With two days to prepare, in the midst of a frenzied workload, the Lord showed me a lesson on JOY.
I’m humbled when my Sunday school teachers ask me to speak. It’s usually on something short, around 4 minutes long. They give me a topic with guidelines and what they would like to be communicated. Then, I usually do some research, jot down the first few truths that come to mind, search for supporting verses and then try to overlook the anxiety that seems to intensify the closer I get to the speaking time.
I don’t mind the short notice. God can work in any timeframe. 🙂 This time, it was 2 days notice. The event was for the ladies of the church to put together gifts, note cards, cookies and other crafts for other members of the church, needy families and a non-profit pregnancy clinic in the neighborhood. The devotional was to cover the three gifts from Jesus’ birth (no, not the frankincense, myrrh stuff. I know. I thought the same thing when she first told me). Rather, it was Love, Hope and Joy. Ohhh, THOSE gifts. (light bulb dimly lit above my head). I was assigned to speak on the topic of Joy.
But may I share the wonderfully simplistic lesson that the Lord showed me as I tried to prepare? There is also a sweet little story in it.
Purpose: The birth of Jesus gives us purposeful joy, a purposeful life. Joy isn’t a feeling or a burst of emotion. It is a genuine, personal, sustained sense of hope and peace and excitement all mixed. But it must start with salvation. Consider that God humbled Himself to go through what we went through, from the actual birth as an infant, the process of maturity, then sacrifice, then death and His victory over sin. Joy has a Source and the story can begin by remembering how Christmas plays out. Yes, there are gifts, budgets, parties, lists, families. But let’s not forget that our joy has purpose, including the hope of heaven, the serving of others and to glorify God.
How that purpose unfolds for us in our daily lives really depends on how willing we are to get to the know the Lord. We’ve got to be consistent in reading His Word and purposing to be in His house. Psalm 51:12, though typically used in the context of repentance, also plainly names the element in salvation, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
For those of us who may be more mature in years and have enjoyed more Christmasses than others, may we never tire and yet continually cherish the joy that is inherent in salvation.
Pattern: Christ set a pattern for joy. If you’ve heard of joy as an acronym (J stands for Jesus. O for Others. Y for You), you’ll even see the recipe for joy by prioritizing Christ, others then ourselves. In His ministry of sacrificial giving, Jesus consistently showed us how serving others was a priority. He demonstrated a pattern of joy for us to follow by being in the middle of God’s will and loving others in the process. After the humble act of washing the apostles’ feet, Jesus states in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” How He cared for His apostles was a pattern that we could follow to have the joy in serving others.
Four minutes can feel like 45 minutes when you’re facing an audience of 80 women, some of whom you know to be godly women with way more experience in their Christian walk than you do. [cue my hot flash from nervousness here, sheesh]. But the Lord was so gracious to ensure that I was able to share His truth about joy, even with new women in the audience, who haven’t attended a church service yet, but were there for the gift-wrapping event. What started as a harried talk was also an opportunity to witness to others.
And…Do you know who put my notes together? My daughter!
I was scrambling through verses. As I blurted out topics, she typed a brief outline and had it printed and ready before I rushed out the door. (She wasn’t able to attend with me that evening. She stayed home to win over a cold). In preparing to give a talk on joy, the Lord made sure I got a dose of my own joy by allowing my daughter to be a part of this experience in her own special way.
I pray that we don’t walk too quickly through this preparation for Christmas. I pray that we remember this as the beautiful beginning of what God has done for us and how the gift of salvation and the life we choose to lead with the Lord has so much more hope, love and joy than we could possibly imagine.