Inexpressible Joy

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8)

When my son, Jason, was very young, he was a hearty eater. That boy loved to eat! In fact, he ate pretty much everything I put in front of him. As a well-meaning mother desiring to give her child healthy, nutritional food, one day I tried to get him to eat spinach. After all, Popeye ate spinach and Jason loved those cartoons so it should work. Right? –Wrong! He would have none of that. A few days later, in another attempt, I added applesauce and mixed it well with the spinach. As soon as I went to the kitchen and back, I was delighted to find his plate completely empty. The next day while cleaning, to my dismay, I found a huge pile of spinach and applesauce on the carpet under the dining table! Yikes!

That’s a pretty accurate picture of how we can foolishly reject God’s good provision for us. Our Father offers us good, nutritious food — food that will satisfy and nourish and make us healthy and strong — but we refuse it. Occasionally we may try to satisfy our deep heart hungers by overindulging other appetites. We try to satisfy ourselves with excessive food or drink. We pamper ourselves with unnecessary comforts, like never-ending Netflix or mind-dulling social media and games. Some may seek immoral pleasure in another person or on a screen. As God begins to help us see the dysfunction and unhealthy desires within ourselves, we can begin to see more clearly how savoring what Jesus has for us is much more satisfying than anything the world has to offer. It fills, satisfies and brings joy. Consider these four questions regarding your heart hungers.

1. What Do I Crave?

What do you really want? What do you really yearn for? If you are running after anything other than Jesus for your soul’s ultimate satisfaction, then you’ll be left empty in the end — like trying to sustain yourself on junk food. The pleasures of this life surely are many, but only Jesus offers full, everlasting joy.

2. Why Do I Come to Jesus?

How do you come to him? Sometimes we come to Jesus as a means to our own ends — a way of getting whatever we think we want. We place our order, wait, and expect our request to arrive in the package that we define. False expectations defeat us. So again, why do we come to Jesus? Are we coming to him just to tell him what we want or are we coming to him because he is all we truly need? Begin to meditate more on “who he is” rather than what he does for you. Begin to “know” him.

3. Do I Need Praise?

Do you hunger for the praise of people? That can be delicious, a yummy meal! It can also be addictive. You get a little taste of it, and you want more and more every day. In John 5 Jesus exposes the danger of craving praise from others. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” Do you detect in yourself a yearning for the praise of others? Do you find yourself sharing stories in which you’re the hero? Do you find yourself spinning stories in such a way that you become the hero? Ouch! Not so delicious. Feeling queasy now!

4. What Makes Me Angry?

What makes you furious? What are some of the things that really tick you off? Do you have road rage? Are you often impatient with your kids? Do you get mad over spilled milk? Do you react because you’re idolizing efficiency and productivity(performance-based) or because you’re trying to do too many things? When you find everlasting joy in Jesus, God will grant you a peace that surpasses any earthly understanding. Sure, you’ll still have lots of ups and downs, but you can cast your concerns and fears on him. Think about your anger — whether it is manifest in loud yelling or quiet grumbling and complaining. What is it that makes you feel that way, and how might that indicate what you’re craving, what you’re idolizing?

Pursue Real Joy

Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes.” So much of the food we crave in life is perishing. At the heart of Christianity is the freedom not to work ourselves ragged, in an effort to buy tons of stuff that isn’t going to last or truly matter. Let’s not clamor for the stuff of this world that is going to perish in the end. Rather, let’s seek to hold these things with an open hand as we pursue a nutritious, divine diet. Delight yourself in the imperishable food, the eternal food, and God will indeed nourish your heart with what you truly need. Savor all that Jesus is for you, and he will fill you with inexpressible JOY!

Fruit of the Spirit… Faithfulness

Faithfulness: Do we do what we say we’ll do, even in the smallest matters?

The faithfulness of God consists, in part, of him always doing what he says he will do: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). The faithfulness of God’s people consists, likewise, in our making every effort to do what we say we’ll do, even when it hurts.

The Spirit makes us strive to say with Paul, “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No” (2 Corinthians 1:18). The faithful build such a trustworthy reputation that, when they fail to follow through on their word, others do not say, “Well, you know him,” but are rather surprised. If we say we’ll come to small group, we come. If we commit to cleaning the bathroom, we clean it. If we agree to call someone on Thursday at 4:00, we call on Thursday at 4:00. We labor to be faithful, even if our areas of responsibility right now are only “a little” (Matthew 25:21), knowing that how we handle little responsibilities reveals how we will handle big ones (Luke 16:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).
Father, we pray, make us faithful!