Making Way For Joy

Steve Arterburn

Most men tend to stuff.  Often, we trade our grief or sorrow for anger.  But in order to release the past into God’s hands, you must fully encounter your grief, and you must be willing to forgive yourself and others for the pain that’s occurred.  

This isn’t easy. But we can learn from some people who went before us.  Many of the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon had forgotten the laws of God.  During the exile, they hadn’t been taught his laws, so, naturally, they hadn’t practiced them.  After rebuilding the city wall and the Temple, the priests gathered the people together to read the Book of the Law.  The people were overwhelmed with grief and began sobbing because their lives in no way measured up.  But the priests said to them:

‘Today is a sacred day before the Lord your God’Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared.  This is a sacred day before our Lord.  Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:9-10).

The process of releasing the past requires grief and forgiveness.  Then you are given the ‘joy of the Lord’ as your strength.  This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to set you free from the past, and in doing so, a new way of life.

80/20 Obedience

Steve Arterburn

One man is silent when called to speak. Another’s speech is seasoned with anger, bitterness and everything negative rather than grace.

 

Men, the gospel of our Lord calls each of you to a higher standard. Each of you, however, has become too highly skilled at setting aside God’s clear instructions for our lives, are choosing a path of disobedience instead.

 

Don’t amend God’s word with the latest trends, and don’t ignore the call of God’s Spirit to our own plans and purposes. Selective obedience isn’t true obedience. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster. Even if you seek to follow God 80 percent of the time, the 20 percent of the time you don’t will sink you every time.

 

As the apostle Paul warned Timothy, many men serve their own interests by having ‘a form of godliness but denying its power.’ For instance, men know when they are sexually violating God’s will, but they continue to indulge their sin anyway. Husbands know when they’re tearing down their spouses, but they continue the verbal tirades. Fathers know when their kids are just dying for some time with Dad, but other demands always take priority.

 

By way of contrast, when God’s man is tempted to enter that 20% zone, he does what God would have him do’even if it’s less convenient or not as immediately gratifying. Guys, one of the great ironies of the Christian life is that freedom comes through obedience. Dare to live freely in joyful submission to your Lord today!

One Attitude Required

Humility doesn’t save a man eternally, but is sure saves him a ton of grief. Humility doesn’t change a man’s circumstances, but it helps him submit to God’s purposes amidst his circumstances. Humility doesn’t speed up answers to prayer, but it accelerates the acceptance of God’s will. Humility doesn’t make decisions for a man, but it inclines his heart toward decisions consistent with God’s plan. Humility doesn’t earn a man more of God’s love, but it helps him experience God’s love at a deeper level.

 

For these reasons Scripture has a great deal to say on the topic of humility:

 

Psalm 25:9 says ‘God guides and teaches the humble.’

Psalm 147:6 says ‘The Lord sustains the humble.’

Proverbs 11:2 says ‘Wisdom belongs to the humble.’

Proverbs 22:4 says ‘True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.’

Isaiah 57:15 says that the Lord personally dwells with and refreshes the humble.

Matthew 23:12 says that the humble with be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled.

And James 4:6 says that God is gracious to the humble.

 

Rewards, sustenance, wisdom, guidance, intimacy, grace, renewal, and revelation’all hinge on an attitude that accompanies our faith. The early-twentieth-century preacher and theologian Oswald Chambers called humility ‘the great characteristic of a saint.’ For all its benefits and blessings, humility is the best way to go for God’s man. In fact, it’s the only way to go.