This devotion is about Jesus being the center of our joy. Our joy is not based on what happens externally to us but is about Who exists at the exact center of our being, about who lives in the exact center of our hearts, at the core of our souls.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Amplified Bible
Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my [a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
The Word of God for the Children of God. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Throughout the duration of this blog, I have written repeatedly to you about being faithful, hopeful, joyful, thankful and actually, genuinely giving thanks to God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, regardless of the circumstances we are facing.
You see, there are many people that can only express true thanks when things are going well for them. When things are not going well there is stress and worry followed by doubts of the situation working out in their favor. And, more importantly, when the situation does not work out in their favor, they are even more visibly discouraged and filled with a mounting anxiety about their future.
This revolving door is what many people face day in and day out and yet the Bible says that we are to give God thanks regardless of what we are facing.
In fact, when we come to Him in our times of trouble, we should give Him all of our thanks and praise before we make our request. We can do this because God does not exist on our timeline, so He is working things out on our behalf even before we ask because He knows we are going to ask. So, we can be thankful at all times regardless of what we are facing because of what Jesus has done in our life. And, because of Jesus, regardless of what we face we can have joy. Joy is the reason we can be thankful in the very midst of all of our trials and tribulations.
The subject of my devotional message is “Jesus the Center of My Joy.”
Richard Smallwood published a song with this title, and I want to share a couple of verses with you.
It opens with “Jesus, You’re the center of my joy; all that’s good and perfect comes from You. You’re the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do, Jesus, you’re the center of my joy. When I’ve lost my direction, you’re the compass for my way, You’re the fire and light when nights are long and cold. In sadness, you are the laughter, that shatters all my fears, when I’m all alone, your hand is there to hold.”
Speaking joyfully for myself, this song captures “the place” where every single Christian must eventually come to if they want to consistently triumph over hard times – understanding that the only real joy in this life is found in Jesus!
I remember as I was growing and maturing in my “young” faith wondering how the “old folks” could consistently give testimony after testimony about their lives and still exhibit joy when I knew some of them were having a hard time.
What I didn’t understand was that they did not measure their joy by their circumstance, but by the relationship they had developed with Jesus.
As the song said, “…in sadness, you are the laughter, that shatters all my fears….”
Those old folks lived this song and I now understand why they could shout for joy when times were hard. I understand why they would say “Jesus will work it out….” without understanding how He would do it.
They had lived long enough to see Him do it over and over, so they were able to establish a state of constant joy even when things were bad. Having this joy did not stop them from the normal emotional responses that everyone experiences, but it never left them. They were always able to come back to it just as the song said, “When I’ve lost my direction, you’re the compass for my way….”
So, on this day, in this Father, Son and Holy Spirit centered moment, we will examine what it means to have joy, what it means for Jesus to be the center of it.
Let me share with you a definition for the word “center.” It means “the middle point, area; the point that is the focus of attention or interest.” Now here is the definition which I really want you try hard to capture: “the point or line around which something rotates.” The center of something is that very middle point of balance. In other words, it is the exact point where there is equilibrium, the one point where everything else rotates around it. Every person has that center – a rooted core set of beliefs that help them make sense of the world around them.
When we believe about Jesus being the “exact center of our joy,” we are saying our joy is achieved or found in Him and that it is not determined by the negative circumstances staring at us from our mirrors. When Jesus is our center, when He determines our core set of beliefs, then we will understand why the things happen and, more important, how we can trust Him to get us through them.
The Holy Scriptures speaks a lot about joy so this day, which God has made for us, we are going to look at why Jesus has to be the exact center of our joy. When we make Jesus the centerpiece of our life, we are able to see what’s important. What matters? Our knowing and experiencing a center other than ourselves.
Now please remember there is a big difference between joy and happiness.
A Christian’s joy comes only from the inside. I am going to say that again – a Christian’s joy comes from the inside. It is not like happiness, which is based on something that happens to you, not in you. This is why a Christian can be joyful even in the midst of terrible situations – not because they are not suffering, but because of “Who” resides within them.
Let’s start with an Old Testament Scripture. Turn to Nehemiah 8:10. It reads, “Then he said unto them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet wine, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be you grieved; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah is a book that focuses on the rebuilding of Jerusalem. As they cleared away the rubble and debris, they found fragments of parchment containing the Law of Moses. Since the Jews had been in captivity, many of them had never heard the Law. And because of this, verse 9 says “all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” They wept because they knew that they had not been living the way the Law said they were supposed to live.
Their crying demonstrated their repentance after learning they had not been pleasing God. And that’s why, in verse 10, it says “neither be you grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I want you to see something here. Whose joy is our strength? The Lord’s joy is our strength.
New hope! New Joy! When we rejoice in the Lord, when we rejoice in our God, it gives us strength physically and mentally to prevail over whatever it is that is causing us not to be joyful.
That’s why Nehemiah says it is “the joy of the Lord which gives us strength!”
