How long has it been since you felt joy?
I mean, real joy: not just a happy feeling, but a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that you are in the center of heavenly Father's will.
An unmistakable sense of His pleasure.
We don't lose our joy.
Joy can't be lost, the way we lose our keys or that $5 bill that fell out of our pocket while we walked down the street.
Joy is not lost. You don't go to church on Sunday, get filled up with joy and then lose it somewhere between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.
That's not the way it works. Joy is stolen, not lost. And joy is stolen when we leave an entryway in our life unprotected.
Joy cannot be taken away without our permission.
Just as no one can take away our possessions without our permission, there are things we often do that give the enemy an invitation to come and steal our joy.
When you leave your home or park your car, you lock your doors. Right?
You don't leave your home unlocked while you're gone.
You don't leave your car keys in the ignition.
This would be an invitation for someone to come and rob you. And it's the same way with the enemy of our souls. There are things we do to invite him to come and steal our joy.
If you're in a battle for your joy right now, you need to:
Lock your doors
Pull down the shutters
Pull up the moat
Put on your armor
When we feel joy has gone out of our lives, our first response should be to take a spiritual inventory, just as we would if we had discovered that we had been robbed.
We need to look at each area of our life to determine how the enemy gained entrance into our lives, and then we need to reinforce that weak area so he can't come back.
Two Things That Steal Joy in Our Lives
Disobedience is one of the most common ways the enemy steals our joy.
In this permissive society where authority figures are afraid to take a stand and demand adherence to rules, law and order, we now have an entire generation to whom the word "obedience" sounds harsh, judgmental and legalistic.
This culture of rebellion has also seeped into the church.
Suddenly, God's law is no longer the standard for most Christians; but rather, it is an evolving document subject to cultural norms and practices.
Over the past several generations, we've seen a slow drift away from the importance of obedience and the rewards it brings to our lives as believers. In its place, we have so minimized the importance of sin that we no longer see it as a serious matter that destroys our relationship with God and infects every area of our life until we no longer have a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
The enemy's strategy is to steal, kill and destroy you. And one of the first ways he does this is by deceiving you into believing that disobedience isn't a big deal.
Another word for disobedience is rebellion, and this is what God has to say about rebellion: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:23).
If we want to live in the joy of the Lord, we must purpose in our hearts to live in obedience every day.
Does this mean we will never mess up?
No. Willful disobedience and unintentional sin are two different things, and in the Old Testament we see that there was a sacrifice for unintentional sin, while the punishment for willful disobedience was death.
While today there is no death penalty for willful disobedience, I do believe that when God's people choose to willfully engage in sin, they invite death into their lives. They leave a door open to the enemy to come and work his destruction of death in their hearts.
When Christians unintentionally sin or realize they have left the door open to the enemy through willful disobedience, they should humbly repent before the Lord and restore their relationship with Him.
I remember sitting on the couch in my mom's living room with tears running down my face. I was sharing with her my deep disappointment and disillusionment in ministry.
Ministry is hard.
Anytime you work with people it's hard, but there seems to be a greater expectation from people when you are in ministry. Some of that is well-founded, but sometimes the expectations are far too high, and the pressure to live up to those unrealistic expectations can leave a minister in a trap of failure and disillusionment.
But the real source of my depression wasn't that, it was unforgiveness.
The truth was that I had expectations of those around me that they hadn't fulfilled, and I was disappointed in them. Rather than admitting my own failure, I allowed that disappointment to turn into bitterness.
Unresolved hurt, disappointment or conflict doesn't just sit there. It gets infected; and when we fail to address that infection, it will fester and grow. Eventually it becomes a cancer that eats away at the very life of our spirit.
Jesus addressed this seriously when He said, "But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins" (Matt. 6:15).
The book of Hebrews takes it a step further. "Pursue peace with all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord, watching diligently so that no one falls short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness spring up to cause trouble, and many become defiled by it" (Heb. 12:14-15).
We see here how bitterness "causes trouble" and defilement in our lives. It literally gives the enemy an open door to come in and poison our lives.
That's why Paul said, "Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not give place to the devil" (Eph. 4:26-27).
If we want to walk in abundant joy, we must purpose every day to forgive all who offend us. Big offenses. Small offenses. Every. Single. Time.
Live forgiving. This locks the door to the enemy and brings abundant joy of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
So let me ask you again: How long has it been since you felt joy?
Have you taken time to do an inventory of your spiritual life? Do you know how the enemy got in and robbed you of the joy that rightfully belongs to you as a child of God?
He has no authority to steal from you, unless you allow him to.
It's time to find the place of entry and lock it up!
Rosilind Jukic, a Pacific Northwest native, is a missionary living in Croatia and married to her Bosnian hero. Together they live with their two active boys where she enjoys fruity candles, good coffee and a hot cup of herbal tea on a blustery fall evening. Her passion for writing led her to author her best-selling book The Missional Handbook. At A Little R & R she encourages women to find contentment in what God created them to be. You can also find her at Missional Call where she shares her passion for local and global missions. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +.
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