June 30, 2017

Starting a new habit?

An e-mail newsletter has a section on time management with tips to help writers with their work. A couple months ago, the author shared that he formed a new habit every month and if he repeats it for 30 days, it usually sticks. I took his advice and started June 1 with a few physical exercises first thing in the morning. This routine effectively fixed some aches — and firmed up some flab.

This morning I’m thinking about July. My nature tends toward gloomy, but with Jesus, I have joy. Joy seems a good habit to cultivate. But how? I can practice spiritual disciplines, but they do not ensure God will pour joy or anything else into my life; they just put me in a receptive mode. Thinking about my need and God’s disciplines, two thoughts come to mind. One is presence and the other is praise.

PRESENCE. The word of God connects joy with the presence of God, particularly in the psalms . . .

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
“For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” (Psalm 21:6)
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.’” Selah (Psalm 66:1–4)

Because the Psalms are the song book of Israel, joy is also connected to music and singing. Both have a powerful way to influence attitudes, but even music is not as powerful as the Holy Spirit. At least two verses in the New Testament connects singing with being filled with His Spirit, along with a few other things . . .

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18–21)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

PRAISE. Praise is also connected to both music and joy. Praise includes singing to the Lord with my heart and being thankful. The above verses say being filled with the Spirit is connected to having the Word of Christ dwelling in me richly. It also is a ‘one another’ activity that includes sharing those songs and singing with others, worshiping together with them. Two other delightful verses connect joy and singing, with one of them declaring the results:

“And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:22)
 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

Even though I am a lover of silence, bringing worship songs to my prayer time usually stirs joy in my heart. With access to Christian music on the radio and i-tunes radio, even more music promises more blessing. So also will the discipline of sharing the goodness of God in praise and thanksgiving, making a point of doing this often.

So far, this points to several ways to form a habit of joy. First, focus on the presence of God, singing praises to Him, and sharing that experience with others. Since joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22), then I need to be filled with the Spirit. I’ve long ago learned that being filled with the Word is vital to being Spirit-filled, but so also is keeping short accounts with God. The only blockade to a Spirit-filled life is trying to do things apart from God and holding unconfessed sin in my heart. When I add thankfulness to this mix, joy just happens!

But there is more. The reading for today from Kenneth W. Osbeck’s book: Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, ends with this thought: “Determine to allow the warmth of God’s love to be reflected in all your activities. Carry this musical testimony with you as you seek to be a witness for Christ . . . .”

God produces joy, not for my happiness and well-being, but so I will be a strong witness to the power and love of Jesus Christ. JOY is first about Jesus, then about others, then for yourself.

Dearest Lord Jesus, not matter what I do, whether ordinary chores or tougher assignments, may I do it with joy. Help me avoid a false Pollyanna gaiety that merely puts a smile on my face. I want my joy to be Your joy, that joy that does not depend on circumstances or anything else but You. I want my light to shine so others can see Your goodness and glory. I cannot make this happen, but with Your grace I can practice the spiritual discipline of abiding in Your presence. It is up to You to fill me with joy.

No comments: