Counting Joy – A Devotion

Counting Joy

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

Black Friday is just around the corner. I used to rely heavily on those great deals to fulfill the holiday wishes of our five children. Having a large family requires some fancy budgeting sometimes to make ends meet. There is nothing quite like pouring over those ads on Thanksgiving Day to develop one’s strategy, setting the alarm for some ungodly hour, bundling up to face the cold, and standing in line with countless strangers. When the hour nears for the grand opening, heart thumping, list clenched in one hand coddling caffeine in the other, it’s time to press through the crowd and claim the prize. There is nothing quite like the feeling of emerging victoriously from the store with exactly what you came for. A feeling of satisfaction warms your cold body and strengthens those tired bones. Why? It was worth it. I feel the sheer elation. Let’s review. I hate mornings. I do not like being cold. I tend to become overwhelmed in a crush of people. However, I did all this willingly to claim the reward. Just let it soak in for a minute…marinate if you will…I did something that I do not like to do….I left my comfort zone…I faced early morning willingly. Why? It was worth it. When will following Christ, doing what our flesh does not want to do, leaving our comfort zone and taking up our cross be worth it?

Pregnancy was a happy occasion in my life. My body is good at gestation. There were no evil side effects that could not be alleviated or did not quickly subside. I have “easy” pregnancies. Around the eighth month, my brain would suddenly remember that this happy and quite healthy (raging in birth weight from eight to almost ten pounds) baby would have to exit my body to enter the world. Hold that thought. Suddenly, I would get a little antsy about the whole thing. But by the time I was ready to deliver, I was ready for the hard work that would lead to another great love affair in my life. My arms ached to hold my new baby. My eyes longed to see their face. My heart ready to grow just a little more. So when labor began, I was willing to endure it so I could meet the new little person. I have no recollection of the pain but just remember that it is hard work to get them here. All were natural deliveries and three were without any medication at all. The pain quickly dissolved when love came into my life again. Why? It was worth it to know them, love them and be with each of my precious children.

The trials, troubles, hardship and difficulties that come our way in life are sometimes created by us and other times just find their way to us. There are so many things that we do in life because we want to. The severity of which is perceived, the price is calculated and effort produced simply by the worth we think we will find there. We must decide if the benefit is worth the risk. I have been this route many times in the last few years with our son’s illness. Each treatment and every single measure, the doctors must ask themselves does the benefit to his life outweigh the risk taken in each treatment. The question is then posed to us. Jesus decided a long time ago that the benefit of loving humanity far outweighed the risk. Through salvation, the same question is posed to each of us. Why did the Lord say that we must take up our cross and follow Him? Why not say something more like ‘skip through the daisies” and follow me? Why do we as believers think that God would come into our life and make it better when all along He says come to me? It is going to be work. It will be uncomfortable. It will cause you to break your will to fully discover His Will. It is worth it…to me.

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT)

Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

 

This is a common problem among believers…I will give you a minute to quit looking around because I did the very same thing. I don’t make rash promises to God spewed in instant denial, hissed in great offense, and then it hit me. I have done this many times. I ask for the Will of God but still want it my way. I pray for God to take all of me but then refuse to God. I surrender my heart to Him but withhold those lesser things that are so dear to me but clearly my detriment. Every time I surrender my life to the Lord but expect anything less, I have made a rash promise. The only way I can continually live in a position of surrender is to continually give up bits and pieces until all my life belongs to Him. I must decide if the risk of sacrifice is worth the benefit of blessing enough to do something about it. Why? Because asking the Lord to follow Him means suffering sometimes. It requires an investment of faith to return a harvest of hope. The promise to follow Jesus Christ will cost you your life are you willing to give it to Him. Really? Listening to my playlist last night, I decided to find something “new” or even “renewed” meaning old music that I haven’t heard in a while. I came across the band “Worth Dying For” and their song “Closer”. The chorus goes “I don’t want to walk away from this place… unless I know I’ve given you all of me.” It occurred to me that I had asked this of God so many times in my life and He kept bringing me back to certain places until I get it. People have a big problem with commitment and keeping promises but not our God. He keeps all His Promises. He does not lie or change His Mind. When we cry out to God, a command is released immediately in Heaven to answer that prayer. You cannot stop it even if you change your mind because God already did it. We must evaluate what we are asking of God before we ask it. We must be willing to do it or need to stop crying out to Him the way that we do choosing appropriate words for an acceptable return.

