CORAL GABLES, Fla., November 17, 2012 — I enjoy getting gifts. I also enjoy giving them. I love watching someone’s face light up when they open a package and receive something needed or perhaps unexpected.
I imagine God loves to give gifts too. I bet His heart grows warm when His children accept His gifts and enjoy them on a daily basis. Don’t you get excited when you see someone enjoying a gift you have given them? I believe God is no different.
Did you know that joy is a gift from God? It’s a supernatural gift. Joy isn’t something we can drum up on our own accord. “God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him” (Eccl 2:26). The Bible tells us that we please God through our faith (Heb 11:6), so if we have faith in Him, we can have joy!
So why is it that so many Christians (including myself) seem to be missing this incredible gift? If joy is ours for the taking, why do so many of us have hearts of anxiety, fear, doubt, or shame? Why are so many of us running around like chickens with our heads cut off (sorry, I’m a southern girl) looking confused, tired, and exhausted? Could it be that we have failed to open this gift, or perhaps substituted something in its place?
Lately I’ve spent time studying the gift of joy. I’m on a quest to discover it, live in it, and ultimately share it with others. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
“You make me to be blessed and make me exceedingly glad with the joy of Your presence!” (Psalms 21:6).
Joy is a natural by-product of a right relationship with the Lord. When we spend time in the presence of God through prayer, worship, and meditating on His Word, joy will naturally bubble up within us and overflow into the lives of others.
Just like an orange tree naturally produces oranges, Christians should naturally produce joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. As God’s Spirit is allowed to rule and reign in our lives, joy and other great gifts are produced. “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
As we get rooted in God’s Word and walk in obedience to it, our lives will bear much fruit (John 10). I’ve come to realize that my level of joy is in direct proportion to the amount of God’s Word I have stored in my heart. “The commands of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart!” (Psalms 19:8). The more time I spend in the Word, meditating on it and walking in its truths, the more joy I have.
When we get away from the Word and the will of God, we lose our joy. Take David for example. Because of his sin with Bathsheba, he had lost his joy. We can see from Psalms 51 that he desperately wanted it back. “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh give me back my joy again!” David knew the only way back to joy was to get back in harmony with the will of God.
These verses opened my eyes to some incredible truths. If I’m failing to produce joy (and the other gifts in my life), then something is wrong. Perhaps I’m not securely rooted in Christ. Perhaps I’m moving forth in my own reasonings and efforts rather than trusting the Lord. Perhaps I’m allowing the things of the world to replace the truth of the Word. Ouch!
Joy is a free gift, but I’m learning that we have to make some choices if we want to live in it. First of all, we have to choose God. We have to choose to walk in His ways and in obedience to His Holy Word. And when we stray, like David, we must repent; we must ask God for forgiveness and return to Him.
We must also make a choice to rejoice! Our words have incredible power. “A man hath joy by the answer of His mouth…” (Proverbs 15:23).
How do we answer the situations of life? Do we speak negative words? Do we complain? Do we tell the whole world about all the terrible things that are going on? Ouch, again!
In Psalms 9:1-2, David says:
“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”
David made a choice to praise God and tell of His marvelous works regardless of all the incredible circumstances surrounding him. Because of his choice, he was filled with joy rather than despair.
Right now you may be saying, “But, Kristi, you don’t know all the things that are going on in my life! There’s no way you can expect me to have joy!”
David lived in a cave, hiding from large armies seeking to take his life. His own son tried to kill him. His spouse mocked him. He lost a child. He killed a man and committed adultery. David had numerous reasons to wallow in pity and shame. But nevertheless, he chose joy. And because he chose joy, he was able to rise up and move forward time and time again.
We can all find something to praise God for. If nothing else, we can praise Him for saving us! “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation…” (Isaiah 61:10).
Our circumstances don’t dictate our level of joy! We do. God has already given it to us, it’s up to us to have it, or not.
I pray we choose joy. Lord knows we need it. As believers, joy is our key to victory. It is what will help us through this incredible journey called life! It’s our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
I know it’s tempting to worry. I know it’s easy to get down. Everyday we are presented with opportunities to just plain freak out! Everyday things and people come at us that seem to knock our feet right out from under us.
But life’s surprises don’t have to rule over us. As we praise God in spite of our circumstances, we will be strengthened for the journey, able to stand, and able to tread upon the heights! (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
The key to our victory is found in Philippians 4:4-8. If we choose to rejoice instead of worrying and complaining, if we chose to go to God in prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving, we will experience incredible peace (See Phil. 4:4-8). And where there’s peace, there’s power! “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace….” (Isaiah 55:12).
If you’re like me, you may not always FEEL like praising God. You may not always feel like following Him. But it’s time we set our feelings aside. Our victory depends on it! As we make the choice to rejoice, something inside us will change! Our mourning will be turned into joyful dancing (Psalms 30:11). I’m ready to dance, aren’t you?
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy” (Psalms 100:1-2).
Joy is an inward emotion so powerful that it expresses itself outwardly through our words, songs, instruments, and yes, even dancing. Even the earth shouts for joy (Psalms 96:12). When we are filled with joy, others will take note because they will hear our notes of praise! (Nehemiah 12:43, Psalms 100).
So how about that gift of joy? Have you received it? Are you living in it every day of your life? Or does life have you by the reigns?
It’s time to open up God’s precious gift and put it to use! As we do, our lives will never be the same. It truly is the gift that will keep on giving … for generations to come.
Kristi Overton Johnson is a wife, mother, and the world record holder in water-skiing from 1992-2010. Having retired from professional sports, Kristi now helps others fulfill their God-given destiny. With a passion to share the life lessons she learned on the water and a desire to encourage the hearts of people through her faith, Kristi founded her non-profit ministry Champion’s Heart.
Champion’s Heart provides life resources, addiction recovery, quarterly magazine publications, leadership training, and sports outreaches. In His Wakes, the water-sports outreach of Champion’s Heart, has helped over 10,000 at-risk youth from across the nation and world have hope, experience victory and discover their purpose through the sport that brought Kristi fame.
Kristi currently resides in Florida with her husband, Tim, and their three children. To read more by Kristi go to http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/his-wakes. To learn about her mission and work visit Kristi Overton Johnson Ministries.
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