Many caring people ask the question of me on a daily basis here at Riverstone Community, a facility designed for the elderly or the disabled, where Judy and I are residing. The question is intriguing for one who is in submission to the Lordship of Christ. For the Christian, how we are “feeling” has a different context than for others. Let me try to explain what I mean by considering the contrast that exists in comprehending how the context of living in this world effects us.
People’s anticipation of each day’s circumstance, i.e. of coming events and encounters that await them on a given day… this anticipation is based on how they might be feeling at the moment of their contemplation. However, the Christian’s anticipation, of what is not yet experienced, must rely instead on his faith perspective regarding the reliability of God’s provisions and promises. Faith’s perspective is assured to “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) How we feel about something, has proven to be notoriously unreliable. We cannot, perhaps, help having an immediate emotional reaction in many circumstances. These initial emotions are spontaneous, unguarded and untrustworthy however. As Christians, our old sin nature is still alive, though no longer in control… not eradicated, and therefore available to be appealed to. Because God has enabled us spiritually we are accountable to Him for obedience. We may now evaluate and choose to act out of a disciplined dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
Scripture says of every man, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a). We are what we think…what our thoughts focus on. Attitude determines outlook. When we lack contentment, it is because we are focused on comparison—comparison of our present with our past, comparison of our experiences with our expectations, comparison of our provisions with our preferences. Jesus taught us God’s truth, while exemplifying being a servant to God and to others with humility. He said in John 13:17, “If you know these things, you are happy (blessed) if you do them.” He might seem to be saying that we feel happy or consider ourselves to be blessed if we “do” certain things (i.e. perform certain “works”). Jesus is actually saying quite the opposite. He teaches that if our attitude or perspective is faith based, i.e. reliant upon the truth declared by God, that God will use our obedient responses, enabled by His grace, as a means of blessing us with confidence, peace, joy and contentment. “Blessed,” as used biblically, means spiritual prosperity …living in satisfaction and appreciation for God’s provisions and protection. Society’s use of our English word “happy” reveals its meaning through the root word’s origin. “Happy” comes from “hap,” as in “happenstance” i.e. chance circumstance. “Hapless” therefore means without luck. To be happy, in its root sense, means to have good “luck.”
An abiding expression of joy is the blessing of persevering obedience, enabled by the grace of our faithful Redeemer. We may experience the same life circumstances as those without faith in Christ, but we must never come to rely upon the feelings of happiness or other emotional stimuli for a thankful attitude, contentment and endurance.
John Worley was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.