The Lost Art of Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️

As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment.  When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”.   As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.

The Fruit of Godly Discipline~😊

In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ.  It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself.  It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:

  1. My anger at my children, and/or
  2. My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?

The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT!  (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!)  I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.

 It was not until I learned:

  1. Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
  2. “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
  3. God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them! 

that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.

So what is the difference between discipline and punishment?  The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:

We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.

The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
  2. Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”

Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.

Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline.  Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor.  The results?  Just listening to the nightly news says it all.

So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent?  The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”

It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children.  Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent.  All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of  Godly discipline:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied. 

God convicted me early-on with this thought:

If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
MAKE YOUR OWN BED BEFORE REQUIRING THEM TO MAKE THEIRS!*
 

Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.

 I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.

This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place.  I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author.  I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.

Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.”  Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times.  Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our kids greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.

Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!

Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts.  I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books.  As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed.  We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible.  (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)

Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.

I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble.  When my children needed discipline, I viewed that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts.  This is the pattern we followed when they were small and required discipline:

  1. They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back (to help them think about what they had done rather than get distracted.)  If they fidgeted in the corner, more time was added– they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
  2. When the timer dinged, I sat on a chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me.  (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
  3.   I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?”  I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
  4. We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again.  (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
  5. Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.

As they grew the pattern adjusted.  Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)

Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine. 

I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him.  What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “  Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .

All to His Glory!

*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)

The Tyranny of Perfectionism vs The Joy of Godly Discipline . . . .

God uses what He will to shepherd our hearts.
This is the third in a series of posts featuring some of the ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God no matter what “life” brings. 
 ❤️

A WORD TO THE WISE:

“Do not deceive yourselves.
If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age,
you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

I Corinthians 3:18, 19a

For many years, feeling as if “failure” was my middle name, I struggled with depression. After surrendering my heart to Christ, the first Bible study I participated in was a six-week study of Philippians. Written by the Apostle Paul from a of filthy Roman prison cell, Paul none-the-less urged his friends toward JOY:

Battered by winter, yet signs of spring prevail!

“REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS, 
again I say, REJOICE!”
Philippians 4:4

What did I learn from Paul’s letter?

  • That for Christians, the basis for JOY runs deeper than mere happiness.
  • JOY is a choice.
  • No matter how my circumstances change or what others do, JOY is always to be had through Christ who strengthens me.

From then on, that was all I wanted . . .
pure, unadulterated JOY in the One who saved me
for Himself.

Yet I continued to struggle in two areas:

  1. I was disorganized.  I felt as if I constantly let God down, as I struggled to care for home and family.
  2. Going deeper, I knew my children needed discipline as they grew but, I didn’t how to discipline my children as a Christian mother.

At times, feeling closer to despair than joy, I prayed and dug into the Scriptures for the perspective I needed.  Finally, this verse pricked my mind and heart:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7

As I contemplated the wisdom of Samuel, it struck me that my problem was rooted in my ideal–PERFECTIONISM (or what I jokingly referred to as, “Better Homes and Gardens perfect”.)  I realized that I was confusing Scripture’s call to holiness** with perfectionism.  Until then, I would have laughed at the suggestion that I was a perfectionist–assuming that true perfectionists DID have their lives together!

However, the one thing I knew for sure,
was that God as my Shepherd would be far gentler
than the tyranny of perfectionism that had ruled me for so long.

Soon after, help that would answer my struggle with organization arrived.  A church friend invited me to join her and several others looking for help in organizing their homes.  Using an organizational card-system for “Side-tracked Home Executives” (referred to as, SHE), we found encouragement.  For several weeks we laughed as we listened to tapes featuring the stories of sisters, Pam Young and Peggy Jones, who sounded as if they had been more disorganized than we were.  It was their humor as well as their insights shared, not only about organizing our homes, but also a fresh perspective on husbands and children–that ministered to my heart.  In the end, their system did help me bring order to our home, but it also brought fun ways to encourage and discipline my children toward organization through:

  • “The Maid’s Box”–a cardboard box where favorite toys cluttering our home were placed until redeemed for 25 cents; and
  • “The Room Fairy”–who left occasional treats when their bedrooms were picked up.

Looking back, that season not only brought order (a healthier goal) to our home but also encouraged my heart in many other ways.

One memory that still causes me to smile occurred while we lived in England.  After my daughters found special treats on their beds from the Room Fairy, a neighbor girl said, “Aw, there’s no such thing as a Room Fairy, your mum bought those things.”  For a moment fearing that I had been found out, my oldest promptly responded, “Yes there is a Room Fairy, there’s no way my mum would buy such great stuff!” 😊

I continue to be grateful for how God freed me to trust Him with managing my home and family.

