Have you ever planted a garden? I had the privilege of growing some of my own vegetables this past summer and oh what a treat it is to be able to step out your backdoor and pick your supper! What a gratifying experience!
I thought I would be a real man this past year and do this the "old school" way...by hand. I got my shovel and ho and went to work. Two days and many blisters and sore back muscles later, I had cultivated my own small garden. (note to self: tillers are our friend, don't deny them) After planting my little plants and a few weeks later, I began to see the fruits of my labor budding out. What a cool experience...work a little, plant seeds, water, then watch it grow.
Throughout this experience, I witnessed an interesting thing...did I cause the seeds to grow? No, they were underground. I had no clue what was taking place under there. The only responsibility I had was to plant and water. So, who or what caused these seeds to grow into these tall beautiful plants yielding delicious vegetables?
This is where an old principle that is taught throughout the bible begins to take a whole new meaning. One passage in particular comes to mind, 1 Corinthians 3:6-8:
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."Notice who does the planting and watering: Paul and Apollos...people...like you and me. But, it's God who "gives the increase". This principle runs all throughout the Scriptures in almost all areas of our lives. We witness and evangelize, but it's God who gives the increase. When people are born again, they are born of God and His will, not by blood or the will of the flesh, or the will of man (John 1:13). yet, it is our responsibility to sow and water...how shall they believe in whom they have not heard? (Romans 10:14)
This principle also applies to JOY. I must be honest here...over the past few months, one of my greatest struggles is maintaining joy. We know that true joy is a fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22. I say "true joy" because I want to make sure we differentiate deep satisfying joy with the fleeting temporal emotion we call "happiness". Don't get me wrong, being joyful will bubble out to your emotions causing happiness but you can also have joy in the midst of extreme suffering...However, we all know it's hard to be happy when you're suffering. True joy is finding satisfaction in God. He is our source of true joy.
The problem lies in, how do I get this joy? Can I wake up in the morning and command my heart to be satisfied in Christ? Can I command myself to not be depressed, like I command my fingers what to type here? The answer is, NO. I'm utterly useless in this area.
So, how do we solve this? Are we doomed to just sit and wait for God to miraculously produce joy in ourselves? How miserable we would be!
Our answer lies in the biblical principle of sowing, watering and reaping. If I want God to produce joy in me, then I must be satisfied in Him and this is accomplished by me doing my part of the cultivation process. I must sow and water. I'll list a few things that help me...there could be more for you, I suppose there's no exact formula.
- Daily bible reading...even if you don't want to. Sometimes you have to force feed yourself. When you're sick, the last thing you want to do is eat...but it's usually the eating of nutrition that will stop the sickness.
- Listening to Christ-honoring music. Music plays an important role in your emotions. Feed it with quality food.
- Witness...a passion of mine is evangelism. Joy is an almost automatic result when I overcome those barriers of fear and tell someone the gospel or share a testimony.
- Study Theology...read a book or an article on the promises of God or His attributes. Our understanding of God is directly related to how we will live our lives. If my knowledge and understanding of God is shallow, then I shouldn't expect to live in much victory. The more I learn of my wife, the more I love her...the same applies with God.
- Get Inspired...when I get stagnant as an artist, I surround myself in inspirational places and with inspirational people. Surround yourself with other Christians...joy can be contagious.
- Take care of your physical body...be active and get rest
- Pray...just be honest with God and ask Him to produce fruit in you. The more you spend in relationship with God, the more He will manifest Himself to you.