Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.
~ John Piper
Joy – A Good Feeling in the Soul
One song lyric I found says, “Happiness happens, but joy abides.“.
Perhaps if we see the beauty of Christ and His sacrifice within the Scripture and in the world around us, we’d be able to nurture a joyful heart…
What do you think?
Sometimes reading the Bible can feel intimidating.
If Scripture and the idea of Christ seem hard to grasp, reach out to a friend who you believe feels this kind of “soul” joy… Ask a few questions. Start a conversation. If feeling this kind of joy – a good feeling in the soul – is something you’d like to pursue, it’ll be worth the effort!
And until then, here’s a story to illustrate the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice. I don’t know who wrote the story originally – if you do, please let me know so I can put their name to it!
There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson who taught at a small college in the Western United States.
Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course his or her freshman year regardless of his or her major.
Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well-liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team and was the best student in the professor’s class.
One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. “How many pushups can you do?” Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
“200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know…I’ve never done 300 at a time.” “Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.
“Well, I can try,” said Steve.
Steve said, “Well…I think I can…yeah, I can do it.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
Friday came, and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. These weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?” Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”
Joe said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten pushups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten pushups, and Joe got a donut.
And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut, and down the second aisle, till Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.
When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?” Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own pushups?” Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.” Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”
Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience, Steve started to do ten pushups.
Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”
Dr. Christianson said, “Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.
Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?” Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”
Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more pushups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten, and Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face. His arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on.
Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”
Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now.
Jason, do you want a donut?” Jason, new to the room hardly knew what was going on.
“Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten pushups so that Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each pushup in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was profusely dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was no sound except his heavy breathing. There was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”
Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?” Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?”
Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.
When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work.
Steve told me that when a player messes up in football practice, he must do pushups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your pushups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.
“Steve, would you do ten pushups so Susan can have a donut?”
As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said. “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, pled to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he yielded up His life.
And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”
Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for us all, now and forever.
Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid.
Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it laying on the desk?”
Concerned over your future – of things not working out?
There’s a simple solution: just do the next thing…
“Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.”
“By this time, evening had come. And as it was preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, a man who looked forward to the kingdom of God, bravely went into Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that He was already dead, so he sent for the centurion and asked him whether it was long since He died. When he heard the centurion’s report, he gave Joseph leave to take the dead body. So Joseph bought a linen sheet, took Him down from the cross, wrapped Him in the sheet and laid Him in a tomb cut out of the rock and rolled a stone against the entrance.”
Can’t you imagine the disciples and Mary and Martha and the other bewildered women, sitting in absolute dejection and perplexity when their Lord and Master and King had just died?
They couldn’t think of one single thing to do.
Here came this Godly man, who looked forward to the kingdom of God, who bravely went in and asked for the body of Jesus.
He could think of one thing to do. He did the next thing.
That must have been a tremendous cheer and encouragement to those discouraged people. “
Prayer provides strength. And isn’t strength what we all really need as we face challenges and questions?
Strength to move forward, strength to meet the challenge, strength to persevere, strength to overcome, strength to stand our ground, strength to…
As good as venting can feel, it doesn’t provide anything long term.
Sure, you’ll get a bit of solidarity (or pushback). A “vent” on social media is there in the moment and then slides away in the feed. What about a “vent” in person with friends? It’ll get you a hug or a sympathetic look or word, but after it’s over, everyone just searches for something else to talk about…
Prayer provides strength.
For those who have uncovered the joy of praying, any and every challenge (your own or others) has the potential for building long-term strength.
Because unlike a “vent”, answered prayer unfolds into a long, long, stretch of experience that builds confidence. Prayer provides strength.
Your efforts in prayer don’t just disappear. Those efforts remain as an experience of tapping into the power that originates and flows from the Creator, the One who loves you.
Is prayer easy? Sometimes. Not always. Prayer can be work. However, the effort to pray for something for a very long time, regardless, is sweeter and more satisfying than anything else.
