Reading: Joshua 2-6
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17 (NIV)
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant had a very noble and serious job! As the people of Israel prepared to cross the Jordan river into the land God had promised them, and with war imminent, it was the priests carrying the ark who took the lead.
Carrying the ark on its poles, the priests stepped into the flooding River Jordan, then watched as the water ceased to flow, the water having “heaped up” somewhere way upstream. They then “stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Considering the nation probably numbered into the millions, they must have stood there for a long time.
The ark was no doubt a heavy thing to carry, both physically and spiritually. Physically because it was covered with gold, with the lid being solid gold, and spiritually because those carrying it were in a sense carrying the very presence of God. It was certainly not a job for the feeble or the faint-hearted.
Being in the service of God is still not for the feeble or faint-hearted. It is a noble calling. But carrying the Presence of God into the world can be hard work, both physically and spiritually. Even Jesus faced hardship and suffering, with long days and endless demands placed on him from those who desperately needed to experience the Presence of God in their lives. Yet that was why he came, that we might be welcomed into the very Presence of God.
If I am to continue with my part in this noble calling, I'm going to need perseverance, to keep pushing on even when things are uncomfortable. That doesn't sound like much fun really, unless I can also get myself infused with life's “essential oil” – joy. Fortunately, God specialises in joy! Jesus came to bestow on me the “oil of joy” (Isaiah 61:3). Because the Holy Spirit lives in me, I am his dwelling place, and 1 Chronicles 16:27 tells me that “…strength and joy fill his dwelling.” (I note strength and joy are together). The fruit of the Spirit's work and presence in my life includes joy. (Gal 5:22).
I suspect that the secret to letting joy truly infuse my life is firstly to bring daily to God everything that would contaminate that essential oil – sin, worries, annoyances, frustrations, hurts – and secondly, to daily practice those three short verses that so beautifully summarise God's plan for my life: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5:16-18
As well, I need to pray for those who serve God in positions of leadership and responsibility in the Body of Christ. They carry a heavy load, and they deserve my respect and support.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19-20). Thank you Lord for joy. It's one of my favourite things! How wonderful that it's in joy that my strength is found – who would have thought they went together?! Help me Lord to bring to you daily everything that would make that oil of joy rancid, that you would purify joy and perfect holiness in me.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:10-12 (NIV)
Reading: Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100 (NIV)
Psalm 100 is a wonderful psalm – short, yet full of wisdom and truth. I belong to God! That could either be good or bad, depending on God's character. But it's ok, God is good! Not only that but he loves me, and his love will last forever! He will never discard me or shift his affection elsewhere. His faithfulness is the stuff of legends. He stores up goodness for me for rainy days (see Psalm 31:19). He is the rich kind benefactor we all secretly wish we had.
The psalmist need hardly have bothered telling me how to respond. Anyone who really gets it will have that feeling of excitement and anticipation bubbling away constantly in the background, at least to some degree, and even when times are difficult. And when that joy wells up, we naturally find ourselves worshiping God and expressing our grateful thanks.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20, Paul tells me, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Psalm 100 gives almost the same keys for living, but also reminds me of the reason I can live like that – because I belong to God, and because God is good, he loves me and he is faithful.
I need to remind myself of these things often, lest I slide away from thankfulness, joy, worship and praise, and find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum – self-absorbed, anxious, irritable and bogged down. Whenever I find that the colour has drained out of my life and that the grey tones have taken over, that will be my signal to put Psalm 100 into action:
- “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving!”, an easy place to start as there's always something I can be thankful for.
- I will remind myself that I am God's, and will submit myself once again into his care.
- I will focus my lens on these thoughts, that “the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- Finally, I will lift up my hands and my heart to worship him.
Yep, that should fix it.
Lord God, I love the view from the colour end of the spectrum. Thank you for your plan for me to be always joyful, to be in continual conversation with you, and to be always focused on the good as I give thanks in all circumstances. I really like this plan. Holy Spirit, if ever you see me down at the grey tones end of the spectrum, please give me a prod. I want to see you fully expressing yourself through me as you fill me with your light.
Have you tried SOAP with your Bible reading? Why not try it out! You can learn more about this excellent tool here: What is SOAP?
Reading: Psalms 94 – 99; Philippians 4:4-8
Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 94:17-20 (NIV)
God is my help. Whenever I get that uncomfortable feeling that things in my life are getting out of control, that the weight of my responsibilities is too much to bear, it is God who supports me. His love is never overwhelmed. If I can just be filled to the measure with that love, there simply won't be room for anxiety. Paul gives some great advice on how to do this in Philippians 4:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:4-9 (NLT)
My heart and my mind are like rooms which can be filled with either darkness or light. Pressures and worries bring darkness. The solution? Add light, and the darkness will be dispelled! How can I add light?
- I can be joyful! This means focusing on and celebrating the good.
- I can pray about everything and talk to God about what I need.
- I can be thankful! Once again, this means focusing on the good.
- I can consciously fill my mind with good stuff, and not allow lies or negativity a look in. Chewing on God's Word is a great way to do this.
What a helpful book your Word is, Lord! Thank you for your love. Please help me to fill my mind with what is true and good, to always be thankful and to live a life characterised by joy.