Sunday, April 19, 2015

The joy stealers

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

What has happened to all your joy? – Galatians 4:15 (NIV)
When we moved to the country 35 years ago, we planted three kinds of fruit trees. I had visions of homegrown apples in bowls on the counter and sparkling jars of fresh canned peaches and pears.
For the most part, though, the vision remained just a dream. The apple trees never bore fruit, never grew more than three feet high, thanks to the deer. The peach tree produced luscious peaches for a few years then shriveled up and died.
The only fruit trees remaining are two pear trees. One is dwarfed—I think because my son shot an arrow through it when it was still quite young. The other is leafy and laden with fruit come late summer, but the pears are small, misshapen, and marked with black dimples.
To produce more and better fruit, the trees need cultivated and nurtured. The problem is we don’t have a clue. Or maybe it’s because we haven’t made the trees a priority. Until we get serious about those trees, until we take the time to learn how to care for them and then do it, the trees will struggle along, producing little usable fruit.
I tell you this story because, like fruit trees, the fruit of the Spirit also needs to be cultivated and nurtured.
Take joy, for example.
If there is anything missing from society today, it’s joy. Just look at the faces of people you see every day. Even believers, who should be oozing joy, are not. Joy should set us apart right off the bat.
Do you remember the joy you had at salvation? Overflowing, spilling out, you couldn’t contain it. Then little by little, life robbed you of that joy.
Life is going to happen. Although we can’t control it, we can control our reaction to it. We can choose joy. We can make it a priority and nurture it.
First, be aware of the joy stealers that chomp away at it or shoot it right in the heart. “If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into” (Luke 12:39 NLT). Know the burglars will come. Don’t let them in.
Forgetfulness is one of those burglars. Stuck in the mire of this earthly life, we forget our past and our future: from what we’ve been saved and what awaits us in heaven.
Legalism is another joy stealer. Religion—all that we do to try and earn heaven (which can’t be earned—see Ephesians 2:8–9) binds us. Relationship—our personal relationship with God through His Son—frees us.
Unconfessed sin, disobedience, worry, anger, people, and life are other joy stealers.
Being aware of these thieves will make you more alert when they try to rob you. And when they do, don’t let them in.
How can you replace the joy you’ve lost?
Simple: Ask the joy-giver—God Himself—to fill you with His joy and help you to sustain it. Seek His presence (“In your presence is fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:10).
Choose joy. Nurture and cultivate it. Then spread it around, letting it overflow, spilling over onto those around you.
Remind me, Father, that “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Amen.

More tea: Read Galatians 5:22–23

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