Have you ever noticed as you grow older that you can look back over your life and see the effects that your past experiences have really had on you? Your tastes and habits, fears, likes and dislikes and especially the things you say about yourself in your head… sometimes it’s almost like you can hear the voice of someone in your past instructing, teaching, criticizing, pointing things out, mocking, or loving you. A huge part of your journey as a human being is exploring those layers and deciding who you are beneath them all! We tend to base our definitions of ourselves on our past experiences – the good and the bad – without even realizing it. Why? Because we all seek for definition in this life. We take comfort from the sense of control it brings to know how to define something because it helps us to understand, and then we operate within that definition – even if that definition is harmful to us.
Worship, as an act of faith, will lead to the emotions of joy that you’ll experience in His presence
When you are in Christ, you will eventually confront the idea that your definitions are wrong – about everything. Even though we all spend our lives defining things and defining ourselves and everyone else, our definitions do not work in God’s reality. In God’s reality, His definitions are often out of step with what we think they are or should be. In God’s reality, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. (Matthew 20:16). In God’s reality virgins get pregnant. In God’s reality, shepherds are kings and animals talk. In God’s reality, water can be walked on. In God’s reality, you can heal the blind by rubbing mud in their eyes. In God’s reality, the sun can stand still. In God’s reality, you can speak to storms and make them stop. In God’s reality, you can teleport from one location to another. See? God doesn’t define things like we do – not gravity or time or physics or nature or sin or love or life or death – not anything.
God doesn’t define you like yourself define yourself either. In God’s reality, the nobody’s and the nothings are everything. I want to challenge you to examine some definitions many Christians assume are accurate just because they’re traditional or widely accepted. We need to compare all of our experiences and definitions to the Word of God because His Word is the only source of truth in existence – regardless of how we feel or what we have seen or learned or heard. Only God’s Word holds the right definitions and as you unlearn and excavate and remember who you really are in Christ according to His Word, do the same for all your other definitions. When you define your life by God’s definitions, He gets the final say in every area you need His help!
“The joy of the Lord is your strength,” Nehemiah told the grief-stricken people of Israel. (Nehemiah 8:10) They were weeping, heartbroken and ashamed, yet Nehemiah told them to go and act like they had joy. Why? Because the actions of joy are prophetic and reveal your faith that the emotions of joy will come. Here’s the important part many miss in what Nehemiah said: “of the Lord“… The joy of the Lord will be your strength. God doesn’t define “joy” like you do. When your faith is tried by fire, Peter wrote, Jesus Christ gives you “joy unspeakable and full of glory”. (1 Peter 1:8) “In your presence is fullness of joy,” David wrote. So, if you don’t feel joy, do you have joy? If you struggle with depression or grief or fear, do you have joy? Yes! God says you do! In your reality, joy is an emotion, a feeling. In God’s reality, joy is an act of faith. The joy of the Lord is your strength. What are the actions of joy? They are the actions of praise, according to the Bible. Worship, as an act of faith, will lead to the emotions of joy that you’ll experience in His presence – no matter what else is going on. Joy, in God’s reality, has nothing to do with what is going on around you and everything to do with what’s going on within you.
Thought for today
In Psalm 63, David was walking through a wilderness experience. In fact, it was most likely written during the season when his own son, Absalom, was actively seeking to kill him. David was a king so you’d think life would be good, but it was nothing but trouble from the minute he stepped into that God-ordained role. How on earth do you maintain joy when you’re under attack? When David wrote, “…restore to me the joy of Your salvation”, he was speaking about the emotion of joy, the feeling of gladness we all love. But never did he count on the feeling of joy to make him able to withstand the wilderness seasons. No! In fact, in Psalm 63, when David wrote of this dry, difficult season, he didn’t waste time talking about the attack he was under; he described the Great Defender! “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. Thus will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips…” (Psalm 63:3-5) David performed the actions of joy – he worshipped the Lord and lifted up his hands and firmly declared this while he was still in the wilderness: “…my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.” Why? Because he was feeling soooooo happy? No way! Here’s the thing: There was a desert all around David sucking him dry, but there was no desert in his heart. That is joy.