In preparation for this coming Sunday’s sermon, I did an informal, unscientific survey. I asked people to give 1, 2, or 3 words that, in their experience, describes Christians today. Currently the number of responses given stands at 25 with 21 being positive in nature and 4 negative. 100% of those responding said they were Christians.
(As an aside, I would like to find those who say they are not Christians and have them answer this question. Could be an interesting study in contrasts. But I digress.)
I was really looking to see if a particular word was used to describe a Christian. Now, while the responses were good, I did not see this particular word submitted. I find the absence of this one word telling. I must admit that the absence of this word bothers me for it is the description of this word that separates followers of Jesus from those who are not in a visible and practical way.
What is that word? Joyful.
One person responded to the survey question with “hope” which is an obvious cause for being joyful. Think about it, how joyful does the average Christian seem as s/he goes through each and every day? When the average Christian experiences those things that life throws at everyone, would those (non followers of Jesus) who see us walk through these things describe us as “joyful” even in the midst of struggle, trouble, and difficult circumstances?
What I am finding is that it is normal for the follower of Jesus to walk through these situations no different than one who is not a follower. That is sad and maybe that’s one reason why those who do not follow Jesus don’t see those who do follow Jesus as possessing anything worthwhile that they don’t already possess.
Being joyful doesn’t mean we become a “supernatural masochist.” Oh, I thank Thee Lord that I hath crashed my car.” Being joyful means that we live out our gratitude and thankfulness before God every day because of the reality of His presence, purpose and provision in all circumstances.
Paul tells both the believers in Thessalonica (I Thess. 5:16) and Philippi (Philippians 4:4) to “rejoice always.” The word translated as “always” means “at all times,” no matter the circumstance. This is possible because we know that God is always at work on our behalf. We can rejoice because God is always seeking to use every thing to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Faith and anxiety cannot exist together in the same space and same time. Do we believe that God is always for us? (Romans 8:31) If God is present and brings His purpose and provision, our faith in Him releases us from anxiety in order to worship, give thanks and rejoice because we know He has it handled. If we are filled with the fullness of God, we behave in ways unlike the world around us.
Because of the reality of God’s presence, purpose and provision and His being for us, Christians should be the most grateful and relaxed people walking the face of the earth.
Worship is an every day activity, not just reserved for Sunday mornings or conferences. The presence or absence of continual, daily worship reveals something about our perspective on the reality of God’s presence in all situations.
What should Christians sound like on earth? Our voice should be heard at all times worshiping God. which is built upon a foundation of thankfulness and from which joy just “oozes” from us.
It is in this attitude, mindset, perspective of continual, daily worship of a personal nature that must be foundation from which our praying is built.
It is in this attitude that we enter the presence of the Almighty God as we prepare to pray. And this worship is not to be a token gesture towards God before we pray; it is to be genuine and seen as vital, not just as a preliminary to get to what we believe is important which is what we want to ask of God.
In an email conversation with my sister who lives in Kansas, I revealed to her the word I was looking to see if it would be given. In a reply she told me the story of a woman in the town where she lives: “Every now and then you come across an individual that is radiant and you know without inquiring that they are indeed a Christian. There is an older gal in town and her face just shines every time I see her even when heavy things are on her mind. She just glows. Mrs. Renfro is proof that it can be done! She is a joyful Christian. Her face shines when no one is looking!!”
God is slowing reconstructing my approach to prayer. It is my desire that the result of this reconstruction will be a incredible increase in confidence and boldness in what I pray as I see His power flow as I pray what is already His will to do.