Cultivating a Joy-Filled Heart

Sally - Joy2Cultivating a Joy-Filled Heart
(This is the outline for my ladies’ study at our annual homeschool campout)

Unhappy, let alone angry, religious people provide more persuasive arguments for atheism and secularism than do all the arguments of atheists.~ Dennis Prager

We know our heart matters to God. We hear about a lot of hearts in God’s word – the word heart is mentioned nearly 1,000 times! There are ALL kinds of hearts:, unbelieving, blinded, deceived, haughty, covetous, deceitful, perverse, proud, darkened, defiant, rebellious, hard, bitter, broken, dull, impenitent, willing, clean, steadfast, pure, tender, wise…

What about unhappy hearts? Consider this:

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it. ~Fyodor Dostoevsky

Think about our trials and struggles…surely there are plenty in every life! Some struggle with faith in God. Some struggle with unloving or unfaithful spouses. Some struggle with raising their children. Some struggle with extended family issues. Some struggle with brethren. Some struggle with health issues. We all suffer in this world, even if our circumstances feel unique to us, suffering is rarely unique.

One of the very worst things we can ever do is look around and think our suffering is more than our allotted share, “Why ME?”! One year at at our annual homeschool camp, I met a widow with a tragic story of loss. When she shared her story with me, she said something simple, yet profound. She said, “Why Not Me? I’ll just keep looking for my rainbows. There are ALWAYS rainbows!” I’ll never forget that. After this, she faced one trial after another … still looking for her rainbows. She has been faithful to God and her latest set of rainbows was a godly husband. A few years later, a precious child. Her unwavering faith and hope and joy is inspirational! One of the best things we can ever say is, “Why not me?”

We can’t let circumstances steal our joy and dictate our state of mind! One of my favorite quotes is found on an orphanage in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
~ Teresa of Calcutta

Many of us will never face as many struggles as King David! He was a man with many struggles, many of his own making (and sometimes those are the worse!). He bore the guilt of Uriah’s death and the death of his first child with Bathsheba. He watched his sons war amongst themselves for his crown. He suffered betrayal at the hands of his flesh and blood. Still, he had an unwavering faith in God. In spite of the circumstances in his life, he went to God with full trust. He found joy in the Lord. While the Psalms show the depth of his turmoil, they surely show that David’s heart was full of joy and thankfulness! (Read Psalm 63).

We are a people with the most wonderful message, the good news of Jesus Christ! We are a people with a hope for the future, not just our future on earth, but for eternity! We should rejoice in this hope! We should cultivate an inner joy and scatter that joy! This will look different for different people and different personalities … a joyful heart doesn’t always mean a huge smile (but a mumbling, complaining, and grumbling soul certainly won’t reflect joy!) Cultivating a joy-filled heart is most certainly not about pretending to be someone you are not. A joyful heart is not dependent on the best of circumstances, it is a reflection of our joy in Christ not an indication of perfect circumstances. While a happy smile might certainly reflect joy, joy is more than a smile and a warm demeanor.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

No matter our circumstances, God’s wisdom provides medicine for our spiritual health! I certainly don’t have all the answers, but HE does! God prescribes a joyful heart! He is the answer to our search for joy. He replenishes languishing souls. He provides His church (our family on earth) to further give us joy and comfort. Do others derive joy and comfort from your love? Do you refresh the spirits of those in your realm of influence? Consider the following verses:

Psalms 32:1111 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Proverbs 15:13 13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

Proverbs 15:1515 All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.

Proverbs 17:2222 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 10:28 28 The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Isaiah 35:1010 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Proverbs 5:18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

Jeremiah 31:2525 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Philemon7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

2 Corinthians 7:13 13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

1 Corinthians 16:15-18 – 15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Psalm 113:9 He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!

Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and isend portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Do you struggle with inner joy? Are you unhappy? Seeing so much unhappiness has caused me to ponder the secrets of a happy heart!

1.) Joyful people are content!! Learn contentment by seeking to be content in your lot in life, by avoiding covetousness and avoiding comparing yourself to others

Comparison is the thief of joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt

(Illustration: a little girl yearns for the house across the valley with the golden windows, seeing her own as plain and so much ‘less’…finally she travels across the valley only to find an ordinary home. She looks at her home across the valley and realizes that her own house has been the one with the golden windows all along!).

We struggle with being content, with wanting what others have and we don’t have, with comparing our circumstances to others and with being happy with OUR PORTION! Yet, God’s word admonishes us about contentment:

  • Be content

Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

  • Be happy with your lot under the sun

Ecclesiastes 5:18–1918 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.

  • Avoid covetousness

Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

1 Timothy 6:8-10 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

  • Avoid comparing your situation to others

2 Corinthians 10:1212 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

2.) Joyful people have faith! Conquer unbelief and build faith

(Illustration: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”)

  • Conquer unbelief … this is one way we ‘feed’ our faith

Mark 9:14–2414 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

  • Put your trust in God … trusting in God ‘feeds’ our faith continuously

Psalm 28:77 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 32:10-1110 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.-11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

3.) Joyful people rejoice in their unique circumstances! Rejoice in who YOU are and how YOU can share your talents by serving and loving others. We won’t be content in our skin and circumstances if we are busy coveting someone else’s!

(Illustration: There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house and through the open gateway saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter. To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!” Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!” Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and labourers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!” Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!” Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.)

  • Glorify God using the talents He gave you

1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

  • Trust that your individual trials are yours for a reason

1 Peter 1:6–96 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

  • Trust that your trials will bring forth fruit if you will only let them

James 1:2–82 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

  • Follow Jesus’ example as a willing servant

Mark 10:43–4543 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

John 21:24–2524 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

  • Don’t grow weary

Galatians 6:9-10And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

 

 

 

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