While getting organized outwardly, there was still a long way to go in tending to God’s primary concern: the inward condition of our hearts.  In my next post I will write about lessons learned as God replaced perfectionism with His perspective on discipline.  Here’s a hint to encourage you until then:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

All to His Glory!

*But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” I Peter 1:15

A Fresh Perspective on Valentines Day . . . .

I had some thoughts to share about Valentines Day, but the honest freshness of my friend Kristy’s perspective expressed it far better.  Read it and be blessed:

Tomorrow will start the flood on Facebook of all the lovely flowers, candy, jewelry and other niceties given to the many women I know who are committed in some fashion to their other half. A lot of single people find the day really depressing. They believe what the media tells them, that in order to enjoy Valentine’s Day, you must be in a relationship with a significant other.

Love always hopes, always trusts . . . .

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes . . . .

Let me tell you the real truth! Valentine’s Day is not a day strictly devoted to couples. It is a day you can choose to show love to anyone special in your life! If you are single, you could choose to show love to your parents, your siblings, special young people in your life, special older people, widows, orphans, and special friends. You could even show a little extra love and kindness to a stranger.

Tomorrow, I plan to celebrate the love I have for my daughter who lights up my life and makes me laugh. I will smile and I will enjoy the holiday as I do all the rest. Peaceful and content in who I have in my life.
For all my friends who are in relationships, post those pics of your beautiful arrangements! I would love to see them.
Lastly, I hope that you will remember the greatest love story and that is:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”
John 3:16

God loved you so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for your sins. That is Love! ❤️ ❤️

Didn’t I tell you?  Thank you, Kristy, for reminding me that true love is about so much more than hearts and flowers.  True love puts God and neighbor first as we give thanks for His Presence and kind provision in our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

All to His Glory!

The Bitter With The Sweet . . . .

BITTERSWEET is a word is we grow into over time.  It speaks to the disappointments and heartache that are part of life, yet refuses to let go of the vestiges of sweetness remembered.  The dictionary defines bittersweet as:

  • Arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain
  • Being at once bitter and sweet; pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret

Such is the definition of a life lived out fully.
Bittersweetness acknowledges the harshness of things broken or lost,
as it retains the memory of sweeter images past.

 Christmas is one of those seasons where bittersweetness abounds:

The Light of Hope shines through.

The Light of Hope shines through the darkness . . . .

  • Childhood memories of hope and excitement as the Big Day approached and family gathered together.
  • The shadows of candlelight playing against the walls during Christmas Eve Services as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.
  • The joy of giving sacrificially out of love for the Savior.

Christmas is also is a season of reflection and remembrance of things lost or broken: relationships . . . people . . . health . . . hopes . . . and, yes, dreams never realized.

This past year was especially hard for my family and friends . . . tears still come easy as we remember those who are no longer with us.  Many dread the approach of Christmas, unsure of how to get through the bitter pain of loss:

  1. Some may choose to ignore Christmas–with hearts bitter toward God..
  2. Others will go through the motions of Christmas–not wanting to disappoint others, but find themselves numb within.
  3. Still others will choose to lean into the Hope of the Christmas Story-realizing that it was written especially for them.

Is there a way to navigate the pain of loss at Christmas?

Through personal experience I know that the third option is by far the best.  To ignore Christmas altogether, or to numb ones-self to the Celebration, too often leads to an ever-spiraling, dark despair that tends to rub-off on those closest to us.

The wisest choice is that of entering into the Light of Christ’s coming,
while embracing the Hope of His return.

After ministering to people struggling with brokenness and loss of every sort and in every season, it is always those who entrust their brokenness to the One who saves, who realize the blessing of a deepened faith that moves them forward:

“The people living in darkness
have seen a great Light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a Light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:16

This past week my burden was lightened by the sweetness of a video put out by Southland Christian Church in Kentucky.  I offer it to you as we navigate this Season of Celebration, in the hope that leaning into this retelling of the Christmas Story will sweeten your perspective as it has mine:

 

All to His Glory!

 

How to Make Joy in Your Journey a Reality . . . .

There is a small sampler hanging in the entryway of my home.  Few people notice it (probably because it is surrounded by pictures of family) but I quite enjoy its depiction of a colonial home with a tree along with a beehive with bees framed by flowers and greenery typical of a colonial sampler.  Yet, as lovely as it is to look at, for me, the best part is the message it proclaims:  “Blessed is the life that finds joy in the journey.”  

Blessed are those who find . . . .

Blessed are those who find . . . .

JOY.  The Bible mentions joy frequently, but in ways that a world focused on itself cannot understand:

“Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . .”

