“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, NAS95) In more ways than one this passage touches my life. Over time I noticed that Paul lives out of an energy and motivation that he intends us to find as a resource for life. I didn’t always think this way. God started speaking into my life by challenging me to hear this as an expression of reality, something very true for one who follows Jesus as Paul did — and I could. My old framework kept looking at this as a discipline or chore rather than a place of the abiding presence of God. When things go well, rejoice, which reflects my old way of thinking. As God challenged me, through this verse and ones like it in Philippians, I started to realize circumstances in Paul’s life, like shipwrecks and beatings. Then God started addressing what empowered Paul to traverse the known world to proclaim Christ and develop disciples of Jesus. There I noticed joy and what that emotion does for my life. Joy, real joy, not manufactured, energizes and empowers me. From that point, God started drawing my attention to when I experienced joy. I discovered joy in many spaces of my life, but mostly when I was in step with His Spirit, fulfilling God’s desires, whether Kingdom expansion, disciple-multiplication, spiritual direction, or taking a risk to develop something or someone new. I can’t forget my longing for God and spending time with Him too. Days of retreat with Him refreshed and rejuvenated me generating a great gratitude filled with an interesting emotion best described as a subtle but deep joy. Then the rest of the passage cited above came more clearly into view: gratitude and unceasing attentiveness to God (prayer). Abiding in joy or rejoicing always because God’s presence accompanies me everywhere I am. In all honesty, this conversation with God occurred over many years, starting in the early 2000s. I learn very slowly, but God kept interacting and leading. Now He’s rooted me deep in this joy and I love things that used to scare me, like introducing a stranger to Jesus because I know the power of God will meet me as I step into His desires. That always brings joy. Now I long for God, looking and listening for what He desires, and in the middle of that, joy just shows up. Lucky me (us)! Pursue God and joy finds its way through your heart. In Christ, Doug Mitts
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.” (Psalm 43:4, NAS95)
Where do you regularly experience Joy? What might God be saying to you through those experiences?
Consider times when you were convinced your experience of joy is sourced in God? What do those memories tell you of yourself and of God?