And if you’re wondering about God being silent when you’ve been praying for a long time, then consider these words from Oswald Chambers when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus. Rob and I have been praying for what feels like a long time, and hearing silence. But His silence hasn’t been what we thought…
It’s not as though we won’t experience pain just because we’re optimistic people… every person on this planet will suffer in some way, at some time. This hurt that could be physical, mental or spiritual will afflict all of us.
It’s not going to be possible to be cheery all the time. How can an optimistic person deal with these afflictions that cause an ache?
You can treat pain with the love of God.
C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Problem of Pain“, explores the question, “If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain?”. I’ve underlined a great number of phrases as I’ve read the book, and the quote below is especially poignant for me:
“When pain is to be born,
a little courage
helps more than much knowledge,
a little human sympathy
more than much courage,
and the least tincture of the love of God
more than all.”
So, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis — just a little bit of the Love of God when dealing with pain is more effective than anything else.
Where do you go to feel the Love of God?
I can feel God’s love in many ways – including
reading His Word,
pondering and praying in solitude,
when I listen to praise and worship music,
hearing the Word from the altar at church,
when receiving communion – the body and blood of Jesus and hearing the absolution,
when I pray with Rob, and with friends,
and when I honestly force myself to list all the blessings God has provided for me. Being thankful helps me feel God’s Love.
How about you – where do you feel the Love of God?
Positive People know they’re loved. And their actions flow from love.
There’s an amazing power in love – both accepting love and giving it.
Positive people are able to love others and receive love. They know that they’re created by God, who loves them and has put them here on this earth, at this time, for His purpose.
Their belief in this truth of God’s love helps others’ outlook by demonstrating, despite circumstances, mistakes and imperfection, love is possible.
When positive people take action it flows from love.
This is the 8th of eight ways positive people improve others’ outlook. It concludes the series! Here are links to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd,4th, 5th,6th, and 7th ways positive people improve others’ outlook on life.
Positive People acknowledge the truth and manage the overflow.
Positive People look for things for which to be thankful.
Positive People bring out the best in others.
Positive People build a tribe of other positive people.
Positive People go out of their way.
Positive People are aware of boundaries and also put them in place.
Positive People are focused.
Positive People know they’re loved. And their actions flow from love.
These 8 ways positive people improve others’ outlook began with a sentence in a post by Tom Corley that started me thinking…
“Positive people help to remove or subdue stress,
improving your outlook and your health.”
~ Tom Corely quote
In his post, he’s talking about toxic people and then contrasts them with positive people.
We are to surround ourselves with other positive people.
I imagine there are at least 8 ways positive people help improve other people’s outlook on life. They are probably more than eight… maybe you can add some in the comments.
We won’t all be good at all eight!
There’s every chance we won’t be experienced or proficient at all eight – even if we are pursuing positivity. No worries. Optimists always know there’s room for improvement.
A few days ago a positivity prompt directed us to pay attention using all our senses to things for which we could be thankful.
I found myself noticing all the little things:
the smell and taste of my fresh-brewed peach oolong tea
the color of a ripe strawberry fresh from the market
the bass timbre of my husband’s voice as we talked
the feel of my grandboy crashing into my generous-sized belly as he ran full-tilt into me. (I’m guessing he likes the residual bounce from impact because he giggles afterward. 😉 I’m thankful for that giggle, too! )
I came across an interesting study where a researcher had people walk in unfamiliar territory and they went in circles when they couldn’t see the sun. The circling was even worse when they were blindfolded. The researchers were trying to collect empirical data to support the age-old idea that when humans get lost they walk in circles.
Here’s a piece of the beginning of the study so you know to what I’m referring:
Common belief has it that people who get lost in unfamiliar terrain often end up walking in circles. Although uncorroborated by empirical data, this belief has widely permeated popular culture. Here, we tested the ability of humans to walk on a straight course through unfamiliar terrain in two different environments: a large forest area and the Sahara desert. Walking trajectories of several hours were captured via global positioning system, showing that participants repeatedly walked in circles when they could not see the sun. Conversely, when the sun was visible, participants sometimes veered from a straight course but did not walk in circles.
