Isn’t that one of the themes of the Christmas season?
“Joy to the world!”
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people!”
So, where do we find that joy? Many of our readers know the answer to that question in a very deep and personal way. Even so, Christmas is a great time to remember where real joy has its source.
Sue Eenigenburg in More Screams, Different Deserts, wrote a chapter called ‘Joy in His Presence.’ I’m including part of that chapter (with Sue’s permission). She did a great job of putting words to some of my recent thoughts.
Sue bases her musings on Luke 10:38-42. Jesus is visiting one of his favorite places, the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. As we well know, Martha had worry issues, and some irritability with her sister, too. Here’s Sue:
Mary knew that true joy in life was not found in her accomplishments or activities, but in her relationship with Jesus Christ. She would not allow herself to be distracted from her relationship with the Lord by things to do.
I think she recognized that true joy was found in the Lord’s presence. After spending time with him, she was able to live more intentionally for him. And as a result she wasn’t tempted to substitute the love she had for him with her love for serving him.
In the midst of our busy lives as ministers of the gospel, all that we do we should seek to do for God’s glory. There are things that have to be done: language to study, people to visit, meals to cook, and correspondence to keep up with … the list seems never-ending.
If we let those things become the focal point, we lose our joy; we grow tired because we lose our focus on Jesus in the busyness of doing things. Even if we are serving the Lord in all that we do, without investing time in his presence even the ministry we love can become stale.
I’ve come to the conclusion that spending time with God is always a choice. When my kids were younger and I was busier in the home, it was more difficult to make time to spend with God. Having my quiet time when the kids were awake worked when they were quite small. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a quiet time! Getting up early before the kids awoke worked when they were in school. Now that my kids are grown and married and off on their own, it isn’t necessarily any easier to choose to spend time with God, even though I have more free time! It is still a choice. Is it easier to find the time? Yes, it is. Am I less distracted? Yes, I am. But I am amazed that it still takes conscious effort to set aside time to spend with the one who died for me!
Why is it so hard to do the most necessary thing as a believer? Seriously, I know I am in a spiritual battle. But maybe at times I am tempted to think I am strong enough to handle life on my own. It is so easy to see what needs to be done all around me. But it is often difficult to see my own spiritual neediness. Even when I am involved in ministry, serving God can keep me so preoccupied that I don’t take time to more intimately get to know the one I serve.
It is easy for me, and maybe other believers as well, to become lazy, to live day to day on past victories, infrequent quiet times, and stale prayer lives. However, it isn’t enough to merely preserve my spiritual life; I must be zealous in my pursuit of knowing God. In order to prosper spiritually—or in situations like ours where we are ministering across cultures, to even survive—I need to make my relationship with the Lord a top priority.
Mary spent time with the Lord and found joy in his presence. She did not try to find joy in her accomplishments or ministry to him. As a matter of fact, she faced the displeasure of her sister for choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus. Martha needed help and she couldn’t help but think that Mary was wasting her time sitting when she should have been working. However, it was time well spent! Mary intentionally pursued a relationship with the Lord by sitting at his feet to learn.
David wrote in Psa. 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Thank you, Sue, for this reminder of our first love and the source of our real joy.
As we prepare to start a new year, will you, with me, choose to spend more time sitting with Jesus? Perhaps we will find that some of the things we felt were so important and time-consuming will be accomplished with more joy if we seek God first instead of just asking him to bless our activities. I’m both attracted and challenged. Are you?