We have all heard the saying “practice what you preach.”
While this certainly applies to everyone, I think it has special meaning for those who actually preach vocationally. I know it does for me, and more specifically it did this week.
Here’s the story:
For a few weeks, I’ve felt burdened in my heart to speak about the joy of the Lord. I was continually thinking, praying, studying, and preparing for an opportunity to speak on the joy of the Lord– specifically about how the presence of Jesus brings joy regardless of how difficult the situation.
This principle jumped out to me as I read the accounts of Jesus revealing himself to people following his resurrection. In every encounter, a change took place. Bewildered, disappointed, fearful, confused, dejected, stressed-out followers of Jesus became people filled with peace, hope– and in every case– JOY! The Biblical accounts say they rejoiced, they marveled, they celebrated, they erupted with joy at seeing the resurrected Jesus; this joy transformed them.
They went from being fear-filled, cowardly, confused, disheartened, doubting, dismayed people to joy-filled, hopeful, faithful, obedient, courageous, victorious, fully engaged disciples of Jesus. After going through those difficult days and experiences, these disciples knew more about Jesus than ever before because they had experienced His presence in a new and refreshing, life-giving way. They left Jerusalem consumed with doubt, fear, and confusion, but they joyfully returned in anticipation of the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Despite their life situations not really changing, the resurrected life of Jesus filled them with joy and they were changed!
I have been experiencing a renewal of joy in my life. Despite the challenges and concerns we are facing during this pandemic, I have hope and have experienced peace. So, when it came time to preach on Resurrecting Joy I was excited! It was not just direction for others, it was what I was experiencing… until the day after the sermon was recorded.
I was driving along joyfully singing when my phone rang. I looked and saw that it was our bank calling. I excitedly pulled over anticipating some really good news I had been waiting to hear; however, that was not what I received! Instead, I was informed that a mistake had been made and that the money we had applied for would not be coming through.
I have to admit, I became aware of a degree of confusion, concern (ok… fear), and anxiety in me. I probed for answers and ultimately discovered that someone at the bank had failed to perform responsibly. Ultimately, at no fault of myself or anyone on our team, we would be losing, literally, tens of thousands of dollars. Honestly, I felt sick. After a one-hour phone call, which only seemed to add to the angst and frustration, I said “Goodbye, have a great day. Thank you so much for the call and God Bless you!” Well, not exactly… I won’t give you all of the details because I have repented, and God has forgiven and forgotten, so you don’t need to know.
What I can say is that I became aware during the call that my anger and frustration was rising as was my blood pressure and volume. A huge spectrum of various thoughts flooded my mind, “What are we going to do? How will I tell Yvette? What is going to happen to the employees?” And on and on! Throughout the conversation, I kept hearing a little voice in the back of my mind saying, “Where is your joy and peace?” Initially, it seemed like it was the devil making fun of or accusing me. I felt somewhat like Peter after he denied Jesus. Just the day before I was preaching about “how you can walk in the peace, joy, and the love of Jesus no matter what. You do not have to be moved by circumstances, just trust Jesus! The joy of the Lord is your strength.” And now, I am thinking of ways I can do bodily harm to someone for making a mistake! All it took was an unmet expectation, some added financial burden, and I am tossing my peace and joy out the Jeep door! Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.
After hanging up, laughing (instead of crying) I began to sense the presence of God, right there in the Jeep with me. It was as if Jesus had plopped down in the seat beside and said, “Let’s talk!”
So off we went (we talk better while we are moving). He asked me what was bugging me, and I poured it all out to Him. He reminded me of my sermon (nice to know He was listening). Not in a condemning manner. but in a way that reminded me that it’s still true. As I began thinking back about how the presence of Jesus changed the attitudes of those He loved who were facing situations a lot worse than mine, something happened: I began to change!
Seriously, I could feel a change. My thoughts were focussed on the goodness and faithfulness of God; every time confusion or anger would try to jump on me I would cast it all on Jesus. It felt good to remind Him, and myself, that my life is all His, so I could trust Him no matter what. God confirmed to me that I was on His mind by prompting two people to reach out to me. One friend sent a brief (but timely) text and the other called. The message was a mist trying to cover me and make it difficult to know what direction to go.
After about an hour with Jesus, I can honestly tell you that His peace once again reigned in my life and His joy filled me! Although nothing about the circumstances had changed, I had changed. My focus was off of the situation and back on God.
Though the problem still exists, I can honestly say I am experiencing the joy of the Lord in my life. And I am so thankful that joy has given me the strength to have to face some very difficult situations this past week. Hard conversations, times of frustration–not easy stuff, but God has been faithful to be with me, give wisdom, strength, favor, and a renewed awareness of His loving presence. It is not always easy to “practice what you preach” but it sure is worth it. I think I will preach on patience next… actually, I’ll hold off on that for a while!