Browsing articles tagged with " Joy"

Experiencing God in prison

By admin  //  Devotionals  //  1 Comment

‘I, Paul, [am] the prisoner of Christ Jesus …’ – Ephesians 3:1 (NIV)

There are some prisons we get into that are the design of the enemy, and when we find ourselves there we ought to break the devil’s bars and we shall be free. But there are other prisons that the Lord himself allows us to go into. There are times when God allows circumstances and situations our way that would seem to imprison us. We pray, bind and loose but we can’t get out. The truth is that we cannot bind God.

The Apostle Paul was quite a man. He was locked up in prison by the decrees of the Roman government yet he said he was ‘the prisoner of Christ Jesus’. Imagine this zealous crusader unable to go to all the places that burned in his heart to go and preach. Yet it was in understanding how to experience God in prison that he turned this prison season into one of the most fruit seasons of his ministry. You see, most of his epistles were written in prison.

There are two things we must do when we feel imprisoned. Find out if it’s God’s place for you in this season. Ask God. If you are where you should be then don’t try to run away even if you can (sometimes we can). It might be that you find yourself under a leadership that seems not to give you enough space to strive. If God shows you that you are in his place for you in this season then please stay in that prison. Secondly, when you find yourself in prison, instead of grumbling and complaining, open yourself up to God’s grace.

Take the example of Joseph. He was put into prison because of the lie of Potiphar’s immoral wife, but it was part of God’s plan for him. It was the road to the throne that God had prepared for him. We must not try to fight God when he allows circumstances and situations to land us in prison. Instead let us learn to experience God even in prison.

The bible says, ‘the Lord was with him (Joseph in prison), he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Gen 39:21 – NIV). In spite of the walls and chains of the prison Joseph continued to experience God.

The bible says, “the Lord was with him”. The truth is that even in prison God does not abandon us. God wants us to continue to experience his presence in our lives even in the wilderness seasons. He wants us to keep drinking of him and growing. A dear sister wrote me recently about the marital troubles she was facing. Her backslidden husband is now with another woman.  Then she added, ‘Nevertheless, God’s joy is still in my heart. I know he has a plan for me and for my family’.

There can be joy in spite of the prison as we begin to experience God’s presence. No matter what you face please determine to make “the Lord is with him” a reality in your life.

Joseph experienced the kindness of God in prison. Though God didn’t bring him out of prison immediately, he gave him a testimony of his kindness in that prison by doing a lot of things for him and touching lives through him. God wants you to experience his miracle working power in your prison. Often we are so focused on getting out of the prison that we are not open to God’s leading in any other area. But we need to remember that though we are in prison God is not in prison.

A bishop friend of mine was married for 14 years without any child though he desired, sought and prayed for it. But he was focused on God and on being all God wanted him to be. Because of that he and his wife were experiencing God’s kindness in many other areas of life, so much so that they were praying for barren couples who in turn were having children. They did not allow their prison to limit their usefulness. They adopted several children and some are pastors today. Their ministry grew so much that it became international. After 14 years God brought them out of that prison and gave them a baby boy of their own when the woman was very close to 50 years of age!

A time comes when God will bring us out of the prison, but in the meantime God wants us to experience his kindness in the prison in which he allows us to be. It will take trusting in his goodness enough to choose joy instead of grumbling and complaining; it will take choosing to feed on him daily staying focused on growing into his likeness. It will also take not allowing our outward prison to imprison our minds and so limit God and all that he wants to do through us while in prison.


Go out in Joy and be led forth in Peace

By admin  //  Devotionals  //  No Comments

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord’ ~ Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV 2010)

We can look back now at what we have gathered from Isaiah 55 in the last two articles. The issue of getting our expectations right has to do with focussing our vision (our eyes), and that of getting our hearts right has to do with focussing our hearts. Now, this final exhortation from the last two verses of Isaiah 55 has to do with focussing our minds. Isaiah 55:12-13 says;

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

God does not promise that the days ahead will be trouble-free, but he promises to make the mountains of troubles and the hills of challenges to burst into song before you. Also that the tall trees of distractions will not succeed in hindering your advance, but instead they will clap their hands as they cheer you on into all of God’s will for your life.

