“[Jesus] said, Blessed (happy and to be envied) rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey and practice it!” (Luke 11:28, AMP)
Some time ago, when it seemed like all the children were doing was bickering and grumbling, I asked them how their behavior made them feel. They all admitted that they were pretty miserable. After reading Luke 11:28, I presented them with a challenge: “If you are feeling miserable, just stop and ask yourself why.” After analyzing some of the more recent circumstances, we could see that, almost without exception, feelings of misery resulted from not walking in obedience to God’s Word.
Interestingly, I have been reading The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchangeable Person by E. Stanley Jones (written at the ripe old age of 87), and his life-conclusions about the Kingdom of God have been enlightening and encouraging. As I read his opinion about how we, as people, were actually created to obey the Kingdom laws, I recalled the conversation that I had had with the children, and could see how this was so. He says,
Tertullian said the soul is naturally Christian. Reinhold Niebuhr says the soul is naturally pagan. Dr. Walter Horton says the soul is naturally half-pagan and half-Christian. I vote with Tertullian. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Why? Because he puts nothing on you? On the contrary, when you follow him he dumps the world and its troubles into your heart. Then the Christian way is the hard way? No. What is the law of happiness in the world? It seems to be this: The most miserable people in the world are the people who are self-centered, who won’t do anything for anybody, except themselves. They are centers of misery, with no exceptions. On the contrary, the happiest people are the people who deliberately take on themselves the sorrows and troubles of others. Their hearts sing with a strange wild joy, automatically and with no exceptions. We are structured for the outgoingness of the love of the Kingdom. It is our native land.
So the starry heavens above and the moral law within speak of the dependableness and utter surety of the Unshakable Kingdom. And that kingdom is without us and within us—“the kingdom of heaven is within you”—therefore you break its laws written within you and you get broken. On the other hand, you obey its laws and its principles and its attitudes and at any period of life, in any circumstances, you can say to yourself, “What a life!”
I’m trying to apply this conclusion and this challenge to my own life, moment-by-moment. Historically, my tendency has been to blame others, or circumstances, for my own lack of joy; I’ve made progress in this area but…I can always do better. Sometimes I fail to be thankful. Other times it’s my selfish desires that get in the way. Or my attempt to control a situation is what brings misery. No matter what recent (or past) instance I analyze in light of this Kingdom-living-and-joy paradigm, I can honestly say that my feelings of “miserableness” do always seem to have a root in my failure to live as Christ, by His example and His Kingdom principles.
If we’re not experiencing joy, let’s stop and ask ourselves honestly, why? If we’re not in line with God’s Word or Christ’s example, let’s simply repent…change direction…and get in line with where God wants us to be. Will you take this up this challenge with me?