Monday, October 3, 2016

Joy in the Journey Pt. 1

Sanxia, Taiwan

Last spring I was asked to speak at my church's women's fall retreat.  The topic was Joy in the Journey.  I spent my spring and summer immersing myself in the word joy.  I had moments where I was lost in my Bible, exploring verses and ideas.  There were times of accomplishment in seeing words grown on the page and there were times of absolute frustration and tears.  What in the world does God intend when He wants us to have joy?  I want to share with you what I learned, what I spoke on.  I'll do it over the next several weeks so that you can meander on this journey with me.

I am a woman, just like many of you.  I pray that God will use this time to help you look deep into your heart and take some time to examine joy in your life.

I don't consider myself a person who is bubbling over with happiness and giggles and fun.  I'm the person that within ten minutes of knowing me, we will be having a deep conversation, getting to the root of things in life.

I was perusing my journal last week and noticed that over the past six years, there has been a reoccurring theme of asking God for joy, peace and purpose in my life.  This struggle comes with a change of life circumstances - I went from living in a cozy Michigan town to being an expat, exploring the world and moving every few years; children growing up and moving away from home; struggling to get jobs that fill a financial need but are empty of personal meaning; health issues - breast lumps, thyroid issues and most recently being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; and everything else that comes in a normal cycle of life.  

Yet sitting here, at this moment in time, and looking back at the overall picture, I see God.  I see Him encouraging me and helping me  to smile and laugh and have joy in life - day by day.  I want you to do both these things.  I want you to peel back all the layers of your heart and look deep inside where no one else sees.  Examine that.  Then also look at the overall picture of who you've been.  I think it is important to do both because sometimes we get so wrapped up in instant emotion that we fail to see God in the greater work that is shining through in our lives.

My conference used the word picture of being on a journey in life.  The Bible give us different word pictures to describe what the Christian life is like.  A few of those are fighting in a battle (Eph. 6:11), choosing to walk a narrow path (Matt. 7:14), and Paul describes the Christian life as running a race (1 Cor. 9:24).  Let's think about joy for the long-haul.  Joy that is present with us as we journey through life.

I tend to start topical studies with the dictionary.  Before I begin, I want to know the secular meaning of a word.  I've often found that the meaning I had conjured in my mind is slightly (or sometimes radically) different than the actual meaning of that word.  It helps a lot when talking about what I'm learning if we're on the same page.

According to dictionary.com, joy is the emotion or great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation; the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety; a state of happiness or felicity.

Is this the way you would define joy?

As a Christian, what would you change or add to this definition?

What do you see as the difference between how the world defines joy and how the Bible defines joy?

Let's see how a few well-known Christian teachers define joy.

Joy is a settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, ad the determined choice to praise God in every situation. 
 - Rick Warren

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

I hope by the end of this series, you will have a new and deeper understanding of Biblical joy.  To give us an additional stone in our foundation of the word joy, let's look at the New Testament Greek definition.

Joy = Chara - 5479 xara
There are 59 occurrences of the word xara in the New Testament.
Noun:  joy or delight
Definition:  joy, gladness, a source of joy (extended favor, lean towards, be favorably disposed)
properly, the awareness (of God's) grace, favor, joy ("grace recognized")

When I read the Greek definition of joy, I see the secular definition taken a step further.  It includes things like expressing emotions and happiness and adds something the world won't find without God, and that's living our lives with the understanding of the grace that God has extended to us, and in that place, we find JOY.

I'll leave off here so that you can chew on this over the week.  Next week I'll dive in with understanding the grace that God has given us.

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