We tested various explanations for this walking behavior by assessing the ability of people to maintain a fixed course while blindfolded. Under these conditions, participants walked in often surprisingly small circles (diameter < 20 m), though rarely in a systematic direction. These results rule out a general explanation in terms of biomechanical asymmetries or other general biase. Instead, they suggest that veering from a straight course is the result of accumulating noise in the sensorimotor system, which, without an external directional reference to recalibrate the subjective straight ahead, may cause people to walk in circles.
Now, as fascinating as this research is, let’s take the idea into a more abstract thought… and go farther.
Or rather, further. “Farther” is for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical, or figurative, distance. (Sorry-not-sorry for the word-nerd-ism.)
What is your fixed point?
A goal might be a fixed point…
if your goal is to be a doctor, there’s a direct path to get there. It might take a long time, but you can discover which schools to attend, courses to take, and what practicum is needed.
if you want a thriving marriage, you focus on your spouse and learn each other’s nuances. You read, attend marriage workshops, and perhaps even look for a couple to mentor you.
and it works for small goals too – if you want a vegetable garden, you need to prepare the soil, plant seeds of the specific vegetables you want to eventually harvest, water the seeds and wait.
This isn’t hard.
Too often we drift. We wonder why we are feeling like we’re going in circles in life. There doesn’t seem like there’s any progress.
If this is the case,I’m going to suggest we don’t have a fixed point – a goal. Or a particular goal is too big – it needs to be broken into smaller goals.
Are you clear on your goal? Or goals…
1- Have you written your goal down?
A written plan is important for any goal. Perhaps you’ve used the SMART method to determine your goal? (S = specific | M = measurable | A = achievable | R = relevant | T = time limited) — Click HERE for a worksheet to do this exercise.
2 – Do you have accountability partners for your goal?
Many people can handle reaching a goal on their own. However, having accountability partners makes the goal much easier to achieve. And then you have someone or many to celebrate with when you achieve it! Perhaps “accountability” is an uncomfortable word. What about a “mastermind group”?
3 – Are you reading and learning about your goal?
Most individuals can’t know everything about a topic. We all need input from other sources to solve a problem along the way or make better choices when we’re reaching for a goal.
4 – Mentors help you visualize the goal.
Do you have mentors who have already been where you want to go? Even if they don’t know you, it’s possible to have people you can learn from just by understanding their decisions and the path they’ve followed.
5 – Do you have milestones to mark your way to the goal?
Have you broken your goal down into various milestones? Sometimes a goal is huge, and you need smaller successes along the way to remain motivated.
If you’re going in circles…
Try one of these actions to find your fixed point.
What goals are you trying to reach? Make sure your path is straight…
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…”
Philippians 1:6 NIV
It is not the end.
No matter how good things are… or how bad, God is not finished with you.
God loves you!
He has more for you. God is still writing your story – do not let go of your faith, just because you have yet to see the next chapter! (And yes, I do know how hard it is some days. Hang on.)
Remain faithful to HIM, as He has always been faithful to you.
We have every reason to be filled with hope – God is faithful, and will be faithful until it is the end.
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we’re in the middle of a concern, it’s not always easy to keep in mind that God has the best for us as part of His plan. In the middle we can be so consumed by all the details that the bigger picture eludes us. It can be hard – almost impossible – to sort through the possibilities to see where these experiences and events are leading us…
God is in the details and the bigger picture!
Yes – God is directing the details to make up the bigger picture for our life. And His end goal is to bring us closer to Him. Regardless of the details, the big picture He wants for us is to be with Him for all eternity.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
When can you see how the details come together to build the big picture?
It’s easiest to see how all the details come together to build the big picture if you invest some time in quiet prayer to examine the details. Ask God to show you His plan for your life… you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results! (It might take a while – be patient and persistent in prayer. It’ll be worth it!)
“The un-examined human life is a lost chance to behold the Divine.” That’s a quote by Frederick Buechner, an American writer and theologian.
Grab the opportunity for a bit of examination on how God has planned out the details in your life. Take note of where it’s all come together for your good… so far!
And even if the details right now are kind of sucky, there’s more good to come! We can trust God. Just ask Him.
He loves us. He loves you!
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!