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December 26, 2014

Clergy Corner: Make joy more than a feeling

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 2:50 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” 
— Habakkuk 3:17-18
 
The word “joy” in this scripture literally means to spin around and rejoice. In other words, Habakkuk was saying, “when everything around me appears to be going wrong, I will rejoice and spin myself around to my God, and He will deliver me and cause me to rise above the problems.” 
 
Most people have a limited understanding of what joy is. The definition of joy by the world’s standard is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure. There is no doubt that God wants every believer to experience the emotion of joy in their lives, but the way to experience this all the time can only come through understanding how to activate it. 
 
Instead of knowing joy as an emotion, know it as an action. Instead of joy begin something you feel, understand it as something you do. From the Biblical perspective, joy is much more than an experience; it is a spiritual force that will change your surroundings. 
 
I am reminded of the scripture in the book of Acts chapter 16, when Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the Word of God. Verse 25 says, “And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” 
 
Paul and Silas had every opportunity to feel sorry for their present condition; they had every opportunity to whine and complain about their surroundings. Instead, they chose to put on joy; they chose to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3), and they sang with their whole heart so much that the other prisoners heard them. 
 
This is exactly how joy is activated to produce a miracle. Verse 26 says, “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.” When Paul and Silas activated the spiritual force of joy, God changed their surroundings! 
 
Do you remember the story of Jericho in Joshua chapter 6? The Bible says that Israel’s men of war walked around the mighty walls of Jericho once a day for six days without saying a word.  
 
This is a good place to ponder for a moment: I wonder how many people in today’s society would fail the task of keeping quiet if they were walking around Jericho’s walls. Most Christians would be talking about how big the wall was, or they would ask someone next to them, “Why are we doing this? This doesn’t make any sense.”  
 
Could you imagine if they had Facebook in those times? The talk would never end.  
 
God had a reason for the men to keep quiet: Don’t talk the problem; talk the answer. The only way a person can talk the answer is if he believes it in his heart. 
 
Every day, those men were facing adversity, but something was happening, something was about to change. Every one of those men that walked around Jericho for those six days did exactly as they were instructed. They were faithful and obedient.  
 
Then on the seventh day, they walked around Jericho seven times. On the seventh time around, they shouted in one accord with a great shout causing the walls of Jericho to crumble right before their eyes. Notice what happened: a powerful miracle took place when the men of war activated something on the inside of them.  
 
In other words, God moved when they moved. When most people are only praising God when they receive a miracle; we should be praising God to produce a miracle.
 
Someone may ask, “But why shout?” Psalm 47:1 says, “O clap your hands all ye people; Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.” Think of it this way: Do you have a football team that you “root” for or like to watch on TV? What do you do when your team scores a touchdown or makes a great play? 
 
If someone can shout, clap, or praise for their favorite team, why should we think it strange to shout with joy, clap our hands, or offer up praise for the marvelous things God is doing in our lives? The exuberance of joy comes from the experience of victory and triumph.
 
In II Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat did something similar to Joshua when facing a mighty army. Before his army went to battle, Jehoshaphat sent people who sang praises to God in front of them. Verse 22 says, “And when they begin to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”  
 
In fact, verses 23-24 declare that the armies that stood against Jehoshaphat and his army all turned on each other. When Jehoshaphat showed up, there was no need to fight because their enemies had killed each other.  
 
How did this happen? God used a spiritual force to produce a natural miracle. Praise is something that comes from your heart; it is something that is connected with joy.
 
Here’s some great news: What God did for Paul and Silas, what He did for Joshua and the children of Israel, what He did for Jehoshaphat and his army, He will also do for you. Nothing is impossible to God; He can change anything. 
 
Do you believe this? If so, then start praising Him for the wonderful things He has already done in your life. This is how joy begins. 
 
Once you realize this, joy will become more than just an emotion; it will become your life. You will look at things differently; you will look at things through the eyes of God’s un-compromised Word, and nothing will be impossible to you. 
 
So put on joy, put on praise, activate it in everything you do – your life depends upon it.
 
Shawn Machen, Pastor, World Victory Church, Moody

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