Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Joy is Your Life's Crown?

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Somewhere between awake and asleep, not even in the middle of a dream, and out of the blue a phrase pops up in my mind.
"If joy is your only hope in this life, then joy in this life is your crown."
joy is your crown

I thought for a moment it sounded very familiar. Like maybe I had seen it on a quote or read it somewhere. So, the first thing I do when I want to look up where an exact phrase came from, I Google it.... of course! If you put the phrase in quotations, the Google searches for that string of words in the exact order they are written. This is an excellent way for teachers to check for plagiarism, by the way. - that's a free tip for you today.

What does Google come back with.... nothing. So I have a feeling the Holy Spirit put this on my heart. When Google automatically removes the quotations to reveal other options, there was something.... the first search result was 1 Thessalonians 2:19,
"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" NIV
I thought about this verse for some time and wondered, 'what is the connection?' If you read the verse in other Bible versions, it begins to make a little more sense. The New Living Translation reads,
"After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!" NLT
So, I read these two translations, and then I look back at the question that popped in my head and thought, wow... we as a people...a generation.. are pursuing the wrong things in this life.

If you look at where this verse came from, you will read that in this letter Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he is longing to see them. He feels separated from them (in person not in thought) and longs to be reconnected to them, but Satan has blocked their way. (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)

Where does this intense connection to them come from? He isn't related to them. They aren't his family. They were his ministry. He connected deeply with them on a spiritual level because they heard the gospel through him and how he lived and they accepted Jesus.
"when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believes." 1 Thessalonians 2:13
If I were in the city and I asked a random group of people "what brings you joy?', what do you think the response would be? I have a feeling it would be more financially related, job or health related, or possibly have something to do with obtaining possessions or a specific relationship with a person.

What is joy? Merrim-Webster has three simple definitions; a feeling of great pleasure or happiness, a source or cause of great happiness, something or someone that gives joy to someone, or success in doing, finding, or getting something. That is the simple, worldly definition for joy.

But, just as the common phrase says, "the joys of this life are fleeting." Yes, you may be happy because you have all you need in this world, but if you lost it tomorrow, would you still have your joy? If we focus all our efforts on obtaining a joy as defined by the world, that will be the only hope we have in this life. That will end up being your crown in this life. But, you can turn that phrase upside down and look at it a different way.

If we live as God purposed us, to pursue our joy in and through Him and him alone, we will achieve the hope and the joy he intended for us to have. The hope of our joy is in Christ and when we are overcome with that joy, we can't help but share it with others and live as examples in how Christ lived. That is a joy we can never lose. That joy is our hope and our crown in this life and the hereafter. When people see Jesus through us, and connect with God because of our example in how we lived, that is our crown. That is our glory and the joy we can boast about when we are in the presence of the Lord!

But, just a Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Satan blocked his way. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He and his agents will do all they can to steal your joy and keep you from being happy. But, if your joy is not of this world, he has no authority over it! If you live as if your joy is of this world, your unhappiness is seen by those who are seeking to know Christ. This could hinder their understanding of where real joy comes from. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations, but the glory of our hope is knowing that we will be in the presence of Jesus one day, we have no fear and can persevere over anything we endure in this world.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
One day we will be liberated from our worldly bondage and brought into the freedom and glory as a child of God. (Romans 8:21) That is our hope and our joy!

We are about to approach a brand new year. A chance for new beginnings. Let's reflect on where we put our joy. Where does your joy come from? I believe that God laid this on my heart to help us all to see that putting our hope and joy in any part of this world is not His will. Our joy should only come from Jesus. As believers, we need to remember that and live it out. We need to live as examples of how Jesus wants us to live so that others can see Jesus through us.

We all have an opportunity to make resolutions for next year. I challenge all of us to get more involved with fellow believers who can help us live out our joy in Jesus, not in this world. We need to find people who we can also build up and reveal Jesus to so that they will come to know Him as well. That is our purpose, this is our joy and our crown. There, we can overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit into someone else.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him as that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
What new year resolutions will you make to reach the fullness of joy that is in Jesus? Share a comment with us by clicking "post a comment" below!

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