Have you ever had something stolen from you? Perhaps it was something valuable like an ipod taken from your school blazer pocket in the changing room, or something of more sentimental value such as a piece of jewellery given to you by a treasured Granny or even a photograph you can never replace. Theft comes in many forms: a piece of schoolwork that you’ve put heart and soul into which someone else copies and tries to pass off as their own; an idea that you have which someone else expresses and gets credit for; we even have ‘Identity theft’ in our culture today where our personal information can be taken and used for unlawful purposes.
It’s a horrible feeling to know that something you owned is now gone from you and it shouldn’t have happened. You had the right to hold onto it, but someone else made a decision to take it away from you just because they wanted to and because they could. What sometimes makes it worse is the fact that often we could have prevented it. “Why did I not put it in my locker?” “I should have been more careful!” We beat ourselves up because we didn’t treasure the lost item until now, when it’s too late.
Now, in case you think I’ve taken a detour and am starting to look at “Thou shalt not steal” I’ll get to the point. Our joy is a precious fruit in our lives. It’s what makes life worth living; it’s what allows others to see the difference being a Christian makes to our lives; and yet often we let thieves come and steal it away. Today our verses will highlight who or what these thieves might be in our lives.
What steals your joy?
Nehemiah 8 v 10
John 10 v 10
- Try to explain the last sentence of Nehemiah 8 v 10 in your own words. How do you think having joy in our hearts makes us strong?
- Because having JOY makes us strong then clearly this is something that the devil will want to get rid of. John 10 v 10 tells us that the devil is a thief; it is his nature to try to take things from us that are rightfully ours. Make a list of 3 ways you think the devil tries to take away your joy. To help you, think over the last few weeks and identify any times where your joy has gone. Do you know of any weak points in your life that the devil particularly attacks?
Philippians 2 v 1-16
A long time ago a friend passed on a gem to me that had sparkled at her from this passage. It is a secret of contentment and joy; we find 3 things in this passage to avoid. Let’s call these 3 C’s the joy thieves.
1. Don’t Compare.
How often do we find ourselves in a bad mood because we’ve been comparing ourselves and our situation to someone else’s? The result of comparing ourselves to others is often that we feel discontent with ourselves and our own circumstances. “It’s not fair, why does all the good stuff always happen to her?”
Verses 5-11: We are instructed to have “the mind of Christ”. List or underline 3 things from these verses that show Jesus never had an “it’s not fair” attitude. Note how God rewarded Him for this.
2. Don’t Criticise
What do verses 3 and 4 tell us should be our attitude to other people?
Our human nature wants to be critical of other people and it can easily become a bad habit in our conversations. Somehow it makes us ‘feel better’ to get it off our chest if someone has annoyed or irritated us, but let’s try to remember that those words we speak can never be taken back once out there. Sometimes when we examine our motives honestly, our criticism can be a disguise for jealousy and other problems in our own hearts. If we obey these verses our critical spirit can be dealt with at the root. We can’t do this on our own, but notice verse 13:
“It is God who works in you..”
3. Don’t Complain
This one’s tougher again! Verses 14 – 16.
Pick out the word in verse 14 that tells us it is never ok to grumble and complain.
List 3 things that you regularly complain about and take some time to pray about these, asking the Lord to change your attitude.
Shine Like Stars
What a wonderful promise in verse 15. When we don’t grumble and complain others will really notice. This is when our JOY will become most evident.
Have you ever stopped and looked at the sparkly rings in a jeweller’s window? Silly question, of course you have! We’re so busy looking at the beautiful stones we seldom notice the background of the window, but you can inspect next time you’re shopping! The rings will always be placed on a dark background, so that they really stand out. Have a look at any of the little boxes your jewellery was given to you in. I’m sure you’ll notice they’re usually padded out with black or navy velvet – again a dark background makes the jewels shine all the brighter. Do you get the picture?
Our joy is a precious jewel for others to see. When everything is going well in our lives, our joy may go unnoticed by others. It’s just what’s expected. However, when situations occur that give us reason to complain, that’s when our JOY will really shine the brightest and be most radiant; if we can persevere through the difficulty without grumbling then that will make us stand out as different. Others will see the beauty of Jesus in us, in the same way that we see the stars shining out against a dark sky. It’s so hard to hold back our moaning when we really feel justified in doing it and often we’re hoping to gather some sympathy, but let’s now pray that the Lord will help us to SHINE rather than WHINE!
Some days we need a little bit of extra help to be joyful. On those occasions wouldn’t it be good if we could just revisit all the joyful experiences we’ve had in recent days and help to increase our joy on the less sparkly days? I decided in 2015 to be more careful to record those little (and big) moments of special joy that I experience in everyday living. Each day I will try to jot down on a little piece of paper some things that have brought me joy and pop them in my Joy Jar. A little photo in the snow may even make its way into my jar this weekend! While this started off as just a cute idea, I’ve actually decided it has its foundation in the Bible! The story of God providing manna for His people in Exodus ch 16 ends with Moses being instructed to fill a jar with some manna so that in the future the Israelites would always remember God’s goodness. Aren’t we just like them… prone to complain and grumble and in need of a visual reminder of how good God is to us?
Then why not give it a try yourself? The label can be printed off below, or better still, design you own individualised Joy Jar. Then start noticing, appreciating and recording all those simple things in your day that are actually God’s whispers of love and goodness to us.