There are joy stealers lurking everywhere!
- On Sabbath morning after church. It’s been a wonderful Sabbath morning. You have preached one of the best sermons of your entire life. You are greeting people at the door of the church afterward. “Pastor, that really blessed me” says one member. “I wish I had heard that ten years ago,” adds another. A visitor chimes in “This is the kind of preaching I would like to hear every week!” A hundred people are affirming. And then it happens. The last person in line stops, looks you in the eye, draws back a little, wrinkles his nose and says “Who taught you how to preach?” This guy seems to think it is his religious duty to keep you humble.
And what are you tempted to think about all Sabbath afternoon?
- On the Church Board. You have worked hard to try to develop a soul winning plan and now it is time to have it voted by the church board. With enthusiasm you tell of each part of the plan. When you are done one of the most influential members of the board, who you thought would be very supportive, says “That won’t work here, and besides, it is a tremendous waste of money.”
How do you feel that night as you drive home?
- On the other end of an email or telephone call. A few years ago I received an email that said, among other things, “Your conduct over the last two weeks has clearly revealed your character as a malicious two faced politician. You are truly a shame to the Adventist ministry…. You are finished Dan, and not only will my organization sue you for everything you own, they will also press criminal charges and the judge will decide your jail sentence…. I don’t know what it is that makes leaders like you think you are above the law. I also don’t know how you could be so foolish to conduct yourself as you have without having the sense to realize your sin will surely find you out. I would get your house in order, because my legal team is about to turn your little political dream world into a horrific nightmare. You will pay for your actions in a court of law…. You should try soul winning. It is a lot more rewarding than criminal behavior.”
How should I react to that?
What can we do to not let a few people steal our joy? Jesus gave us ten tremendous insight in Matthew 10.
- Recognize in advance that there are joy stealers both outside and inside the church. Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. verse 16.
- Someday it will get worse than just words. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues. verse 17.
- God can use your kind response to joy stealers as a witness to many. and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. verse 18.
- God will give you kind words to speak if you ask Him. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. verses 19-20.
- Joy stealers are preparing you to have enduring faith in the last days. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. verse 21-22.
- Move on quickly from the joy stealer. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. verse 23.
- As a follower of Jesus, don’t expect to be treated better than He was. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. verses 24-25.
- There is no need for fear or revenge because God has a record of all wrongs done to you. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. verse 26.
- Don’t stop preaching the Good News no matter what happens to you. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. verse 27.
- God cares about you and will reward your public and private faithfulness to Him. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. verses 28-33.
Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so we can keep smiling on the outside and keep a genuine joy on the inside regardless of the joy stealers who may cross our paths.
Blessings to you,
P.S. Jesus, our Perfect Example, “was never elated by applause, nor dejected by censure or disappointment.” (Desire of Ages, p. 330).
What is it that keeps us from having this experience? “But many who profess to be His followers have an anxious, troubled heart, because they are afraid to trust themselves with God. They do not make a complete surrender to Him; for they shrink from the consequences that such a surrender may involve. Unless they do make this surrender, they cannot find peace. It is the love of self that brings unrest….” (Ibid.)
What do we need to keep anyone from stealing our peace? “”When we are born from above, the same mind will be in us that was in Jesus, the mind that led Him to humble Himself that we might be saved. Then we shall not be seeking the highest place. We shall desire to sit at the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him. We shall understand that the value of our work does not consist in making a show and noise in the world, and in being active and zealous in our own strength. The value of our work is in proportion to the impartation of the Holy Spirit. Trust in God brings holier qualities of mind, so that in patience we may possess our souls.” (Ibid.)