Resolve to be Joyful

As 2016 began, millions of people made “New Year’s resolutions,” which may have included resolving to lose weight, get into shape, quit smoking, go back to school, etc., which are all fine and admirable goals. However, the struggle begins the moment the resolution becomes work and our wills struggle against our “flesh man” and what the enemy and the world are saying to us. Our flesh alone will never be strong enough to overcome any obstacles that we face. Rather, we must depend upon the Lord, the guidance of His Holy Spirit, and His Word. Dwelling in God’s presence does not guarantee us a life free from struggle, but we will be better equipped to handle anything that comes our way.

God’s Word assures us that we can live a joyful life. Please keep in mind that being joyful is not being blissfully ignorant of the world around us or being in denial about the problems we face. To be joyful is to take the opportunity to rejoice and praise God for who He is in spite of what we face. If we allow ourselves to be driven by our circumstances, we will not be joyful, but we will go through life depressed and beaten down. Even when God allows circumstances, He is still worthy to be praised because we as believers in Christ can rest assured God’s hand is upon us. Even for non-believers, God is using circumstances to draw you to Him and to come to Christ.

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you; they sing the praises of your name. Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!”(Psalm 66:1-5, NIV).

Nehemiah 8:10 is a verse cited frequently for joy, as people will quote, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” for the verse says that. However, if we look at the verse in its full context, there is even more to it.

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).

During this passage of Scripture, Ezra had just read the Law of Moses to the people and the people were sorrowful because of how far they fell from God. If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you know that all of your sins-past, present, and future- have been forgiven. There is no need for a forgiven Christian to live in condemnation and sorrow, because the blood of Christ has restored you to God. Going back to Nehemiah, there are principles to living a joyful life that we can extract from this Scripture:

*God wants us to enjoy our lives.

*God wants us to use our blessings to help others.

*God has given us this day and He wants us to make the most of it.

*We do not need to grieve over the past or the present.

*Being joyful in God will give us the strength we need to overcome difficult times.

The cares of this world can steal our joy

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ parable of the four soils, which discuss how people’s hearts respond to God’s Word. The second and third soils where the farmer threw the seed were the rocky places and among the thorns. Jesus later explained the parable to His disciples.

“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:20-22, NIV).

Thus, if we allow our circumstances and difficulties to rule our lives, we will not be joyful in serving the Lord and we will not walk with Christ as we should walk.

To be in Christ is to be joyful

Jesus had just finished teaching on the vine and the branches when He told His disciples:

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11, NIV).

As we seek to live a life of obedience, the joy of Christ will remain in us. Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

To be joyful in trials is a sign of spiritual maturity

Not only is joy a by-product of being in Christ and a fruit of the Spirit, joy in the midst of a trial is also a sign of our spiritual maturation and the refinement of our faith.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV).

The Bible, as it does with so many other subjects, is rich with illustrations and Scriptures concerning joy. I urge you to seek out the Word and find joy for yourselves. No matter what you have been through or are going through at this moment, you can have joy. If you have made a resolution, a vow, a promise, or a pledge, concerning your spiritual walk, trust in the Lord. Trade in condemnation, shame, guilt, hopelessness, and sin in for God’s joy. As we resolve to live a joyful life, we will walk in more of God’s presence in this upcoming year and in the years ahead. God bless you all.

The Emphasis of Healing in the New Testament

In the previous post, “Healing in the Old Testament,” the subject of healing was discussed from the perspective of Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion against God. The Lord, through His prophets, spoke of Israel’s sin as a terrible wound or incurable disease, which served as a metaphor for Israel’s spiritual state. The four gospels and the Book of Acts, discuss the healing ministries of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. Healing is a controversial subject in the Church and brings up a lot of questions, such as “Is healing for today?” “Is healing in the atonement?” and “Why don’t we see miracles today?”

I believe the spiritual gifts are for today. I believe that if God in His sovereignty chooses to heal a person, He will heal them, whether through supernatural or natural means. Gifts of healings are mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:30). However, the spiritual gifts are bestowed upon believers as deemed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, not every believer will be gifted with the gift of healing nor will every church flow in the gift of healing. After studying healing in the New Testament, there are certain principles that must be understood.

The Word must first be preached

The gospels and Acts show that Jesus and the Apostles first preached the Gospel before healing took place.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, KJV).

“And they [the Disciples] went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13, KJV, brackets mine).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).

“The Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many were taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (Acts 8:5-7, KJV).

Salvation must be emphasized before healing

Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:16-26 all tell a story of a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus. The first thing Jesus said to the man was that his sins were forgiven. Of course, this caused a stir with the religious leaders who witnessed the event. Neither the paralyzed man nor his friends made any comment concerning his spiritual condition. However, Jesus being God in the flesh, saw the man’s need for forgiveness and salvation as more important than his physical healing. Jesus also healed the paralyzed man and he walked away from the gathering. As believers, we must always keep in mind that God is more concerned about our long-term spiritual growth than our short-term comforts. There are times believers will struggle with a sickness, disease, or affliction, and may not receive physical healing. God can use these difficult times to draw us closer to Him and teach us to rely on Him. Just like the paralyzed man, Christ wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, for that alone God is worthy to be praised. Multiple New Testament writers wrote about the healing that comes when we confess our sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth.” (3 John 2, KJV).

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14-16, KJV).

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps…Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21, 24, KJV).

The Word must be put into action

As the Church, it is important that we study the Word of God to show ourselves approved of God and teach the truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is doubly important to put the Word into action. Just as Paul emphasized to the Philippian church, we must apply and share what we have been taught. At various times during His ministry, Jesus sent out His Disciples and gave them authority to preach the Word and heal sicknesses, thus the Disciples applied what they learned. Jesus is the Living Word who came to bring salvation and freedom to all people in all nations. Maybe one of the reasons the Church in the United States does not see miracles take place because we are not correctly studying the Word, not properly representing Christ, or not putting the Word into action. Miracles, however, are taking place all over the world. From my own personal experience, when I went on a missions trip to Thailand and saw many mighty miracles and tens of thousands come to Christ because Jesus was declared as the way to salvation and signs and wonders followed the message. In New Testament times, the miracles took place to validate the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles, spreading the Gospel all around the world. I believe the same thing can happen for the Church in these last days and cause the reaping of a great harvest.