Are You Ready for a Holiday Boost?
Are you tired of bad news? I am. It’s downright depressing. Like many of you I wake up each morning and search the news for something positive, something encouraging, something that inspires a sense of hope and purpose.
Alas, that doesn’t happen often! My searches for good news span a variety of sources, from the local to the national to the international, but the results are mostly negative. With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror and the Christmas season approaching, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales haven’t provided the answer.
Is there an “answer”? How can we see past the gray clouds of despair and disunity in America and rediscover the hopes, dreams, and vision our founding fathers had for America?
First, the answer won’t be found in the hallowed halls of human wisdom. The best and the brightest throughout our history have worked tirelessly to find creative and helpful solutions at the micro level. But the intellectual giraffes, the rich and the famous, those occupying leadership positions in government or corporate America—all fall short of the answers we need.
More important than human wisdom is truth. Only a small fraction of the sources cited have the truth, tell the truth, or even care about the truth. Don’t believe this? Look at the myriad of polls and research that demonstrate the declining trust by Americans in previously respected institutions, i.e., Congress, the Justice Department, the FBI, the clergy, and even our military.
Don’t despair. There are answers and they can be found in the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Thessalonica that provides sage advice we can apply now and experience a positive difference.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NIV)
Applying this verse needs to start with ourselves—you and me. For the moment, forget others and outside situations. Focus on the truth of Scripture.
Let’s start with the clause that appears at the end of these verses. It’s powerful confirmation that God’s will is for you and me to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful—continuously! Discerning the Lord’s will in some cases can be difficult, but in this case it’s crystal clear. Let this good news sink in for a moment. The Commander of the Universe is speaking plainly—no riddles to solve, parables to interpret, or special revelation required. Simply do these things and you will be doing God’s will. Hopefully this brings great comfort and assurance as you walk with the Lord.
“Give thanks in all circumstances”—does this describe you? Thankfulness is a powerful antidote for negative thinking. It has been said that counting our blessings is some of the most difficult math we’ll ever encounter. Can you name four things that you are thankful for? Things like your family, your health, your job, or your friends.
My experience has been when I start naming a few things for which I am thankful, it becomes hard to stop. Spend a few minutes identifying the blessings in your life and you’ll experience a change in your thinking almost immediately. Without any change in the external world around you, you’ll sense a more positive and hopeful attitude. Try it!
Let’s move to “Pray continually.” As a younger Christian this command seemed impossible. As I’ve grown spiritually over the years, I’ve come to realize that Paul is telling us to have a prayerful attitude about everything. Most days I wake up and thank God for giving me another day. As the day unfolds, I pray that God will help me to seek His will in everything and help me not to dwell on negative thoughts.
Take fear, for instance. Most folks, Christians included harbor fears about a lot of things. This is not God’s intention for any of us. 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). Being prayerful is something we know to be part of God’s will. Being fearful is not. Therefore, you can pray against fear every time it enters your heart and know that God will help you. If fear continues to stalk you like a giant, don’t run away. Face it right now. The fear is not from God. Look up other scriptures dealing with fear and start including them in your daily prayer life.
Are you anxious more often than you should be? Here’s a great antidote created by God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Of course, continuous prayer necessitates praying for others beside yourself. No day goes by without crossing paths with people having serious needs. It might be that man in the wheelchair that you encounter in the grocery store. Or two homeless veterans walking along the highway loaded down with all their earthly possessions. Or individuals you see walking into hospitals and clinics. Some of them are facing life and death issues and they desperately need your prayers. Rest assured that God is listening and will hear your every prayer and knows what to do.
We conclude with “Be joyful always.” Biblical scholars haven’t agreed on a precise definition of what it means to be joyful, but there is plenty of guidance from Scripture to grasp the intent of Paul’s exhortation.
In Psalm 16:11 the writer expresses the joy that comes from the knowledge of being in God’s presence—“In your presence there is fullness of joy.” To have assurance that you are in God’s’ presence means that God sees you and has everything about your life under His divine control.
As a six-year-old, I went to a small carnival with my parents. Somehow, I got separated from my them and instantly started to panic wondering if I would ever see them again. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to discover it was my dad. The sense of panic evaporated. I felt safe, secure, and calm in my father’s presence. It’s no stretch to say I was experiencing joy.
I’m not six anymore and understand that circumstances no longer must control the presence of joy in my life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit…it’s like a lens through which you view life. Joy grows as you surrender to the Spirit’s work in your life. In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul urges these saints to yield to the Holy Spirit more and more: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Want more joy? Allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in you richly. As you allow Him to fill you again and again with His presence, joy will surely follow.
Over the years, I have experienced joy through reading and meditating on God’s Word. It wasn’t always this way. As a young military officer, I remember praying one day and asking God to help reading His Word become a joy, not just a duty or obligation. He answered that prayer, and I can say honestly that I possess the attitude expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 119:16: “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
I encourage you to make daily bible reading and meditation a regular practice. Before you know, you will find your joy growing as you treasure God’s Word.
One final thought about two important impacts that result from joy. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Life can deal some hard blows. We all experience them. God’s joy provides the strength we need to go through situations that we thought we’d never be able to do. Stop and think about it. Hasn’t God provided the strength you needed during many experiences you’ve had? That joy doesn’t necessarily mean a happy face. It’s that inner confidence and assurance that with God’s help you handle whatever may come your way.
Closely related to the strength joy provides is the endurance needed to keep going. James 1:1-2 talks about the endurance required to go through the trials of life: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” The joy God provides us with the ability to view trials as part of our growth and development. Some circumstances require massive strength to handle. Many, however, necessitate a day-to-day endurance. Joy helps us to view difficult tests as tools that produce the perseverance and endurance we need.
This article has taken me several days to complete. In the meantime, not much has changed in the way of circumstances. Most news is still bad. The world is not headed in a good direction. But know what? Life is still fun and still rewarding as I strive to be joyful, be prayerful, and be thankful in all circumstances.