Luke 14:27-29 (NLT)

 “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.

The world is laughing at Christians and the church today. Just to bring some clarity to the issue, ISIS the radical Muslims who are attempting to take over Syria and Iraq. Yes, the ones beheading people on a regular basis. They are religious extremists in what they believe to be a holy war. They are doing it for their god. This is sobering.

A true believer is the person who believes that following Jesus Christ is worth any pain, suffering, hardship or discomfort that they may face. They are the ones who decide to take up their Cross and be His Disciple because they have weighed the risks and benefits. Christians who do nothing to build a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ do not want the Will of God or to walk His Way. They are robbers who want the Blessings of God and the Grace of Jesus Christ giving nothing in return. You cannot earn it but those who understand the true value and worth of believing in Christ know that it is worth it. The sacrifice will never outweigh the blessings of joy and peace found in a surrendered life. When I decide to go Black Friday shopping, I have decided that the great deals I will find are worth giving up sleep and comfort to find. When I decided to yield my body to pregnancy and have another child, I decided that it would be worth it, talking care of my body while the baby grew and submitting myself to the pain to get them here. I was not mad at them for causing it but just thankful they made it. We must count the cost of following Christ before making the commitment. Once we are committed to the Lord, it is up to us to never give up.

Luke 15:8-9 (NLT)
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’”

 

I have friends who think Black Friday is ridiculous. The crush and craziness just too much. But everyone has something in their life of value and worth. These are the things that we invest our life in looking for a return. We determine what will make us happy and go for it. When hardship comes or even pain, we are forced to evaluate those things we hold on to for validity or worth. Some things must go when we shift into survival mode. The Kingdom of God is like the woman who loses one of her ten silver coins and must find it. Again, let me stop here.

Today is the three-year anniversary of our son’s diagnosis, it has been hard the past couple of weeks leading up to this moment. For the last couple of days, I can feel the Lord tugging me closer as He sees my lip quiver and my heart shake. He knows my heart. He has been with me through the long days and even longer nights. The Lord sees right through me to my weakest part. It has been a long walk. Endurance is building. But today when the date finally hits the calendar, I can say without a single reservation that it has been worth every step to know His Love like I do now. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or the scans will show at the end of this month, but today as I sweep the floor and move the cushions and dig in the drawers of my heart – I have found the faith, hope and love that produce peace and joy no matter what the occasion. Maybe that is why I have struggled so in the past several days as the Lord continues to reveal His Glory and Grace. This battle has been hard and very, very long. The Word of God says that those who make it to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22) He promises that every detail will turn out for our good and there are a lot of things that are still undone. (Romans 8:28) He promises to perfect all that concerns me and well, things are not perfect yet either. (Psalm 138:8) So we must endure. Today I count it all joy! I seize the opportunity to surrender more of my life to Christ and experience more peace and joy than I ever thought possible and certainly not with circumstances like this in our life. God told me from the beginning that our son would live and not die. Today, three years and four relapses later – God’s Word for my life remains true. He is alive. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it seemed endless? You bet. Has it been worth it? Absolutely! For today I decided to begin counting my joy!

James 5:10-12 (NLT)

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.

 

Today I encourage you rather than making rash promises to the Lord and trying to map everything out your way, simply say “Yes, Lord.” Whatever it is. Whatever you are facing or wherever you want to go just say “Yes, Lord.” You will not invite troubles, trials and hardship in your life with such an approach but rather learn to walk in step with God. Endurance this is a marathon not a sprint. Be conscious of what you asking the Lord to do in your life and be willing to do it His Way. It will be worth it in the end. He promised.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

 

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