Pursuing Happyness: Fighting for Joy in 2009

As we begin a new year, many of us are putting together New Year’s resolutions for 2009. If that is you, you probably have felt the pressures of such commitments already — and maybe you’ve already slipped and fell. I am not against New Year’s resolutions, but I am distraught at the failure rates of such endeavors. I do want to address some areas where we all need to set up goals for our spiritual walks in light of how 2008 turned out.

Fight, hard

Elysee - All Photographers Now! (2007-03-29, 2.13PM)For most Christians, happyness (also known as “happiness”) is difficult to come by when we go through trials of various kinds, as it is usually seen as a feeling of pleasure based on circumstances.  Joy, however, should be a calm delight in the person and character of God in spite of and despite the circumstances we are in.  That may sound wonderful, but our experiences in life tell us how difficult it is to find true joy.  Believe you me, it was difficult to find happyness and joy in 2008.  But let us heed God’s word from apostle James:

Count it all joy [χαρά], my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

It is obvious that it is very difficult to see the sufferings we go through as joy (or happiness for that matter).  All people go through suffering in life continually; it’s as certain as death and taxes.  However, James’ point is that we need to count it — the different kinds of trials that God brings into our lives — as joy.  The whole experience and the entire circumstance, we must “consider it an opportunity for great joy” (NLT).  For while unbelievers may look and see the situation as an opportunity for cursing God and running away from him, we must use the trials we face as a chance to glorify God and help others see joy through similar situations.

Similarly, it is  obvious why we often don’t desire God.  We find little joy in our walk with the Lord when we don’t see enough reasons to be glad, and thus sometimes we turn away from him and walk our own separate path.  Lord have mercy if we ever find ourselves on this kind of path to destruction.  The Scriptures continually remind us that while joy is the gift of God, it is also something that we must labor to attain as sons of our heavenly Father: Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12).  Joy is something we must fight for, especially in times when we don’t desire God.  And if we feel like we often don’t desire God as a person, then we need to fight more diligently to see our trials as an opportunity for great joy!  Consider Hebrews 12:1-2 :

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy [χαρά] that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Spirit-inspired writer of Hebrews calls us to do 2 things — necessities for joy on the road marked with suffering: (1) strip off every sin that hinders and entangles us; (2) run with perseverance the race God has set before us.  Oh how often do we flee towards sin and temptation when the going gets tough, instead of fleeing from those useless things which slows us down and trips us up!  Oh how often are we lazy and give up so quickly when life throws us a lemon!  We must persevere and endure, because there is a great reward in and at the end of this difficult path: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the object of our joy! Continue reading

Obedience and The Greatest Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

The Greatest Commandment

6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Continue reading

Psalm 73: A psalm of Asaph

Personal testimony of spiritual deliverance [ Psalm 73 ].

Psalm 73 is a high point of the Psalms and a poem with great contemporary relevance. The poem is cast in the form of a retrospective narrative in which the speaker recalls his existential crisis of faith when he envied the prosperous wicked. The opening sequence is as follows: a statement of the safe position at which the speaker landed at the end—a victory speech at the finish line to prevent possible misunderstanding regarding what is to follow (v. 1); a preview of the crisis (vv. 2–3); a portrait of the prosperous wicked as they are in themselves (vv. 4–9) and as viewed by the culture at large (vv. 10–12); the speaker’s self-pity and discontent over having lived a godly life of self-denial while the wicked prospered (vv. 13–15). Right in the middle of the poem we have the reversal: the speaker’s recovery of a right view of God and life when he worshiped God in the temple (vv. 16–17). In the second half of the poem, we revisit the topics that we traversed in the first half, as follows: a second view of the prosperous wicked—the reason the speaker changed his attitude (vv. 18–20); the speaker’s retrospective put-down of his earlier ungodly attitude when he envied the wicked (vv. 21–22); a second view of the godly life—a spiritual inventory of what the speaker possesses in God and now perceives to be better than the temporary earthly prosperity of the wicked (vv. 23–26); a summary of the twofold movement of the psalm, which has contrasted the temporary nature of the wicked’s earthly success (v. 27) and the implicitly unending rewards of the godly (v. 28).

Why God Doesn’t Fully Explain Pain

Here's John Piper on "Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain":

One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened so that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.

Remembering The Choice Mercies of Yesterday

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
–Psalm 116:5-7

C.H. Spurgeon writes,

You can’t do this? Are there mercies which you haven’t experienced? Even though you are gloomy now, how can you forget that blessed hour when Jesus met you, and said, ‘Come to me’? Can’t you remember that rapturous moment when He snapped your fetters, dashed your chains to the earth and said, ‘I came to break your bonds and set you free?’ Or if you’ve forgotten the love you felt at your wedding, surely there must be some precious milestone along the road of life not quite grown over with moss on which you can read a happy memorial of His mercy toward you? Don’t forget what your God has done for you; turn over the pages of your mind, and remember the days gone by. Go back, then, a little way to the choice mercies of yesterday, and though all may be dark now, light up the lamps of the past, they shall glitter through the darkness, and you shall trust the Lord until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

Putting God’s Promises in Circulation

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
–Psalm 42:1-2

C.H. Spurgeon writes,

God’s promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper. He intended that they should be used. Nothing pleases our Lord better than to see His promises put in circulation. He loves to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, ‘Lord, do as you promised.’ We glorify God when we please His promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches He has promised? Do you dream that He will be any less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you imagine He will be any less pure for washing you from your sins? He has said, ‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are red as crimson they shall be like wool.’ Faith embraces the promise of pardon. It doesn’t delay, saying, ‘This is a precious promise, I wonder if it is true?’ but goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, ‘Lord, here is the promise. Do as you promised.’ Our Lord replies, ‘Be it to you even as you will.’ When a Christian grasps a promise but doesn’t take it to God, then God is dishonored; but when one hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, ‘Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, You have said it;’ then the desire shall be granted. Our heavenly banker delights to cash His own notes. Never let the promise rust. Draw the word of promise out of its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. Don’t think that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding Him of His promises. He loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls. It is His delight to give favors. He is more ready to hear than you are to ask. It is God’s nature to keep His promises. Therefore, go at once to the throne with, ‘Do as You promised..’

As quoted by C.J. Mahaney at the 2008 New Attitude Conference in his Session 4 message: The Troubled Soul: God’s Word and Our Feelings (an exposition of Psalm 42). You can download to the message here.

3 Things to Memorize, 3 Books to Read

3 things I must memorize asap (well, within the next 4 months):

  1. the names of the books of the Bible in order (and correctly spelled),
  2. the Ten Commandments (short version and in order), and
  3. the text of 1 Timothy 4:7,

    Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.

    and 1 Timothy 4:16,

    Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Plus, I must read these 3 books:

  1. Bunyan, John. Pilgrim’s Progress.
  2. Steer, Roger. George Müller Delighted in God! Tain, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004.
  3. Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1991

And since I plan on attend Chapel faithfully throughout this semester for grade, I could additionally read for personal enjoyment:

  • Packer, J. I. A Quest for Godliness. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1990.

All this, just for the Personal Spiritual Disciplines (40150) course I am taking with Dr. Don Whitney every Wednesday this fall.

Ahh…. I should start studying 😉