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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Second Key to a Grateful Heart

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Rejoice always,

Daily Scripture Reading - James 1

Puritan Catechism
Question #44 - Which is the second commandment?

Answer - The second commandment is, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Ex. 20:4-6).

Devotional Thoughts

The Second Key to a Grateful Heart - Always Rejoice

Since we understand now that greed is the opposite of gratitude we see that those things which promote gratitude actually serve to undermine lust and immorality. Greed is covetousness - wanting to get for self gratification. Gratitude is the giving of thanks as we focus on others, especially those to whom and for whom we are grateful.

Moving on then in our text from 1 Thessalonians 5 we see in verse 16 that we are commanded to "rejoice always." There is no exception clause, no excuse, no loophole. We as followers of Jesus Christ are to always be rejoicing. The word rejoice means to be full of joy. And to be full of joy always means just what it says. To always be full of joy.

Can you imagine seeking to serve self and gratify lust while we are rejoicing? Usually temptation is strongest when we are the least joyful. It is when we are depressed or feeling down that temptation calls ut to us to serve self. Self loves pity! Self loves to have all the attention.

What we need to understand though is that being full of joy is not an emotional state. Yes, joy does work its way out in our emotions, but joy is not dependent upon how we feel. We can have the deepest and most moving joy even while we are grieving. Joy is a reality of being, it is not an attitude or an emotion.

The truth is that many people live their lives with one objective - to be happy. We worship happiness. Salesmen market to us based on how their product will make us happy. Self help books line the shelves in bookstores telling us how to be happy. But what all of these books, ads, and goals overlook is that happiness is based on happenings. The circumstances around us determine whether we can be happy or not, because happiness is just an emotion! It is a feeling of well being. And when we don't feel well we cannot be happy. And therein lies the fatal flaw of the philosophy and theology of those who seek only to be happy. We cannot control our surroundings, and because of that we cannot always be happy.

Think about it. People are always trying to manipulate and change their circumstances so that they can be happy. They will go to all sorts of lengths to be satisfied emotionally. Drugs. Sex. Gambling. Entertainment. All of these attempts to be happy.

Yet the Bible tells us not that we should strive to be happy but that our joy should be full. Joy, exuberant fulfillment and contentment, flows from the working of the Spirit on our lives. We cannot manufacture it. We cannot fake it. We cannot duplicate it. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In fact, if we compare Galatians 5:22 with Galatians 5:19 we see that the Spirit gives us joy and the substitute, the counterfeit that our flesh offers is uncleanness and lewdness. Uncleanness as we have learned is that which makes us unholy and lewdness is a lack of restraint in immorality. So often people settle for the substitute and seek to be happy by means of unrestrained immorality. And yet true joy is not only better than happiness, it is also more satisfying because it lasts!

In studying joy we see that this fruit of the Spirit is truly amazing. It is a powerful truth and an much needed antidote to the lust of the flesh. Joy is found in serving others while happiness is found in pleasing self. Joy is contagious! Happiness can be shared or hoarded. Joy is never found at the expense of others while happiness can be found in the hurt and shame of others.

Joy is so un-natural when we think about it that it is best understood under stress. Most people who want to be happy want to be happy in order to relieve stress. Joy on the other hand is proved and enhanced by trials! In James 1:2-5 we find the lasting nature of joy in the “worst” circumstances.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Here we find joy in the depth of trials and tribulation. We are to count it all joy - we are to find a reason to rejoice in every trial. Why? Simply put, when our faith is tested it is proved.

True and lasting joy is faith based. It is not a hope, or a whim. It does not come and go and is not influenced by changing circumstances. We take God at His Word and as we walk through trials our faith is tested and proved and confirmed. This gives us cause for great joy.

As we walk in joy, that assurance and satisfaction that God can be trusted and is in control, we also find that trials produce patience. A tested and tried faith gives way to longsuffering - to the ability to face any situation with hope, joy, and peace. Patience is indeed the ability to suffer long, and it too is a fruit of the Spirit produced in us as we walk by faith.

When we learn to be patient we find that we are being matured through these trials. Not for self, but for God! What works for our good is ultimately for His glory. And here we are told that when tried, proved, and patient we will lack nothing.

Even then, at times we fail to have the proper perspective. We lack wisdom. If this happens we can tell right away. We lose our joy. To lose God's perspective is to focus on self or to be confused and when that happens we lose our joy. We need revival and renewal. We need wisdom. How do we get wisdom? Ask. Ask God for wisdom and He will give it gladly and liberally. And with wisdom, maturity, faith, patience, and joy we lack nothing.

The text goes on to say that we must ask in faith - again, back to faith. We must believe God. He and His Word are the source for our joy. Without Him we cannot bear up under trials much less hope to have peace or joy in the midst of trying times. And yet as we walk with Him He works in us to bear fruit. And part of that fruit is joy.

We see then that we can rejoice always, even in trials. In fact, joy is the only way to endure trials without sinning! How often when we are tried do we get upset, worry, doubt, and stressed? And yet it is in the very midst of these trials that joy does its best work! And understanding this revolves around our perspective. If God is in control working all things for our good and His glory then what is there to worry about and fret over? Really?

Learning to rejoice always is walking by faith in the very character of God. And we cannot do this apart from gratitude. When we live like this we will give thanks! We will glorify God for all that He has done and all that He is. We will praise Him and continue to walk by faith as our faith is proved and strengthened. And we will have joy. It is all tied together. We cannot be grateful without joy and we cannot have joy without being grateful.

We find then that the second key to a grateful heart is rejoicing always.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Sermon Series (Transcripts)
Joy Rules by John MacArthur
The Epistle of Joy - Phil. 1:1-2
Elements of Joy - Part 1 - Phil. 1:3-5
Elements of Joy - Part 2 - Phil. 1:6
Elements of Joy - Part 3 - Phil. 1:7-8
Essentials for Growth - Part 1 - Phil. 1:9
Essentials for Growth - Part 2 - Phil. 1:10-11

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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