Discipleship Is a Call to Joy

I often think that joy carries us through the hard times, but it is more than that. Joy is the by-product of God living in and through our lives. Joy in the Lord is the strength that causes love for our enemies to permeate our hearts and minds. Joy is what brings hope in our darkest situations. Joy overcomes grief, fear, anger, and dread.

God is not only giving us joy as we follow Him, He is calling us to joy. It is the testimony of His presence in our lives. His joy is the Shekinah glory of God dwelling in the Holy Place He’s created in our hearts.

God’s joy is not only so we can be strong and courageous or filled with hope. God’s joy is so there is light in the world and a testimony of His greatness among the nations.

If we give in to the negativity of the world, we’ve put His light under a bushel and buried it so deeply in our hearts and minds that the darkness threatens to overtake it. We fall into feelings of hopelessness; we dwell on negative thoughts; we fear for the future.

That is not the way, the truth, or the life. That is the path of the enemy, his lies, and it leads to destruction—maybe not the destruction of our souls if we already know Christ as our Lord and Savior, but it can lead to the destruction of our peace, our homes, and our country.

Look at what God says to us in scripture:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

If the Holy Spirit is bearing fruit in our lives, joy should be there along with the other descriptions of His presence.

Proverbs, in describing the godly woman, states:

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
(Proverbs 31:25-26, NLT)

With God’s strength in our lives, we are able to look toward the future without fear and help guide the next generation with wisdom and kindness.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)

The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. (Psalm 19:8, NLT)

Our joy comes from listening to God’s words and not to the words this world throws at us. What a wonderful promise we have as a result of knowing and delighting in God’s word: joy, nourishment, bearing fruit, and maturing in our faith.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. (Psalm 5:11, NLT)

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7, NLT)

These verses remind us when we start to get overwhelmed by our circumstances, we take refuge in God. Whenever I start buying into the negativity and hopelessness of our culture, I find such peace and strength in God’s word and in prayer. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses and being able to see clearly rather than focusing on only part of what’s in front of me.

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 
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Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 
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Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. 
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The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. So, rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
(Psalm 32, NLT)

This is where joy begins: with being set free from sin, with receiving God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ sacrifice. I remember when I first experienced God’s grace, when I became a Christian, and I literally felt like I could fly. So much joy and peace flooded my young heart. That was true freedom. That was many years ago, yet I remember it like it was yesterday. That joy still lives in my heart, and I am so thankful.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NLT)

Joy does not hide like the proverbial picture of the ostrich with its head in the sand. Hope and joy are stronger than grief. Instead of ignoring circumstances and instead of giving into fear and hopelessness, we grieve the loss we experience while knowing that eternity is our future home. Nothing on earth can change that as long as we have Christ. Grief is painful, but even in the midst of grief joy strengthens us. It is beyond my understanding, but I’ve experienced it often. Sometimes joy even seems stronger as we walk through grief.

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8, NLT)

These last two verses are my joy survival kit. When negativity tries to take over, I take those thoughts captive and remind myself what the Scriptures say. And I fix my thoughts on the things I should be thinking about rather than dwelling on the poison of negativity. I’m not talking about making up happy thoughts. I’m talking about dwelling on Truth and insulating ourselves from the lies of the enemy.

Disciple of Christ, our God is the Author of Hope. All things are possible with Him. His plans will prevail, and we know that all things work together for our good when we trust in Him. Take heart. Do not be discouraged. He who began a good work in us will continue to complete it. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

Giveaway:

Remember–We have a giveaway this month of Glenys Nellist’s newest book. Comment below to enter.

About Terrie:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!

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