God is a spiritual connection that is personal and relational.
Religion is man’s search for god and “his belief in that god or group of gods” (Merriam-Webster). Religion steals, but faith builds (John 10.10). The pandemic brought multiple stressful challenges and stressful conditions, e.g., tests, trials and temptations. Religion just isn’t reliable. Religion is like shifting and sinking sand that provide no solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27).
Religion requires external trappings like symbols, rituals, ceremonies, works and formalities, a building to worship in, etc. But with true worship, born out of a true relationship with God, the place is always secondary to the Person (Isa. 66:1; Acts 7:48). It’s not where you worship, it’s how you worship that counts.
True worship of the true God requires a true relationship with Him—a relationship that is personal and relational (See Matt. 4:19; John 10:27; 2 Tim. 1:12). Again, true faith in God is a spiritual connection, and without faith in Him and the relationship, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). So, lose the religion and find true faith!