For all intents and joyful purposes, we are through five months in this year. This entry is an update from previous posts and could be called my joyful confessions. I began January with a simple conviction to focus upon two words: intentional and joy. To hold myself accountable, I wrote two blog posts to introduce and work through the concepts. The key thoughts I’m working with this year are Jesus’ words found in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
How am I doing? Well, it pains me to report that I’ve not done as good as I wanted. I’m starting to think that the first concept, intentional (living), is where I need to be more focused. Let me explain a bit more. By intentional living, I mean that we must do life on purpose. It’s becoming more clear to me that God has placed 100% of the responsibility for that on individuals. Think of it as the fact that He has given us a free will with which to be proactive in decision making and to react appropriately in situations out of our control. Make no mistake about it. Intentional living means that I accept 100% responsibility for my life.
Does that bother you? Let me elaborate. I am responsible for what time I get up in the mornings. It is entirely my decision. I am responsible for how I begin my day. I can get up early and make sure I begin in a quiet and devotional manner, or I can sleep in and hurry through my morning to a haste-filled day. I am responsible for my taking of exercise or neglect of it. I am responsible for my nutritional choices. No one has ever forced food into my mouth. You see, I could go through every moment of the day and state the myriad of choices that I am responsible for. The simple point is that each of us must accept 100% responsibility for our lives. Every choice of every day is not predetermined. Even if we fail to accept our responsibility, it does not go away. We can blame life’s circumstance on others, but staying in a victim-like mindset will only cause drifting. Drifting is what happens when you refuse to steer. Sooner or later, drifting leads to the side of the road and into the ditch.
I was recently reminded of President John Quincy Adams. He was highly involved in a pro-slavery Congress. For about seventeen years he stood unflinchingly and was often a lonely anti-slavery voice. When asked why he persisted in the face of such opposition, he said, “Duty is ours. Results are Gods.” In other words, I am responsible for doing what I know to be right, regardless of what others do or think, and I can trust God to take care of the results according to His sovereign will. As a follower of Christ, I am responsible to intentionally follow Him. And Christ followers do the right thing simply because the right thing is the right thing to do.
So how is this concept of intentional living supposed to lead me to more joyfulness? Well, for me it means that I must dutifully approach “these things” (John 15:11). Three distinct words of Christ are to “love each other,” “trust in faith,” and “obey His commandments.” And I can not forget that the Upper Room context of John 15:11 contains this profound and poignant Christ statement, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
Often in my life, I sense the need to return back to earlier lessons learned. Another way to summarize my thoughts here is to remember the need to keep the three F’s of life in their correct order. Several times in spoken ministry, I’ve taught an object lesson with three F blocks representing facts, faith, and feelings. When participants are asked to arrange these three blocks in order of importance, the results are typical of how we tend to drift. Many live by feelings first and decide that they should trust their heart. If it feels good, they do it. They are thereby led by emotions. Several think that faith should be the first priority of life. But alas, faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Just the facts, ma’am. That’s where intentional living starts. We place our faith in the facts of God’s Word and are led by its living principles. We do this without regard to feelings because feelings are notorious liars, especially in matters of faith. So, intentional living starts with the facts of God’s Word. We place our faith therein; living by faith and not by sight. And sometime in the process, our feelings simply catch up with our fact-based, faith-filled free will.
I’m now convinced that the key to maintaining a more joyful existence is to focus more on the foundation of intentional living. I confess that I’ve tried to force joyfulness, as I have defined it (the permanent disposition of a deep down settled contentment that tells me everything’s gonna be alright in Christ). I confess that I’ve had things a bit out of order. Once again, I’ve walked into the light that biblical joy is the supernatural byproduct of the intentional living of Christ followers. For all intents and purposes, I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength.