Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Discipline of Joy

Putting the words discipline and joy together doesn't sound right to me at first hearing. They're not two words we often put together. And, until recently, I would have argued that they don't go together.

In the last week, I've had the discipline of joy come up in two separate Bible studies, so I started thinking more about it. Putting these words together may sound strange to our human ear, but they fit.

Often, the world we live in isn't one that pushes us toward joy naturally. The reality is that life can be hard and joy can be something at the bottom of the list for us in those times.

When we begin to look at Scripture, we quickly realize that the authors of it didn't really make joy an optional thing for followers of Christ. In Philippians 4:4, Paul says this, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to "rejoice always."

These words coming form a man how didn't have a lot of reasons for joy from an earthly perspective. He had been beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned. Yet, Paul knew the importance of joy in the life of a follower of Christ, no matter the circumstances.

So, if joy is something so important, it is commanded in Scripture, then maybe calling it a spiritual discipline isn't so far off.

Even the Old Testament Law provides commands for celebration in the life of Israel. Celebration and joy are that important to God. Important enough that He made allowance for them in His covenant with Israel.

If joy is so important, why don't we experience more of it in our lives? Why is it so absent? And why does it often seem so elusive?

We don't experience joy because we don't make it a regular practice in our lives. We allow it to be contingent on our circumstances. If we allow it to be contingent on our circumstances, we won't have much of it in our lives.

But we also miss moments of joy in our everyday lives, because we're looking for it to be something big. We think joy and celebration should be something special and unique.

And they can be, but they don't always have to be. Maybe what we need to be looking for is the moments of joy in each day that we easily miss. Look for the little things and take a moment to find joy in them.

And then we also need to learn to set aside regular times to celebrate. Much like the times appointed in the Old Testament Law, we need to set aside times for that in our own lives. We have to take the time to celebrate what God has done and is doing with each other.

How are you doing with the discipline of joy in your life?

Are you missing the moments for joy in your everyday life?

How can you develop the practice of looking for joy in the everyday moments in life?

When was the last time you intentionally set aside time to celebrate what God has done and is doing?

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