He promises that the days ahead will not be days of labouring and producing a harvest of thorns. He promises that instead of the thornbush you will have a harvest of juniper. Whereas the thornbush is useless and a symbol of wasted labour, the juniper is a very useful type of tree widely distributed throughout the Northern hemisphere from which men have found a wide variety of benefits from culinary to medicinal uses. It symbolises healing, strength, athleticism, and fertility. God’s will is to make you strong and fertile. He wants to quicken every barren area of your life and grant you increased usefulness and fruitfulness. Instead of being a prickly brier, he promises to turn you into the myrtle that remains evergreen no matter what the weather is like.

These are glorious promises. But there are some things that have to be present in us for these things to follow. ‘You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace’ comes before these other manifestations. What comes first is important. It is as we go out daily in joy and are led forth by the peace of God that these things will happen. It is a pre-requisite to the manifestation of these promises. There are two important things that God has given us that we must guard jealously day by day if we desire to see all these glorious promises fulfilled:  namely, the joy of the Lord and the peace of the Holy Spirit. We must choose to walk every day in his joy no matter what happens and to let his peace lead us. His joy comes from his presence in us and does not depend on our circumstances. The peace of the Holy Spirit in our spirit-man is the primary way he leads his children. We must not lose his joy or his peace.

Now that is easier said than done! You cannot imagine the kind of intense struggle I have had in the past few days of this New Year in maintaining a walk in joy and peace. The enemy will fight a battle to steal our joy and peace through minor irritations and major catastrophes, so it is going to be challenging to walk consistently in God’s joy and be led by his peace. But it is possible if we depend on him. When Moses was faced with failure after his first visit to Pharaoh brought increased hardship for the Israelites, he did what we all have to learn to do: He returned to God (Exodus 5:22). In the face of discouragements let’s make it a habit to turn to the Lord immediately and not allow our joy or peace to be stolen. There is a battle for our minds. Will we count it all joy or will we roll over and swim in discouragement? Whatever it will take to rest in the Lord and keep his joy and peace, then do it. If you have to sing out loud at the top of your voice to hold onto your joy then do it. You see, if the devil cannot steal your joy, he cannot prevent these promises from being fulfilled in your life. So guard your joy and your peace at all costs.


What Has Happened To All Your Joy?

By admin  //  Devotionals  //  2 Comments

“What has happened to all your joy?” Galatians 4:15a (NIV)

If the devil cannot steal your joy, he cannot deprive you of anything that is yours. The target of the enemy’s fiery darts is not our material possessions but rather to rob us of that joyful confidence in the faithfulness of our Father. He hates our joy because he knows it is the source of our strength, the strength that will always ground him. The devil cannot stand the force of joy. Yet for many of us, our joy is what we often allow the enemy to steal so easily.

This is why Paul asked the Galatians here “What has happened to all  your joy?” The way I read this, it is as if they didn’t notice when their joy slipped away, and you know, that is often what happens to us. We come out of our quiet time of devotion with the Lord in the morning bubbling with joy and feeling as if we can jump over any mountain. Then as we go into the day, we allow our negative reactions to the little irritations and bigger problems that life throws at us, to erode our joy. That person who wasted our time, the other who spoke to us unkindly, and someone else who carelessly broke our equipment, the car that refused to start, and the sudden bad news we received, all crowd in to rob us of our joyful confidence in the Lord. And before we realise it we lack strength, because the joy of the Lord is gone. We need to learn the discipline of constantly casting our cares upon the Lord if we want to keep our joy.

Joy is a very important barometer for measuring where we are in our communion with the Lord. Has my joy level gone down? What happened to it? Joy should be a constant and growing experience in the life of a believer. Yet in reality it is not so for many of us. We look back to those early days of our walk with the Lord and we know things are different now. We have allowed our response to the troubles of life to erect a wall between our Heavenly Father and ourselves. We lack that joyful confidence in Him that we used to have.

If we would listen, we would hear the Lord calling us back, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28). We can recover joy if we choose to trust him. Our ‘joy’ should not depend on our circumstances. The joy of the Lord does not depend upon our feelings but on our will. We can choose JOY. That is what Habakkuk did when he said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” Habakkuk 3:17 & 18 (NIV)

Habakkuk was saying, “I choose joy, I am not going to let my trouble get me down. Because I know the Lord is faithful, no matter what life might serve me, I choose joy!” You can too!