The Way to Joy

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS

volume 16, number 12, March 23, 2017

“. . . you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” -1 Peter 1:8

The Way to Joy

Without question we have an epidemic of depression and anxiety in our country. We are told that at least fifteen million people or 6.7% of our population, age eighteen and older, have what psychologists call “persistent depressive order” which can last for as long as two years.[1] Another 2.1 million people abuse opiates while at least 467,000 more people suffer with an addiction to heroin. The use of opioid pain relievers (like hydrocodone or Vicodin) has escalated from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to 207 million in 2013.[2] Due to poor eating habits, lack of sleep and exercise, stress over grade performance, and failed relationships, we are told that one out of four college students in the U.S. suffer some form of mental illness, including depression and 44 percent of American college students report having symptoms of depression.[3]

Depression, of course, can hit Christians as well as non-Christians. What is the remedy? I am not a psychologist and I will not tackle issues like bi-polar disorders, schizophrenia, or other mental disorders, but I will lay this down for your consideration-the vast percentage of depression among Christian people would disappear significantly if we would simply do what we are supposed to do. 

We are told repeatedly in the Scriptures to rejoice in the Lord.[4] In fact Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice because it proves to be a safeguard for them and all of God’s people. One of the distinguishing marks of a believer is joy inexpressible and full of glory. Question-is your life marked by great joy? Would people say that your guiding principle of life is an ever flowing, over flowing joy? If so, then praise the Lord. Wonderful. If not, then what can you do to regain the joy of your salvation?

I suggest there are two levels of consideration here. The first is physical, mental, and emotional and the second is spiritual. Note earlier the reason for so much depression among college students-lack of sleep and exercise, poor eating habits, stress over poor grade performance, and stress over failed relationships. So, to help you overcome depression I challenge you to:

-go to bed on time and get the right number of hours of sleep your body needs and do not take your cell phone to bed with you.

-don’t ever sleep past 7 a.m. which means you probably need to go to bed at a decent hour.

-spend time every day in the word of God and prayer, seeking the Lord for His presence and power.

-do your work thoroughly and do not cut corners.

-do the hardest things first every day.

-eat properly.

-exercise daily, even if only a few minutes.

-do not procrastinate.

But you can get this kind of information from anyone including a life coach or counselor. So I want to take this up another notch. My friends, after doing all you know you should be doing in your personal life, then you must also tell people about Jesus. I promise you with all my heart, if you will find ways to tell unbelievers about Jesus everyday, you will overcome depression. How can I say this with such confidence? In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul gloriously tells us of the electing grace of God to the praise of the glory of God’s grace, of the redeeming blood of Jesus to the praise of the glory of God’s grace, and the sealing work of the Holy Spirit to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Paul then moves forward in Ephesians 2:1-10, reminding these Gentile believers (who earlier were outright pagans) of God’s mighty work of salvation in each of them. Paul begins by reminding them that they were utterly dead in their trespasses and sins, that they were living according to the world and the devil, holding onto the godless culture of every unbeliever. He says they entertained all manner of folly and perversion in their minds and they acted upon what they had been thinking. When all was said and done, they were under the wrath of God, just like every other person in the world. That is, they were hell bound sinners. But God was rich in mercy because of His great love for them, even when they were wretched and vile sinners, and God brought them to life in Christ Jesus solely by His grace. Paul is caught up in the glory of what he is writing by piling one magnificent phrase on top of another, “. . . raised us up with Him and seated us together with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus in order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” He closes this section by declaring that they were saved by grace alone through a faith they did not possess. God even gave them the faith to believe. Then he declares to these former pagan people, “For you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that you might walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10). 

My friends, God recreated you by His regenerating grace through the work of the Holy Spirit so that you will proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You once had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. You once were not the people of God, but now you are the people of God. God has placed within the souls of all His blood bought people, in their spiritual DNA as it were, a drive to proclaim to anyone who will listen what Jesus has done in saving their souls. Like Eric Liddell who said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” you have within you a supernatural drive to make Jesus known. When you speak of Jesus, you feel His pleasure.

You do not have to be sophisticated in what you say. Of course, you should always be gracious, winsome, and kind, but when you testify, even briefly or in passing, saying to a waitress, “I know that God loves you because He sent His Son to die for people like you. You need to ‘cash in’ by faith. Own it for yourself,” you are doing exactly what God created you to do. 

If you have spoken of your faith in Jesus Christ to others, then you know precisely what I mean. If you have not, then try it, and see what happens. As you look daily, by faith, into the face of Jesus, His person and work as it is recorded in the Scriptures, then you will have plenty to say to others, and when you do, your joy will know no bounds. Try it. I challenge you. 

_______________________

1. www.adaa.org October 4, 2011

2. www.drugabuse.gov> May 14, 2014

3. www.healthline.com> March 29, 2012

4. Deuteronomy 12:7,12, 1 Samuel 2:1, Nehemiah 12:43, Psalm 2:11, 9:2, 20:5, 32:11, Matthew 5:12, Luke 6:23, John 16:22, Romans 5:2, Philippians 3:1, 4:4, Revelation 12:12

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