My hero in the faith is George Mueller, the 19th-century British pastor who together with his wife established and ran orphanages for four to five decades. He intentionally journaled throughout those years in order to encourage the ordinary Christian to live and work by simple but powerful faith. He wanted the average Christian to KNOW that learning to pray in reliance on Jesus was a tool and blessing that all could learn to do, with powerful results.
One of his personal resolutions that he followed to the benefit of thousands goes like this:
“The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”
Life may be falling down around us, but to be a Christian means to be the possessor of the most precious and lasting treasures imaginable.
It’s probably like this for you, but when that morning alarm breaks into my oblivion, it’s like I have forgotten all that is true and unchanging. What hits me is the immediacy of the day’s circumstances. And given this suffering and corrupted world, many days seem to loom difficult and heavy-laden when I get up. If I let my feelings take their cue from those first thoughts, I will stay depressed throughout the day. Or I will use something created to distract myself, what God calls an idol. (food, email, escape reading)
God offers an alternative if we but follow it. Christian are called to rejoice always (1 Thess 5:16). Therefore, Mueller’s advice is not optional if we are to obey our Father in heaven.
I don’t intend to talk about how I go about making myself happy in God. What I rather mention is why God wants his children to be happy they belong to him. I’m learning the reason God commands me to exult in him is because joy in God is key to loving others.
Listening the other day to a sermon by John Piper I actually felt capable for the first time of LOVING OTHERS. You remember how Jesus summed up the Law in Matthew 22:40 by saying in effect:
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
- Love your neighbor as yourself
Because I seem to be wired more as a rational person than a loving, emotional person, I’ve struggled with what love looks like according to God. I often feel guilty that I don’t FEEL love towards my neighbors.
But the way John Piper explained love, it sounded doable for a Christian empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Piper explained what God means by love like this: “Love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God, which gladly meets the needs of others”
Given THAT definition, making myself happy in God each morning is not only life-preserving to me, but equally necessary for those around me. When I have re-established and reconnected with WHY I can be happy no matter how crummy the day’s circumstances may be, then I have strength and energy to move out of myself toward others. That is the ONLY way to love others.
Have you ever had someone do something for you out of duty? How does that feel?
It’s like when we tell a child, “Tell Sammy that you are sorry!”
and the child’s “Sorry” doesn’t satisfy at all. It’s not from the heart.
Same with our deeds done to meet a neighbor’s needs. If we help out of obligation, it’s not the same as initiating something out of the energy and God-given strength borne of joy in Him.
Joy in God is a pervasive and persistent theme in the Bible. It doesn’t seem optional or healthy to neglect.
May this truth from Nehemiah 8:10b find its roots in you and me:
“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”