 James 1:2

“Do not be grieved,
for the JOY of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10b

“But REJOICE . . .
as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
SO THAT YOU MAY BE OVERJOYED
when His glory is revealed.”*

I Peter 4:13

Holding onto joy in the journey can often elude us in our ever-changing, increasingly upside-down world.  For more than twenty years I have been privileged to come alongside people fighting personal battles large and small in the Counseling Room.  As we have looked to the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective, God has faithfully spoken to each hurting, hungry soul. Repeatedly, I have witnessed God’s faithfulness in shepherding the hearts of those faithful to do their Journey Notesas the assurance of His Presence and Purpose being worked our in their lives, provide a quiet JOY that settles in their hearts.

So, how can we receive JOY when life hits hard?
By giving thanks to God IN the hard places.

An even better question to ponder is:

How can we retain JOY throughout our journey?
By give thanks to God FOR the hard places.

I met a young woman recently who, though shattered by infidelity in her marriage, told me about how God had softened her once angry and bitter heart.  She confessed her own failures as she expressed her determination to be reconciled with her husband.  She admitted that she almost canceled our appointment except for one remaining question: “Is there anything else I can do to encourage my husband to want to re-build our marriage?”

I responded with a question that burned brightly in my mind as soon as I heard her question, “Have you given thanks to God for your husband’s life and for your marriage?”  I went on to explain, “You have testified to me about how God has brought about change and spiritual growth in your mind and heart.  GIVE THANKS,  for the blessing of God’s divine purposes being worked out in your heart and life–a maturing, humble faith.”  She nodded with a thoughtful smile as the wisdom of what was said settled in.

What lesson can we learn from this?  While the world touts “happiness”, God calls us to go deeper as we choose JOY as a reflection of our trust in Him.

The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage his friends about the basis of his JOY from a prison cell:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him (Christ) who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12, 13

If you are looking for a formula for Joy/contentment in your circumstances, this acronym for JOY will serve you well: put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself, last.  

True Christ-centered JOY, chooses to trust more in His love for us,
as we give thanks that we are never alone.**

 Christ-centered JOY remembers the all-surpassing love of the One who came expressly to save us from ourselves . . . for Himself:

He died for us so that,
whether we are awake or asleep,
we may live together with Him.
Therefore encourage one another. . .
build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing . . . .
Rejoice always, pray continually,
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES*;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:10, 11, 16-18

ALL to His Glory!

*Large capitalized letters, emphasis mine.
**Psalm 139

A Faith That Flies . . . .

Forty-five years ago, I married a man in love with flying.  On our first date, he rented a small airplane to fly us over the Los Angeles Basin as we shared a pizza.  When he asked me to marry him, that man made sure I knew that flying would an important part of our future when he asked, “How’d ya like to join the Air Force?”  (All these years later, I still find myself smiling as I remember saying, “Yes!”–even though a small part of me wondered if he was an Air Force recruiter!  I was quite relieved when (four days later) he handed me a brochure titled, The Air Force Wife!)

On those occasions when we fly together, I always marvel at how carefully he looks over every inch of the outside of the airplane, making sure nothing is loose or missing.  He does the same thing once we get into the cockpit, handing me the checklist to read aloud as he confirms each section is in good order.

After watching him commit to memory so much about each airplane’s systems and procedures for so many decades, I asked him why a checklist was even really necessary?  This was his answer:  

DSC03194

“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“A checklist is a necessity because human memory is fallible.
We get into trouble when we forget parts,
add what isn’t there,
or do things in the wrong order.
To go through the checklist verbatim makes sure nothing is overlooked.”

Bottom line?  Flying is serious and sometimes risky business.  Whenever there is an accident, especially when there is loss of life, there is always a team sent to determine the cause of the crash.  There can be many reasons cited when a plane comes down, the one that is most dreaded and hardest to bear is, “pilot error“,  because it implies the accident could have somehow been avoided.

As I reflect on how essential reviewing a checklist is before every flight,
I am convinced that Christians have a responsibility to rely
on the Scriptures themselves, rather than memorization,
to navigate a world filled with danger.  

I do not mean to say that Scripture memorization has no value–because it certainly does!  However, there is always a danger of misapplication when it is taken out of context.  In the Counseling Room, no matter how knowledgable a Client may be when it comes to familiarity with Scripture, there is always danger for “pilot error.” We are fallen, fallible beings who need the wisdom of the Scriptures–within its context–to keep us on track.   Hebrews 4:12 affirms our need:

“For the Word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

The wonderful thing about investing ourselves in the Scriptures, is that they offer so much more than the basics of living.  Through this “alive” and “active” entity, the Creator beckons us into a relationship with Him.  This, my friend, is the call to risk everything we perceive as being “safe”, for something larger and far richer than anything we can humanly imagine. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
II Corinthians 5:17

If you have surrendered your heart to Christ, celebrate His provision of the Scriptures and His Spirit to help you stay on the path He has marked out for you.  (Ephesians 2:10)

A faith that takes flight is alive and active.
Such a faith reflects the constant nurturing of the Scriptures
through the working of God’s Spirit.
In difficulty and well as in times of ease,
a faith intent on worshiping God is one that ultimately soars.

