In a World Divided, We Need a Nation United
- March 22, 2023
How are you feeling? Last week I asked about how you were doing. Asking about your feelings is a completely different question. Believe it or not, you can be doing awful while feeling great. You can also be doing great while feeling awful. Again, how are you feeling? What words would you use to describe
How are you feeling? Last week I asked about how you were doing. Asking about your feelings is a completely different question. Believe it or not, you can be doing awful while feeling great. You can also be doing great while feeling awful. Again, how are you feeling? What words would you use to describe your emotions right now? Happy or sad? Frustrated or content? Anxious or peaceful? Desperate or hopeful? Fearful or confident? Nervous or calm? What are you feeling?
Understanding our feelings – what causes them and how they affect us – is vitally important. To dismiss or ignore our feelings is to be irresponsible with a vital component of worship God has wired into us. Jesus included our emotions in the greatest command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” See Mark 12:30.
Why would God include emotions? And why did He list emotions first? He did so because He knows how much our emotions affect our bodies, our behaviors, our relationships, and our potential. Believer, God expects you to get your emotions in order. Your obedience to His greatest command is the foundation of your worship. Yes, it’s that serious.
The emotion God wants most to see in believers is joy because it is the right response to grace. In the Scriptures, the word joy is translated from the Greek chara (pronounced with a hard k). It is sometimes translated as rejoice or gladness, or delight.
Chara is defined as joy experienced because of grace. Joy is the Spirit-empowered grateful reaction to grace received. It is linked to the word charis, which simply means grace or kindness. It is also linked to the word chairo, which means to rejoice or delight in God’s favor or grace.
As with hope and peace, joy is not the result of a problem-free life. Rather, it is the desire to focus on the blessings of grace even in the midst of problems. It is Christian discipline empowered by the infilling presence of the Holy Spirit. Consider Jesus in Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross . . .” How could Jesus find the emotion of joy in His suffering and death? He did it by seeing the power of grace being released through His actions. If you have ever suffered to see someone else be blessed, then you understand what Jesus was feeling. Yes, even in great suffering, joy can flourish.
Consider Paul in II Corinthians 12:7-10. He declares, “I delight (take joy) in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties . . .” Paul knew he had received God’s amazing grace, and it gave him joy – even in hardship. That’s the power of being genuinely grateful for grace.
Consider the opposite reaction in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Matthew 18:23-25. His response to the lavish grace of His master should have been joy. It wasn’t – it was greed. Consider the arrogant Pharisee’s response to grace. It should have been joy. It wasn’t – it was pride. See Luke 18:9-14. Both examples reveal what God thinks of ungrateful people who do not recognize the amazing grace they have received. It’s not good.
A lack of joy is the symptom of an ungrateful heart, of focusing on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have. It is the sin of envy and covetousness. It is entitlement and idolatry. It is deep sin. Seriously, we can’t truly worship God if our emotions are wrong. It’s that important.
My friends, joy is the Spirit-empowered result (fruit, see Galatians 5) of gratefully acknowledging grace received. If you cannot gratefully acknowledge receiving the blessings of God’s overwhelming grace, then you will never experience deep and abiding joy.
It’s time to count our blessings. Yes, as the old song says, we need to name them one by one and see what God has done. If we’re willing to see and delight in the vast and amazing grace God has poured out on us, then our hearts will be filled with joy, inexpressible, and full of glory.
I confess it’s not easy. But I know being joyful is the fruit of being grateful. So, when I’m struggling to feel joy, I remind myself that God found Hartzell in the awful muck and mire of sin and death. He took ahold of me and pulled me from the despair of guilt and hopelessness, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, He forgave my sins and adopted me into His forever family. I then remind myself that if the blessings of forgiveness, eternal life, and peace with God are the only blessings of grace I ever receive on planet earth, they are enough to keep me joyfully praising and worshiping God forever and ever.
And friends, once my heart gets in the posture of gratitude, I then begin seeing more clearly the abundant and precious blessings of grace He has given to me. As I count my blessings, joy fills my heart.
How are you feeling? Well, you can do something about that. Start counting your blessings, and joy will rise up in you like a spring in the desert. In fact, keep counting your blessings until joy bubbles up and overflows out of you onto those around you. Yes, joy is contagious, so during this special season, let’s work together to start a pandemic of gratitude and joy!
Note: This is the third article in a series for Advent. Previous articles are always available online at http://www.webbweekly.com.