We are empowered to face all situations because we are not facing them in the power of our own strength, but with the strength that comes from the joy of the Lord. When I am sick – it’s the joy of the Lord that provides me the strength I need to see my healing manifested. When I am struggling with life’s vast array of issues, it’s the joy of the Lord which strengthens me to keep walking day by day. Truly I can say with confidence, “the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
I have read several articles which have said, “Smiling can trick your brain by elevating your mood, lowering your heart rate, and reducing your stress. The smile doesn’t have to be based on real emotion because faking it works as well.”
Our brain responds positively when it senses joy and happiness. Smiling is a physical response to joy and happiness and the brain likes it. I tried it sitting at my dining room table as I was writing this devotional message. Guess What? It Works! Imagine how positive and upbeat we would feel if we walked around all day just outwardly smiling. Ok, I will admit that there will be people who look at us strangely for smiling too much – but who cares right. Let’s try this – I want everyone to smile behind your masks exactly 60 seconds. Now don’t you feel better?
Turn with me to the book of God’s Prophet Habakkuk. If you go to the last book of the Old Testament and count backwards, it’s the fourth book. I will give you a moment to find it because I so very much desire for both you and I to see this. When we face hardships, what we are going to read should be how we respond.
In Habakkuk 3:17-18 it says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, (Now look at his response.) yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
Did you notice what the prophet said in the midst of all of these bad things? He said, “I will.” He chose to rejoice. He chose to have joy. And do you know how he made that choice?
Let’s read verse 19. “The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills….” When God’s Prophet chose to rejoice and have joy, the Bible says he knew that God was the only source of his strength, and that God would make his feet like deer’s feet. Even though God’s Prophet faced all these bad things, he said that God will make his feet like those of a deer – in other words, because God is his strength, he will escape these things swiftly, just like a deer that runs from danger. Isn’t that a great image?
In Psalm 16:11, David says, “You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
When will the Lord show us the path of life, He has for us? When we are in the center of His presence! The Bible says David was a man after God’s own heart, so he clearly understood how important it was to spend time with the Lord.
David sings to us there is “joy to its fullness” in the presence of God. Not partial or temporary joy; not semi perfect sometimes perfect joy; not joy intermingled with frequent or infrequent bouts or hand to hand battles with despair, pain and sorrow. No. In God’s presence the joy we will have is 100% full, satisfying, pure. There is nothing which can take away from the joy we have in God’s presence.
Before going to the next scripture, I want you to understand something: when we are born again, we are born into God’s presence! That’s why, as we read in Habakkuk, we have to choose joy.
We literally and figuratively have to choose every single day to live out of what is inside of us! And we see a similar thought in Romans 15:13 which says, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) Do you see the words “in believing”? Believing – faith – is what we offer to God so that He can fill us with joy and peace. As with all things related to the kingdom of God, our faith, our hope, our love, our joy, is what allows Jesus to move on our behalf.
As I close this devotional, I want you to leave you with just a few thoughts for your prayerful consideration. Let me share a few statistics with you.
• If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
• If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
• If you woke up this day with more health, wellness than illness, you are more blessed than the two million people who will not survive this week.
• If you can attend a church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people.
• If you can read your Bible or any book, you are more blessed than over 2 billion people in the world that cannot read at all.
• If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most, sadly do not.
Now here is what I want you to try very hard to remember.
The “other” people mentioned in these statistics experience joy.
If you thought I was going to tell you that you should be joyful because you have so much more than many in the world then this day of the Lord’s creation, you would be grievously mistaken as it relates to joy.
Yes, we have much more and yet we will forever still desire more.
Yes, we have more, yet we still deal with anxiety, and the fear of loss.
But remember, the measurement of joy is not based on what we have externally; it’s Who we have internally!
Luke 18:9-14 AKJV
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you; this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
What I want you to try very hard see is the joy the “other” people experience, they experience it in spite of their situations. In spite of the fact that they fall in the bottom 25% of the richest people in the world, they experience joy.
In spite the fact that more than two million will die this week alone, they have experienced joy, and some are looking forward to entering into their blessed reward in heaven. In spite of the fact that they cannot go to church and worship God freely and must do so in secret for fear of death – they experience joy in serving Christ whether they do so in a public way or in a secret and private way.
The examples I gave you serves to prove the point that the joy of the Lord is not based on life’s circumstance or our station in life. It is based on our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Jesus, You’re the center of my joy; all that’s good and perfect comes from You. You’re the heart of my contentment, hope for all I do, Jesus, you’re the center of my joy.” Is He the center of yours?
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us Pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Habakkuk and for the truths that we can learn. I acknowledge that, like Israel, we have gone astray and wandered far from You. We have left our first love and flirted with the world. Forgive us, Lord. Purify Your Church and restore to us the joy of our salvation. Keep us all faithfully looking to Christ and living by faith, for You alone are our strength and our salvation. In Jesus’ name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.