Our yard is surrounded by forsythia bushes. During the busy summer tourist season, their leafy branches form part of the sound barrier between our house and the main road out front.
But soon those branches will be bare. How do I know? They’re telling me themselves!
They may not all be on the same schedule, but they’re all following the same sequence. Greens fade to yellows, which turn to pale reddish browns and finally burgundies. Their next step will take them floating to the ground below.
Not only are they announcing what’s coming, I’ve watched it happen every year since we moved in!
And if that still wasn’t enough, I could always head to trusty Google for information on the annual cycle of the forsythia to find out what to expect.
What’s Expected of You?
There are a few things we can expect from followers of Christ. Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians with these words:
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
When we first come to believe in Christ, we begin to understand the depth of his love for us. We get a tiny glimpse into the profound sacrifice He made on our behalf out of that deep love. We begin our relationship with our Savior from a starting point of joy! That joy should never be too far out of reach or out of mind.
Our joy begins to dim when we get our eyes on the chaotic, greedy, proud, destructive ways of this world. Just like Peter, we let our gaze fall from Christ to the storms swirling around us. We forget the God who loves each person on the planet, who has a grand design and plan for every one of them. We fail to remember that God is in control, no matter what’s going on out there amongst the throngs of humanity.
We forget the encouragement that Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).
How can you be joyful? Check your thoughts! What are you spending time ruminating on when you’re between tasks? What does your mind drift to when you have a few moments of stillness in your day?
Perhaps it’s time to practice a bit of self-discipline when it comes to your thought habits. Paul didn’t write, “Try to be joyful.” He wrote, “Be joyful.” Just do it!
I’ll share more next time. Until then, here are a few ways you can put this joyful encouragement into practice:
- Set reminders on your phone to check your thoughts throughout the day. Pray, asking God to help you learn to discipline your mind.
- Take time at the end of the day to remember at least three positives that happened since you got up that morning. Thank God for each one of them.
- Do something nice for someone else each day, without expecting anything in return (not even getting thanked!). Learn to be blessed simply by blessing.
What are a few of the ways you practice being joyful? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!