So . . . no matter where you are in your life, God calls you not to deal with the challenges and joys of life in your own strength–too much room for “pilot error”!  Instead, remembering “the old has passed away . . . new things have come”, go to the Scriptures with intentionality to get to know Him better.  The following are some passages that are some favorites of mine:

 Psalm 96:9:

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him all the earth.”

Psalm 104:2-4 makes me shiver with wonder:

“He wraps Himself with light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens as with a tent
and lays the beams of His upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds His chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds His messengers,
flames of fire His servants.”

I love the powerful images in Isaiah 4o:27-31:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Of course there are so many more . . . if you have the time, please share some of your favorites in the comments section.

Now for a little earthly honesty: When I met my husband I was full of fear when it came to flying.  In fact, I hid my fears from him because I wanted to get to know the guy with the twinkly eyes better.  Over time I admitted my struggle to him–did my best to support him in his career–but it was tough.  A breakthrough for me came in early 2002,. I was preparing to fly 3,000 miles from my home, when I came upon a verse I had read many times.  Somehow, it seemed to jump off the page with new meaning as it  connected with my problem:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Ka-pow!  God spoke to my heart at that moment with an assurance I had never fully appreciated.   I realized that there is nothing that can rob me of one moment of the life God ordained from the beginning of time.  The wonderful news is that it is the same for you!  I urge you: fly to Him with whatever burden is weighing on your heart–NOW!  Release it to Him with thanksgiving, as you enjoy the wonder of His faithfulness . . . All to His Glory!

Christian Joy Is Not Man-Made . . . .

There is a difference between “joy” as it is experienced in the world and Christian joy.

  • Joy in the world is much like that of happiness contained in a helium balloon.  Such joy can appear to be almost wondrous as it floats high into the sky.  However, the enjoyment is only temporary as it drifts out of sight and ultimately “pops” as circumstances change.
  • Christian joy is not tainted by adverse circumstances or the actions of others.  Christian joy is instead filled with the hope and wisdom of faith in Christ Jesus.  

    Christian Joy is not man-made

    Christian Joy is not man-made

If you are struggling with circumstances that are out of your control, or are trying to make sense of the hateful ugliness being reported in the news, then I encourage you to stop and consider the wisdom of James.*   In his letter directed to, “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,”  James sought to encourage and exhort God’s people living in uncertain times (times similar to our own) to persevere in their faith to discover the “pure joy” of an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.  What is the essence of Christian joy?  Here is what James says:

“Consider it PURE JOY my brethren,
whenever you face TRIALS OF MANY KINDS . . .
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
SO THAT YOU MAY BE MATURE AND COMPLETE,
NOT LACKING ANYTHING.”
James 1:2-4 (Emphasis mine.)

The first time I read James, I thought his call to “pure joy” was some sort of weird, masochistic invitation to delight in suffering.  (You can bet I kept a wide berth between myself and James for quite some time!)  However, after going through some personal trials of my own, I remembered James and went back to discover the blessing I did not appreciate before. That last bit, about needing to persevere in my faith (trusting in God’s goodness rather than allowing hurt or disappointment to darken my perceptions) hit me like a fresh shot of sunshine that suddenly burst through a massive bank of dark clouds.  As I thought about God’s goal for my life–to work out a mature faith within me–all the defenses I had erected in the past to protect myself crumbled.  I realized then, that the joy James described was what I wanted too.

But, how exactly is Christian joy to be worked out?  Is it just a matter of “keeping a stiff upper lip” and trusting that everything will somehow work out?  Thankfully, I kept reading James and found the answer to my question:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

James 1:5-7

So, what is the essence of Christian joy and how is it even possible in the world we live in?

  • To rejoice in trial means that we refuse to doubt God’s Goodness as we seek His wisdom by faith.
  • Christian joy refuses to give way to fear but is strengthened as we resolve to stand in faith.
  • Christian joy is not naive but rests in knowing that the things of this world are only temporary, that our Hope (and therefore our joy in Christ) is eternal.

Christian joy is about going deeper in your faith to gain maturity.
It stretches beyond mere ascent to belief in Christ,
as it determines to embrace the benefits of maturity God affords under trial.  

No matter what you may be facing, James directs us to rejoice in the sure knowledge that this is not all there is.  In essence, James is calling you and I to step out of ourselves (like Peter stepped out of the boat so long ago) to gain a maturity of faith that is out of this world.  So-o-o-o-o, what are you waiting for?  Give thanks to God for His Goodness as a mature faith is worked out in you . . . .

All to His Glory!

*An  interesting side note: James was a half-brother to Jesus yet only refers to himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (James 1:1)